Arakawa wins women's gold, Irina Slutskaya gets bronze

Shizuka Arakawa skated off with Japan's first medal at the Turin Winter Games a gold in the showcase event of the Olympics.

What a way to end a shutout.

The 2004 world champion stunned favorites Sasha Cohen of the United States and Irina Slutskaya of Russia, who finished with silver and bronze, in women's figure skating.

Arakawa did it Thursday night with an elegance and technical brilliance that even had two-time Olympic winner Katarina Witt standing and applauding before the Japanese skater was done.

The Japanese team has struggled in the mountains and on the ice in Turin. But Arakawa, third after the short program, a mere .71 points behind Cohen, was magnificent, with several spectacular spirals that thrilled the crowd and, more significantly, impressed the judges.

She was emotionless for most of her breathtaking four-minute routine, then broke out in a smile she carried right to the "Kiss and Cry." When her personal best of 125.32 points for the free skate were displayed, she flashed a V for victory sign. Then Arakawa pumped her fist when she was shown in first place at 191.34 points.

Cohen had already flubbed her first two jumps and her shot at gold. That left Slutskaya, a two-time world champion and 2002 Olympic silver medalist, to skate last. The Russian lacked spark and fell once.

That ended Russia's hopes for an unprecedented sweep of the Olympic gold after taking the men's, pairs and ice dancing titles here.

Arakawa, 24, became the first Japanese Olympic gold medalist in figure skating and just the second with any medal; Midori Ito, one of Arakawa's idols, won silver behind Kristi Yamaguchi in 1992. Ito led the cheers of the flag-waving Japanese in the crowd, reports AP.

O.Ch.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team