If there was anything bittersweet about Miki Ando's victory at the world figure skating championships, it was that it didn't happen at home in Japan.
Ando reclaimed the women's world crown Saturday in Moscow, spoiling the much-anticipated return of South Korean star Kim Yu-na.
Afterward, Ando said she hoped her performance brought some happiness to the people of Japan, originally slated to host the event before the devastating earthquake and tsunami that wreaked havoc on her homeland March 11.
"It doesn't matter the result, I think what matters is how we performed for Japan, how we tried to cheer for Japan with the Japanese team," Ando said. "Hopefully someone smiled back from our skating from this competition."
Skating a near-flawless program to Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor, Ando score 195.79 total points to overtake Kim for gold. The 2007 world champion's only misstep was doubling a planned triple toe loop.
Kim had to settle for silver with a score of 194.50 points, showing some competitive rust when she uncharacteristically singled a triple flip. Italy's Carolina Kostner, sixth after Friday's short program, moved up three spots to capture the bronze with a score of 184.68.
The event had been billed as the next chapter in the longtime rivalry between Kim and 2010 world champion Mao Asada, but the Japanese skater was never a factor and wound up sixth.
Cynthia Phaneuf of Contrecoeur, Que., was 13th, while Amelie Lacoste of Delson, Que., finished 16th.
Kim, who won the 2010 Olympics in jaw-dropping fashion, was making her season debut in a tumultuous year during which she fired her longtime Canadian coach Brian Orser and moved her training base from Toronto to Los Angeles.
"I'm so happy I've overcome the hardest time in my life for this competition, now I'm just so glad I finished this big event," Kim said.
The 20-year-old certainly didn't paint a happy picture standing on the second step of the medal podium, tears rolling down each cheek.
"I can't really tell you why, I was just standing there on the podium and tears were just falling down my cheeks by themselves," Kim said. "Probably because I had such a long break from figure skating, that's probably why I was crying."
Her program — Homage to Korea — set to a haunting collection of Korean music and choreographed by Canadian David Wilson, was still a crowd-pleaser at Megasport Arena.
"I've been thinking it over and over, how should I present the Korean music to the public and actually with my motions and my moves I was trying to express gratitude to the Korean people," Kim said.
A near-capacity crowd filled the 14,500-seat arena Saturday, less than a month after the Russian capital was awarded the delayed and relocated event.
The Japan disasters left more than 27,000 people confirmed dead or missing, and the Japanese skaters in Moscow are wearing black ribbons pinned to the shoulder of their warmup jackets and navy blue stickers that read: "Rebirth Japan. We are always with you."
The 23-year-old Ando had won her previous world title four years ago in Tokyo, but said this one meant just a little bit more.
"I was just happy for my skating because I was skating for Japan," she said. "I never care about results, but I'm really happy to have a gold medal this time."
Phaneuf, who was fifth at last year's world championships, had a difficult day, falling once and downgrading two other jumps.
Skating to Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, the 23-year-old Phaneuf fell on her opening triple Lutz, singled another, and doubled a triple loop.
Phaneuf, 12th at the Vancouver Games, admitted the post-Olympic season was a grind.
"Last year was a very long year for me, I was so in my world and so focused on my training," Phaneuf said. "This year in training I was skating good or OK, but never like: This is it now, it's there. I was always running after something and never getting it.
"I've been learning from other athletes who said that too and I didn't think it was true at the beginning, when they said, you'll see, the year after the Olympics is the most difficult one and I think they were right."