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Joannie Rochette competes during the ladies free skating event of the 2009 world figure skating championships at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. ((GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images))

Joannie Rochette of Ile Dupas, Que., has ended a 21-year medal drought for Canadian women at the world figure skating championships.

Rochette, 23, captured the silver medal Saturday night in Los Angeles, posting a score of 123.39 in the free skate for an overall total of 191.29.

"This is unbelievable. It's been so, so long and now to be able to deliver it," Rochette said. "For myself, I'm so, so happy to do it, it's my little girl's dream — since I was very young I've been dreaming about that."

Korea's Yu-Na Kim was the clear winner, becoming the first skater in history to eclipse the 200 point mark, with an overall score of 207.71 to win the gold. Japan's Miko Ando was third, with an overall score of 190.38.

The gold medallist, Kim, has a Canadian connection: She trains in Toronto under legend Brian Orser. She landed five triples; her one misstep was a botched triple Salchow.

"Winning the world championships was my dream and I did it," Kim said. "It is amazing."

Dressed in a sparkling blue dress and skating to music by Rodrigo, Rochette appeared smooth and calm throughout, despite making two minor mistakes. She doubled a planned triple loop, and stepped out of a landing on a triple Lutz.

Terrific season

Rochette was fifth at last year's world championships, but this season has been far better than any of her previous years. In February, she placed second at the prestigious Four Continents championship in Vancouver, and at various points of this season she has finished ahead of all the top skaters in the world.

"I just hope to inspire some young girls who want to achieve big things in skating and make them believe it's possible," Rochette said. "They know my history and know that five years ago no one would have thought — or even three years ago— that I would be on the podium, that I had the talent to be on it."

Rochette's longtime coach, Manon Perron, said she never doubted Rochette would eventually step on to the world medal podium, even during the years she struggled.

"Yup, you know when a lot of people stopped believing, I was the one who never stopped believing, and I knew that one day this would happen," Perron said.

Cynthia Phaneuf, from Sorel, Que., struggled in her free skate and finished 15th. Skating to Mission Cleopatra, Phaneuf fell three times.

Elizabeth Manley was the last Canadian woman to win an individual medal at the world championships or Olympics, when she medalled in both events in 1988.

"It's good to see [Rochette] come out of her shell, and say, 'This is me, this is what I do,'" Manley said. "That's why I love her."

Rochette's medal is Canada's third of this year's world championships in Los Angeles. Patrick Chan won silver in the men's singles, and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won bronze in the ice dance.

With files from the Canadian Press