By Pritha Sarkar
HELSINKI (Reuters) - The gasps of despair that greeted Sui Wenjing's fall following a mistimed landing in the side-by-side triple Salchows turned into cheers of joy as she and fellow Chinese Han Cong won the pairs title at the figure skating world championships on Thursday.
Sui and Han did not let the crash landing derail their gold medal hopes as they capped a year of pain and injury by finally ending their quest for the world title on Thursday.
The duo sat out the start of the season as Sui recovered from surgery on her right ankle and left foot.
The break seems to have rejuvenated their fortunes because, having won silver for the last two years behind Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, they finally got their hands on the gold medal with a personal best total of 232.06 points.
Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot went up a level on the podium from 12 months ago to claim silver with 230.30.
Evgeniya Tarasova, who needed 10 stitches before Wednesday's short program after her partner’s skate sliced her leg during morning practice, and Vladimir Morozov ended Russia's two-year barren run in the event by taking bronze.
Tarasova was not the only one competing with a patched-up body in Helsinki.
When not on the ice, Radford has been doing overtime with his physio in an attempt to ease a hip-muscle injury that has left him hobbling around the Hartwell Arena.
The treatment failed to have the desired effect as he and Duhamel finished seventh.
While Radford was looking forward to giving his body a break, Sui credited her time out this season for the Chinese duo's recent run of good form.
Since their comeback last month the pair have enjoyed 100 percent success, having also won the Four Continents title.
"After the surgery something changed in me as I started to enjoy performing more and more," said Sui, who went on the ice knowing she had to overhaul a target of 149.07.
Her new-found joie de vivre helped Sui to immediately forget about her crash landing, which happened less than a minute into their free skate, and she floated through the rest of the free skate which included a quad twist lift.
When the final strains of Paul Simon's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' died out, Han closed his eyes and held his partner in a tight embrace.
"I was very excited at the end as I thought we had won. I did not care about the score," said Han.
Savchenko, who won five world titles with former partner Robin Szolkowy, thought she had a fighting chance of grabbing the top prize with Massot after completing a solid, if not flawless, free skate.
Although her dreams were dashed, Massot was celebrating his best ever finish at the worlds.
"It's a long life of pain in our body to reach this level so it is amazing to get a reward like today," he said.
(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ken Ferris)