Alexa

Asada wins Four Continents with 2 triple axels

Asada wins Four Continents with 2 triple axels

A triumphant Mao Asada nailed two triple axels Friday to win the Four Continents figure skating title in a breakthrough victory just weeks before the Vancouver Olympics.
The feat pushed Japan's four-time national champion ahead of compatriot Akiko Suzuki, who was first after the short program but settled for silver after faltering on her combination jump.
Caroline Zhang of the United States, the 2007 world junior champion, came in third with her best performance of the season. She edged out South Korea's Kwak Min-jung and fellow American Amanda Dobbs, who finished in fourth and fifth.
For Asada, the win was a much-needed boost as she gears up to take on world champion Kim Yu-na of South Korea for the Olympic gold next month.
The triple axel, a jump few women attempt, is her not-so-secret weapon. Asada made skating history in 2008 when she landed it cleanly twice to beat Kim for the Grand Prix title. Landing it twice again Friday showed she's still in the fight after a lackluster 2009.
Friday's win notches up the competition between the two 19-year-olds, who have been fierce rivals since their days as juniors.
Asada claimed the world championship and the Grand Prix title in 2008, but Kim was crowned the world champ in 2009 and has won the gold in every competition since her second-place finish to Asada.
Asada performed poorly at her past two international events, placing third and sixth. However, she rebounded at the Japanese nationals, winning a fourth straight title.
With Kim choosing to stay in Canada where she lives and trains to prepare for the Olympics, Asada was expected to run away with the Four Continents title.
However, an underrotated triple axel, a botched triple flip and a deduction for skating one second too long left her in third place after the short program.
Suzuki missed a triple as well, but displayed spectacular footwork that earned her high praise from the judges. When the scores came up, it was Suzuki at the top of the list, not Asada.
That night, a determined Asada went straight back to the practice rink with her coach to take apart the problematic triple axel, according to Seoul's SBS television.
The lead offered Suzuki, 24, a chance to show she's ready to claim her spot in the limelight. She has skated superbly all season, posting two first-place wins and a bronze at the prestigious Grand Prix final.
In the free skate Friday, Suzuki skated with assurance and a broad smile to "West Side Story" but stumbled on a combination sequence.
That left an opening for Asada.
With the Rachmaninov building up the drama to her opening jump, her hands sheathed in black, Asada launched straight into the triple axel as the crowd held its breath.
After nailing the jump, Asada vaulted into a second triple axel combined with a shaky double toe loop. No matter, she got credit for the triple axel and finished out her program flawlessly, ending with both hands raised into the air in triumph.
The Four Continents continues later Friday with the ice dance finals. The men's free skate takes place Saturday in Jeonju, 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of Seoul.


Updated : 2021-04-11 19:13 GMT+08:00