GOTEBORG, Sweden (AP) Mao Asada's opening move was heart-stopping and not in a good way.
As she went to take off for a triple axel, a jump so hard few women even try it, she slipped and slid across the ice.
"I was surprised myself," Asada said.
But the two-time Japanese champion rebounded with a huge triple flip-triple toe loop combination, righting her long-program fortunes and capturing the gold medal at the World Figure Skating Championships on Thursday. She finished with 185.56 points, winning by almost a point.
"I learned that I still can make up for the mistake if the other elements are good," Asada said. "Never give up. That's what I learned this year."
Two-time European champion Carolina Kostner of Italy won the silver (184.68 points), and South Korea's Kim Yu-na finished third (183.23).
Asada's was by far the most spectacular fall of the evening, with the crowd of 9,431 groaning in unison. But it was not the only one.
All three Americans fell at least once and their stumbles mean the United States will only be able to send two women to next year's all-important world championships in Los Angeles. Results at the 2009 world championships determine how many spots countries get for the Vancouver Olympics.
The two best Americans needed to have a combined placement of 13 fifth and eighth, say to keep three spots at the 2009 worlds. But former world champion Kimmie Meissner was seventh, Bebe Liang was 10th and Ashley Wagner was 16th. That leaves no leeway for next year, with both U.S. skaters having to finish with the combined 13 to earn back a third spot for Vancouver.