KITCHENER, Ontario – Japanese figure skater Nobunari Oda turned in a near-flawless performance in the men’s free skate Saturday and came from behind to win his first title at the world junior championships.
Oda, second after the short program, cleanly landed a series of jumps and put in a fine display of complicated steps and spins to the tune of “Zatoichi,” the theme of a drama featuring a blind swordsman, to earn a winning total of 196.42 points.
His impressive program drew a standing ovation from the crowd as he overtook short program winner Yannick Ponsero of France by 10.97 points. Russian Sergei Dobrin took third with 179.02 while Japan’s Yasuharu Nanri finished sixth with 162.94.
Oda, a 17-year-old from Osaka, became only the second Japanese man to claim the world junior title and the first since Daisuke Takahashi won it three seasons ago.
Oda’s victory came two days after 14-year-old Mao Asada won the women’s crown. It was the first time that Japanese skaters had won men’s and women’s world junior titles in a single year.
“I can’t believe it,” Oda said. “I was 11th last year and I was really disappointed. I thought I was in position to win after the short program and I’ll try harder to skate in the Olympics in Turin.”
Oda, a descendant of 16th-century Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga, spent two months last summer in Canada for training. He got off to a slow start to the season with a sprained ankle but rebounded from the injury to win the national junior and high school championships.
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