NICE, France (AP) — Patrick Chan felt it was his destiny to win another world figure skating title on the day his former coach and mentor, Osborne Colson, used to celebrate his birthday. For Carolina Kostner, it was a first world gold after years of trying.
Chan became the first man in six years to win successive worlds despite a wobbly performance by the Canadian at the Palais des Expositions in Nice.
Daisuke Takahashi, the 2010 champion, was runner-up, and fellow Japanese Yuzuru Hanyu won the bronze in his first senior worlds.
Kostner, the graceful Italian, beat Russia's Alena Leonova and Japan's Akiko Suzuki, who got their first world medals.
They are poignant titles for Kostner and Chan, for different reasons.
Chan still vividly remembers Colson, who died six years ago at age 90, observing him from rink-side when he was a child.
"You're not going to get many competitions just right like that ... the world championships on the same day as his birthday (was)," Chan said. "It was a very special day for me to accomplish that. If it wasn't for him none of this would be happening."
Colson taught Chan skills like edge work and stroking, nurturing the elegance which makes Chan among the most graceful modern-day skaters to watch.
"He guided me when I was a child and he kind of guided me today, because just thinking about him and the fact it was his birthday kind of helped me forget about being nervous," Chan said after becoming the first skater to repeat since Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland. "I didn't feel worried, I didn't feel nervous anymore, I just felt a real calmness and nothing else mattered."
Chan won the Canadian junior title in 2005, when he was only 14, establishing him as a rising star. Colson, the Canadian champion in 1936 and 1937, died the following summer.
Gone, but his legacy not forgotten.
"I just thought about this was kind of meant to be. Mr. Colson definitely brought me to where I am," Chan told The Associated Press. "He's the one who kept me in the sport. He saw this all unravel, and saw this was all going to happen for me one day."
Colson, disciplined, ruthless and unrelenting, transformed Chan's life.
"Even though he was such a tough coach in practice and at the rink — I was scared to get lessons from him — it didn't matter," Chan said. "Because when it got to competitions and the moment I had to step on the ice he was always there, and I could look at him and be like 'OK, everything's going to be fine.' I kind of had that same feeling today."
The five-time Canadian champion has won every event he's entered this season: Skate Canada, Trophee Bompard, the Four Continents, and a second straight Grand Prix final.
But he placed fifth behind Lambiel at the 2010 Olympics, and has his sights set on winning gold at Sochi, Russia in two years.
"Everything going up to Sochi now is for the Olympics. Building up to the redemption (from 2010)," he said. "I kind of look forward more to going every day. I'm just like a tiger waiting to get out of its cage."
Kostner knows that feeling after a silver at the 2008 worlds and bronze medals in '05 and '11.
She buried her head in her hands at the end of a faultless free skate which rocketed her up from third in the short program.
"This is my 10th world championship and I can't really describe how it finally feels to reach that dream," the 25-year-old Kostner said. "Deep in my heart I knew I had a chance to win. I trained so hard and I have beautiful programs, my main goal was to show how much I love figure skating."
The Italian compared the pressure to skating on home ice at the 2006 Olympics in Turin.
"When I went onto the ice it was so loud," she said. "Luckily I was able to change the outcome tonight." She was ninth in Turin.
Kostner's mesmerizing steps and spins, along with her flawless jumps, thrilled the crowd.
Chan's routine wasn't so smooth.
After nearly tumbling twice during Friday's short program, he fell on a routine double axel jump during Saturday's free skate to the haunting sounds of Joaquin Rodriguez's "Concierto de Aranjuez."
Some of the crowd jeered the result, perhaps because of Takahashi's superb performance.
He won with an overall score of 266.11 points, compared to 259.66 for Takahashi and 251.06 for Hanyu.
Kostner scored 189.94, while Leonova scored 184.28, and Suzuki 180.68.
Chan was deducted one point for the fall and another for going over his allotted time on the ice.
"It shows," he said, "that I'm human, right?"