December 28, 2009 10:08
Japanese figure skating icon Mao Asada concluded a mostly disappointing season with a major triumph. Winning her fourth consecutive Japanese national title, the 19-year-old Asada earned a spot on the Olympic squad for the Vancouver Olympics in February 2010. With the successful execution of a triple axel, Asada again proved that she is a strong contender for the Olympic gold and a serious challenger for Korea's Kim Yu-na.
Asada won the 2009-2010 Japan Figure Championships held in Kadoma, Osaka, with a total score of 204.62 points, including 135.50 points in the free skate on Sunday and 69.12 points in the short program on Saturday, edging out runner-up Akiko Suzuki by nearly 10 points. Instead of the planned triple axel-triple jump combination in the very beginning of her free skate, Asada attempted a triple axel only and successfully landed it.
As the Japanese national championship is not administered by the International Skating Union (ISU), Asada's score is not officially recognized. Asada's highest officially recognized score so far is 201.87 points in the ISU World Team Trophy in April this year.
After winning the World Championships, Four Continents Championships, and the Grand Prix Final last year, Asada slipped into a long slump this season. For the first time since her senior debut in 2005, she failed to qualify for the Grand Prix Final.
The road to recovery was not easy. Her coach, the legendary Tatiana Tarasova, did not come to Japan, where Asada is based, as she had other skaters to teach in Russia. Asada therefore had to practice and make some alterations to her programs with an assistant coach at the ice rink of Chukyo University in Aichi Prefecture for two months. She simplified the steps leading into her jumps, and the strategy worked.
In addition to Asada and Miki Ando, who had already secured a spot on the Olympic team after finishing second in the Grand Prix Final earlier this month, the Japan Skating Federation named Suzuki to the final remaining spot on the Olympic squad.
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