GENEVA — American Debi Thomas won the women's world figure-skating championship Friday night, using an elegant program in the finale to beat defending champion Katarina Witt of East Germany.
The 18-year-old Thomas, of San Jose, was edged in the long program by Witt, who staged the night's most dramatic skating to the score from "West Side Story."
But Thomas' exciting performance was good enough for second in the long program. And that, coupled with her first-place showing in Wednesday night's short program, gave the United States winners in both men's and women's categories. Brian Boitano of Sunnyvale, Calif, won the men's competition Thursday night.
Thomas, a premed student at Stanford University, also became the first black skater to win a world title.
American Tiffany Chin won the bronze medal.
"I don't believe it," a tearful, ecstatic Thomas said as she sat with her coach, Alex McGowan, her arms filled with flowers. "I even landed that double axel."
Wearing a sleek sequined black, silver and purple dress with a fringed skirt, Thomas came out skating hard to a combination of Duke Ellington and ballet music. She landed four triple jumps, including a tricky triple-double toe-loop combination. Then came a beautiful double axel in which she seemed to float on air.
But Thomas, who knew that a first- or second-place showing Friday would give her the championship, fell just shy of the finesse and panache that made Witt the star of the long program.
Thomas had the crowd's roaring approval, but Witt also brought the fans to their feet by unfolding the hopes and sorrows of a young woman to the Leonard Bernstein score.
With her skating displaying a wide range of emotions, Witt launched into the strains of "I Feel Pretty" with a big smile and a sparkling triple-double toe-loop combination. She then played the tough street woman with some brash and electric footwork, followed by a dramatic flourish of despair, draping her body and black flowing dress down toward the ice.
The performance earned her the night's only two perfect scores of 6--from the West German and Soviet judges--along with six 5.9s and a 5.8 for composition and style.
Thomas finished with an overall factored placement total of 3.6, followed by Witt at 4.4 and Chin, the 1985 U.S. champion, at 7.2. Thomas was fifth in the world championships last year, while Chin was third.
The last American skaters to win at the world championships were four-time champion Scott Hamilton in 1984 and Rosalyn Sumners in 1983. The United States won both singles titles in '83, with Sumners and Hamilton.