Home > Vancouver 2010 > Figure skating: Asada books Olympic berth in comeback – AFP News : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics

Figure skating: Asada books Olympic berth in comeback – AFP News : Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics

December 27th, 2009

KADOMA (AFP) – Former world champion Mao Asada booked a ticket to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games as she won a fourth straight Japanese national championship on Sunday in a comeback from poor form.

With a slim, 0.22-point lead from the short programme, she scored her personal best 135.50 points in free skating to win with a total 204.62, in a warning to longtime rival and reigning world champion Kim Yu-Na of South Korea.

Asada’s total was also her personal best and closed up on the world record of 210.03 points Kim set in beating Asada into second place at the season-opening Grand Prix in Paris in October.

“I feel happy and relieved,” said the 19-year-old Asada, who missed the Grand Prix Final in Tokyo earlier this month as she had struggled with her trademark 3.5-revolution triple axel earlier in the season.

“Every day has been fulfilling up to the nationals and it showed in my performance today,” the 2008 world champion said. “I will enjoy my first Olympics in a big way.”

Akiko Suzuki, who finished third behind Kim and compatriot Miki Ando at the elite final, finished second overall with 195.90 points with Yukari Nakano third with 195.73.

Ando, 2007 world champion, finished fourth. She has already secured one of three Olympic berths allotted to Japanese women by virtue of her second-place finish at the final.

The remaining berth went to 24-year-old Suzuki who won the Grand Prix Cup of China in early November.

Skating to the solemn and sombre music of Sergei Rachmaninov’s “Bells of Moscow,” Asada nailed a clean triple axel in her opening element.

“I was feeling calm and I went all out with a belief in myself,” she said.

Asada, the only women who has regularly attempted the triple axel in international competitions, went on without making another try as she has usually done.

She hit a double axel in a combination with a double toeloop which was downgraded. All told, she landed five triple jumps and marked level four in three spin elements.

She failed to qualify for the final despite being the defending champion as she finished a lowly fifth at the second round in Moscow after her runner-up performance in Paris.

Both Asada and Kim missed the 2006 Turin Olympics as they were a few months too young to be eligible to compete.

In ice dance, Cathy Reed and Chris Reed grabbed their third straight national title and Japan’s sole Olympic ticket for the category.

The siblings, whose mother is Japanese and father American, will make their Olympic debut in Vancouver.

At the national championships on Saturday, 2008 Four Continents champion Daisuke Takahashi won the men’s title to secure one of three Olympics berths for Japanese men.

Defending champion Nobunari Oda and Takahiko Kozuka, the 2006 world junior champion, finished second and third.

Oda has already punched another ticket by finishing second to American Evan Lysacek at the Grand Prix Final. Kozuka grabbed the remaining spot.

sps/elw

Vancouver 2010

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