Free skate brings out Asada’s best

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Free skate brings out Asada’s best

The Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Jeonju, North Jeolla came to a close over the weekend with Mao Asada of Japan taking first place with her season best-performance in the free skate on Friday, and Adam Rippon of the United States coming in ahead of all others in the men’s event on Saturday evening.

All eyes were on Asada during this final event before the Vancouver Winter Olympics. The Japanese figure skater had been underperforming this season. Coming into the competition looking to nail her triple axel, she finished with a mediocre performance in the short program Wednesday night with a score of 57.22 points, taking third place behind Akiko Suzuki of Japan and Amanda Dobbs of the United States.

The 19-year-old redeemed herself in the free-skate program on Friday with a season-best score of 126.74 points in the ladies’ program for an overall score of 183.96. The 2008 World Championships and Four Continents champ successfully landed all her triple axel and triple flip jumps while skating to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Bells of Moscow.”

Suzuki finished second with an overall score of 173.72 and Caroline Zhang of the U.S. finished third.

In completing her final event in impressive fashion, Asada looked ready to renew her rivalry with Kim Yu-na at the Winter Olympics from Feb. 12 to 28.

“I plan on watching a lot of footage of 1992 Albertville Winter Games silver medalist Midori Ito,” said Asada on Friday. “She was excellent at landing the triple axel jump.”

Competing in her first senior event, Kwak Min-jung of Korea finished fourth in the free-skate program with a score of 101.03, finishing sixth overall with a total of 154.71 points. Kwak’s teammate Kim Na-young scored 64.52 to finish 17th overall in the free-skate program. She came in with a score of 109.46 points to finish 15th overall.

In the men’s event, Rippon scored 156.22 points in the free-skate program, the best score of his career, to win the men’s event on Saturday with an total score of 225.78 points. The reigning World Junior Champion had finished the short program in seventh place but leapfrogged to first with an impressive performance on the final day of competition.

Tatsuki Machida of Japan placed second with a combined score of 217.48 points, while Kevin Reynolds of Canada finished in third with 212.99 points. Korea’s Kim Min-seok scored 103.60 points in the free-skate program and ended the tourney with a combined score of 153.09 points to finish 14th overall.

By Jason Kim []
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