Eurosport - Wed, 24 Mar 16:27:00 2010
Japan's Daisuke Takahashi remains on course to upgrade his Olympic bronze to world gold after a stunning short program at the World Figure Skating Championships in Turin.
The 24-year-old collected 89.30 points, just shy of the personal best set at Vancouver 2010 last month, to edge ahead of Patrick Chan of Canada, silver medallist a year ago, and Brian Joubert of France.
Takahashi surpassed himself in Vancouver to claim Japan's first ever men's figure skating medal, but in truth he was never in contention for the top two spots.
He was well adrift of eventual winner and world champion Evan Lysacek of the USA and defending champion Evgeni Plushenko of Russia, who slugged it out for gold at the Pacific Coliseum.
But with Lysacek opting against defending his crown in Italy and Plushenko nursing injured knees and a bruised ego, Takahashi has seized the chance to move into first place.
"I just went out there and performed to my best," he said. "I knew I had to change a few things after Vancouver but I had confidence and I'm pleased with my performance."
Takahashi currently leads by 1.5 points from Chan, who disappointed on home soil in Vancouver and could only manage seventh.
Just 0.1 points further adrift in third place is Joubert, who once again endured a nightmare Olympics, but roared back in style in Turin, expunging all doubt as
to whether his career was potentially over.
Joubert was forced to settle for sixth at the 2006 Winter Olympics but was positively awful in Vancouver and ended up 16th.
But the world bronze medalist and 2009 European champion was back to his very best to secure 87.70 points and remain in the hunt for at least a silver medal.
"After Vancouver I understood that I had to try and change and I tried to get back to how I was when I was younger - more relaxed," said Joubert.
"And I think it worked because I did my job well today but I was not as confident as I possibly could have been but it will be good for next season.
"I feel very happy because it seemed to go great. I hope that Brian Joubert is back now. After Vancouver it was difficult to come back but I felt good in training and it gives me confidence for tomorrow."
Great Britain's Matthew Parr collected 49.31 points to end up in 30th place ensuring he failed to qualify for the free program.
Meanwhile, while Plushenko is licking his wounds, Siberian jewellers plan to award him with a 'belated gold medal' to make up for the Russian having to settle for silver in Vancouver.
Jewellers from Yakutsk said they planned to award a special medal weighing more than half a kilo of pure gold to Plushenko, who was controversially beaten into second place by Lysacek in Vancouver.
Most Russians, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, felt Plushenko should have won the gold in Vancouver. Putin sent Plushenko a telegram, saying: "Your silver is worth gold".
Figure Skating World Championships:
Original Dance - Thursday 11.45am & 2.45pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Men's Free Skate - Thursday 8pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Ladies Short Programme - Friday 12.30pm & 2.45pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Free Dance - Friday 8pm LIVE on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Ladies Free Skate - Saturday 6pm on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player
Exhibition - Sunday 6.15pm on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport Player