December 23, 2009 10:03
Japan's figure skating icon Mao Asada will have her final chance to earn a ticket to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver with the start on Friday of the Japanese national championships. Having won three consecutive national titles since 2006, the 19-year-old Asada will automatically be named to the Olympic team if she wins a fourth. But it remains to be seen if she can break out of the serious slump that prevented her from qualifying to compete in this year's International Skating Union Grand Prix Final.
It was shocking to see the reigning Grand Prix Final champion, who dethroned Kim Yu-na last year, not even qualify for this year's event. This season Asada focused on a difficult triple axel jump to increase her chances of winning the Olympic gold, but with an inconsistent success rate it ended up putting her in more difficult situation.
For the past two months Asada has been polishing her programs at the Chukyo University ice rink. She reportedly has not changed her strategy to try to execute three triple axels -- once in her short program and twice in the free skate.
Miki Ando is the only female figure skater who has been named to Japan's Olympic team so far as she finished second to Kim in the Grand Prix Final earlier this month. Asada has to finish in the top three in the national championships this weekend in order to earn a spot on the Olympic team without much controversy.
Asada is still regarded in Japan as the strongest contender to match Kim. In a recent poll by a Japanese advertising company on which athlete will have the most promising season in 2010, Asada came in first and Ando second.
Meanwhile, Kim had some words of encouragement for her rival in a recent interview. "I know Asada is going through tough time, but I'm sure that she’ll come to the Olympics," she said.
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