Triple axel lets down Asada at Four Continents contest

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Triple axel lets down Asada at Four Continents contest

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Mao Asada of Japan attempts a triple axel jump during the short program of the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Jeonju, North Jeolla, Wednesday night. [YONHAP]

For Japan’s Mao Asada, the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Jeonju, North Jeolla, this week meant one thing: a last chance to perfect her unsteady triple axel jump before the Winter Olympics in Vancouver next month.

She missed the chance.

Competing in the ladies’ short program Wednesday night, Asada looked shaky on her jumps and concluded the program with a score of 57.22 points, a third-place finish.

Asada has had trouble with her jumps throughout the entire season, with the most troublesome being the triple axel. She had landed clean triple axel jumps in practice sessions leading up to the short program, but when the time came to perform, the 19-year-old struggled on the ice.

Asada’s first jump combination was a triple axel and double toe-loop, a downgrade from the triple axel and triple toe-loop she had attempted in her earlier routines.

Even with the downgrade, Asada lost points because her jumps lacked spins.

“I thought I had done well on the triple axel jump and was surprised to see the deductions,” the skater said.

“The biggest reason for my struggles today is I came up short on two of the most important jumps in my routine.”

Asada trailed Akiko Suzuki of Japan, who led the pack with 58.88 points, and Amanda Dobbs of the United States, whose 57.56 points gave her a narrow lead over Asada.

Despite her difficulties, Asada is still considered a good contender for the gold at the Vancouver Winter Olympics and will remain a rival for Kim Yu-na.

And while Kim’s dominating performances have helped her distance herself from her rival this season, Asada’s performance Wednesday fell far short of her season best. Asada had scored a season high of 69.12 points in the short program at the Japan National Figure Skating Championships.

Rather than worrying about her competition, Asada’s biggest concern should be that the Four Continents event is the final showdown before the Vancouver Olympics begin next month - her last chance to tame the tricky triples.

She’s letting that go by.

“I will not attempt to add any new elements in my routine,” Asada said. “I will try my best to cut down on my mistakes.

“Kim and I are of same age and have been rivals since junior competitions,” she continued.

“The upcoming Olympics will be our first, so I want to concentrate on my program and enjoy myself.”

Meanwhile, three Korean female skaters have earned the right to compete in the event’s free-skating program by placing among the top 20 in the short program.

Kwak Min-jung, 16, competing in her first senior event, placed seventh with a score of 53.68. Kim Na-young, 20, placed 13th overall with a score of 44.94, and Kim Chae-hwa, 22, managed to score 41.34, the 14th best score in the short program.

The ladies’ free-skating competition will start at 1 p.m. today.

The Four Continents Figure Skating Championships concludes tomorrow.


By Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]

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