Golden Skate

Asada takes lead at Four Continents

Japan's Mao Asada, 17, currently leads the ladies after the Short Program.

Japan’s Mao Asada and Miki Ando are currently first and second, respectively, after the short program, while Joannie Rochette of Canada is in third. All three ladies are separated from each other by less than a point.

Asada earned a seasonal best of 60.94 (31.89/29.05) points for her airy routine to Fantasia for Violin and Orchestra by Jean-Claude Petit. The current World silver medalist underrotated her second jump in a triple flip-triple loop combination and stepped out of a triple Lutz.

The 17-year-old didn’t expect the downgrade on the combination jump. “I landed the triple-triple combination, and I was so happy about it, because I made mistakes all year on the combination in competition. I was very sad about that. I did it last year (in December) at Japanese Nationals finally, and now I’m even happier.”

Despite the mistakes, Asada delivered a double Axel, two solid level 4 spins, an excellent spiral sequence, and very good level 3 straightline footwork.

Absent from her side was coach Rafael Arutunian. “[He] went to Canadian Nationals (in January),” Asada explained, “and I wanted to come to Japan to train, as it’s closer to Korea. So I went to Japan and trained with the JSF (Japanese Skating Federation) people.”

Teammate Ando is in a close second with 60.07 points (32.61/27.46) after a good performance to Bacchanale from Samson and Dalilah by Camille Saint-Saens. The current World champion underrotated her second jump on a triple Lutz-triple loop combination, but landed a triple flip and double Axel. She also produced two good level 4 spins and very good straightline (level 3) footwork.

The Japanese silver medalist confessed that she wasn’t at her best due to a headache. ” My head felt somehow heavy and hot,” said the 20-year-old, “but I did everything, so I’m pleased.”

Ando stated that she plans to attempt a quadruple Salchow in the long.

Rochette also had her second jump downgraded in a triple toeloop-triple toeloop combination. The current bronze medalist otherwise landed a triple Lutz and a double Axel, and earned a level 4 on two of her spins. She earned a new personal best of 60.04 (32.92/27.12) points for her dynamic routine to Piano Concerto No. 1 by Tchaikovsky and Piano Concerto by Schumann.

“I knew I had to do the triple-triple and go for it even though I didn’t feel perfect in warm up,” the Canadian champion later said. “Before I went into it, I told myself to stay in the present moment. Sometimes I think too far ahead in the program. I know I can do it like this every time, I just need confidence. I do it good two or three times a day, so I have no reason not to try it. It counts as a triple-double anyway and this is what the other girls do, so I need to go for it. That triple downgraded is worth more to me than a triple-double. Of course, I want to do it cleaner. In the free program, I’ll do my triple-triple sequence, not a combination.”

Anastasia Gimazetdinova of Uzbekistan is currently in fourth place with a personal best of 55.49 (32.43/23.06) points after her routine to Yes, I loved You by Alexander Kuzmin. The 27-year-old landed delivered a solid performance which featured a double Axel, a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, and a triple Salchow.

“This was the best short program of the year,” Gimazetdinova. “I am extremely pleased with it, but I still have to improve my footwork and my spins. There is a lot of work left, but technically and artistically I have made a lot of progress.”

USA’s Beatrisa Liang is in a close fifth after earning a seasonal best of 54.05 (32.14/22.91) points for her routine to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas. The 2006 Four Continents bronze medalist fell on the second jump of a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, but recovered to produce a solid triple flip and double Axel.

“I felt really good,” said Liang. “Except for a minor mistake on my combination, I was really proud of myself.”

“Every competition is, of course, important,” the 19-year-old continued, when asked about competing at Four Continents, “but this international competition is good experience for me and I think it’s really good practice for Worlds. I don’t think that I’ve felt any pressure from myself or from other people. It will be my first time at Worlds and I really want to enjoy it and I think just having fun there will be the main goal.”

South Korea’s Na-Young Kim is in sixth place after earning a new personal best of 53.08 (31.46/21.62) points for her routine to Romance No. 2 in F Major by L. v. Beethoven. The 17-year-old’s program featured a triple Lutz-double toeloop combination, a double Axel, and a triple flip. The teen also earned a level 4 on three of her spins, including a layback which was awarded positive GOEs.

Mira Leung of Canada also earned a new personal best, and is currently in seventh with 53.01 (30.55/22.46) points. The 18-year-old executed a triple Lutz-double loop and a triple flip, but stepped out of a double Axel.

Teammate Cynthia Phaneuf is currently in eighth place with 50.63 (27.89/22.74) points, followed by Japan’s Fumie Suguri who earned 50.24 (25.73/24.51) points.

USA’s Ashley Wagner landed a double Axel and a triple flip, but only had a double Lutz-double loop for her combination. She is currently in 12th place with a new seasonal best 47.29 (24.10/23.19) points.

“My performance went really well,” said the 16-year-old. “I was really happy with it. I landed everything, and as far as I know, everything was pretty clean. My goal was to go out there and skate clean and put out a really good performance. We’ll see how everything ends up going to Worlds, but I think this is a good experience for me here because I’m going to see how I’m going to place myself among the top contenders. It’s going to be good experience.”

Wagner added that she plans to do a triple-triple in the long. “You know it all depends on how it goes in practice. Really, I’m planning on going out there and skating clean and hoping that everyone enjoys my performance.”

The event continues with the Free Dance the Men’s Long Program.

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