Japanese take 2007 Miss Universe title

Mexico City: A 20-year-old dancer Riyo Mori from Japan, who wants to someday open an international dance school, was crowned as Miss Universe 2007.

Mori, from the small town of Shizuoka at the base of Mount Fuji, won the cheers of the Mexico City audience when she opened her interview, saying "Hola, Mexico!" The daughter of a dance school operator, Mori said her grandmother told her as a child she wanted her to be Miss Japan before she turned 20.

Riyo Mori nervously grabbed the hands of first runner-up, Natalia Guimaraes of Brazil, just before the winner was announced. She was trembling in awe as the diamond-and pearl-studded crown was placed on her head.

Miss USA Rachel Smith, whose chances may have been dimmed when she slipped and fell to the floor during the evening gown competition, was the contest's fourth runner-up. Also finishing in the top five were second runner-up Ly Jonaitis of Venezuela and third runner-up Honey Lee of Korea.

Miss India Puja Gupta, who made to the last ten, however, failed to reach the top five.

The winner travels the world for a year on behalf of charities and pageant sponsors.

Zuleyka Rivera Mendoza of Puerto Rico crowned her successor at the end of the two-hour telecast with the headpiece valued at $250,000.


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