Japan's Midori Ito won the women's title in the World Figure Skating Championships Saturday with a fearless performance that awed not only the judges but the other skaters.
"If she thought she could climb up to the top of the rafters and jump off with her skates on, do six backflip revolutions and land on her feet, she would do it," said U.S. skater Chris Bowman who won a silver in the men's competition last week.
Ito performed the first triple axel by a woman in major international competition, broke two records and took the heart out of her rivals with a dazzling display of jumping as she became Japan's first world figure skating champion.
She skated a flawless routine that earned her five perfect marks of 6.0 for technical merit.
It was no contest.
"I had no pressure on me," Ito said after winning a showdown against West Germany's Claudia Leistner, who finished second, and the United States' Jill Trenary, who was third. "I think I skated 100%."
Ito, whose technical brilliance for years had been overshadowed by the all-round skills of the now-retired Katerina Witt, at last had the stage to herself. She made full use of it.
In addition to her five perfect marks, she scored four 5.9s for technical merit as she closed out the opposition with a stunning performance of poise and balance.
Fifty seconds into her routine, she performed her triple axel, landing almost perfectly to applause from the crowd of 12,000.
When her performance ended, bouquets of flowers rained down on the ice as Ito went over to a small group of fans who had unfurled a banner saying "Good Luck, Midori" in Japanese.
Men's champion Kurt Browning put her performance into perspective. "She's a different level from the others," Browning said. "She's the only woman I've seen who could compete with the top men. Her jumping ability is incredible."