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Delobel and Schoenfelder close to title

France's Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder gathered a comfortable lead in the original dance competition. Japan's Mao Asada triumphed in the ladies event.

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GOTHENBURG, Sweden, March 20 (Reuters) - France's Isabelle
Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder stayed on course for the ice
dancing gold but Thursday belonged to Japan's Mao Asada who won
the ladies event after recovering from a spectacular fall.


Preparing for what was supposed to be an opening triple
Axel, the 17-year-old slipped and slid into the boards to the
accompaniment of Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu.


But Asada quickly regained her composure and produced an
otherwise flawless routine, beating short program winner and
European champion Carolina Kostner into second place.


"Never give up, that's what I've learned," smiled Asada,
who put in a series of dazzling combinations and completed all
her jumps except for the triple Axel to perfection.


Italy's Kostner, leading after Wednesday's short program,
made too many errors on her jumps and had to settle for silver.


Korean Kim Yu-na claimed the bronze with the best free
skate of the evening.


Asada improved on the world championship silver she won on
home soil in 2007 in Tokyo.


"Last year, I made a big mistake in my short program and I
realised then how important the short program is," she said.


"This year, I missed my opening triple Axel again, but I
learned that if I don't give up on the rest of the elements, I
can make up on the mistakes."


Asked how she would celebrate, she smiled: "I'll eat a
lot...I will eat everything I want to eat."


FRENCH DOMINANCE


Earlier in the day, Delobel and Schoenfelder gave a
dramatic rendition of a French country dance to earn a seasonal
best score of 67.25 points.


That put them comfortably on top going into Friday's free
dance, with Russians Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski in
second after the couple treated the crowd to an engaging
Russian gypsy dance.


Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were second after
Tuesday's compulsory dance but slipped to third in the
standings.


"Among our international competitions it was one of our
best performances indeed," Delobel said. "We are happy that we
skated well and that we have finished for today."


"(But) We have to stay concentrated, and we can't afford
any mistakes. We are leading now, but the others can still
catch up."

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