Golden Skate

Ando leads after short program; Asada second at Four Continents

Japan's Miki Ando performs to music from The Mission soundtrack at the 2011 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.

The Japanese Ladies took the lead in the Ladies short program at the 2011 ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships on Saturday. Miki Ando has a 3.17 lead over World Champion Mao Asada heading into tomorrow’s free skating. USA’s Rachael Flatt is third with just 1.18 points behind Asada.

Ando turned in a solid, if somewhat slow, performance to Gabriel’s Oboe and The Falls from The Mission soundtrack by Ennio Morricone. She was very pale when she stepped onto the ice, but nailed the triple Lutz-double loop combo, a triple loop out of footwork, and the double Axel. The 23-year-old picked up a level four for the flying sit and combination spin, and a level three for the footwork and the layback spin.

With a score of 65.58 points, the 2007 World Champion surpassed her previous season’s best by 10.41 points. There was a reason why she looked so pale.

“My physical condition isn’t very good since this morning,” Ando revealed. “I felt dizzy on the ice and like I had no energy. I don’t remember exactly how I skated, but my points were higher than at Nationals so I think it was pretty good. I could get a positive feeling which I’d like to take to Worlds.”

Ando said there was no secret why she could perform well in spite of not feeling at a 100 percent.

“In any situation, I have to concentrate for the competition. I got some rest after the practice and was trying to concentrate the best I could,” she shared. “I was practicing my short program more than the free skating. In the practice, before coming here, I had a very good feeling on the ice, that I’ll do a good short program. I felt calm today.”

Performing to a Tango by Russian composer Alfred Schnittke, Asada went for her trademark triple Axel, but she underrotated it and landed on two feet. The reigning World Champion rallied back to produce a triple loop and a triple flip-double loop combination. Asada got the same levels for her spins and footwork as Ando, and improved her seasons best by 13.31 points with her score of 63.41. However, this wasn’t of much importance to her.

“I don’t think about the points so much,” the 20-year-old explained. “The points are not my first priority. I am disappointed because my triple Axel wasn’t great. I knew I didn’t rotate well, but I don’t know exactly how it happened. But I feel better than at Nationals.”

“In the six minutes warm up I tried the triple Axel twice,” Asada explained about the Axel. “The first time I overrotated, I made a mistake and fell. The second time it was good, but in real time, in the competition, I wasn’t calm enough, maybe that’s why.”

“After last season in the off-season I was kind of back to the beginning, tried to brush up my jumps from zero,” Asada concluded. “I’m still in the process of improving my jump technique. Recently it came back to me and it became quite consistent, but there are still ups and downs.”

Flatt showed her new short program to East of Eden in international competition for the first time, and was very pleased with her outing. She hit a triple flip-double toe, a triple Lutz, double Axel, and also got two level fours and two level threes for her non-jump elements to score a season’s best of 62.23 points.

“This was a great stepping stone for me and I’m very proud of how I skated,” the 18-year-old from Colorado Springs said. “But I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get the triple-triple (flip-toe) in this time. The landing of the flip was a little slow.”

“When I kind of reinvented myself this year especially with the new short this year, I really learned how to come back to my roots in skating,” Flatt continued. “I’m learning how to have fun again in skating. It was a little rough throughout the Grand Prix season – especially since my fall season was basically riddled with injuries and that was really tough. I found how to come back to my true passion for skating, so I think that was the most important thing, finding that love again.”

Teammate Mirai Nagasu is currently ranked fourth with 59.78 points. She underrotated her triple Lutz in her routine to Un Sospiro and Witches of Eastwick and got an edge call for the triple flip, but her spins were strong and all garnered a level four.

“The Lutz was a little unfortunate,” Nagasu told the press. “I think I was worried about it and it showed because I hesitated going into it. I was glad that I was able to land it, and it shows how good of an athlete I am – I’m just kidding!”

“If I was such a good athlete, I would be able to do it all the time,” the 17-year-old continued with her typical sense of humor, “but things happen and you just learn from them. You just got to take what you can and give nothing back. I’m unhappy with myself, because I told myself that I would just go for it. At the beginning I didn’t, and so I think that shaky beginning maybe snapped myself back together where I needed to be. But this is the short program, you just have to be perfect the whole way through. Tomorrow hopefully I’ll be able to pull myself back together.”

Grand Prix Final Champion Alissa Czisny fell on her triple Lutz, but she reacted instantly and tacked a double to onto her triple flip for a combination. The spins in her elegant program to Romance from Erich Korngold’s violin concerto were exquisite as usual, and merited a level four. The U.S. Champion scored 58.94 points to come fifth.

“This competition for me is a tune-up for Worlds,” Czisny commented. “It’s difficult coming in after the U.S. Championships. I haven’t been able to prepare how I would prepare for the World Championships. I’m a bit disappointed with my performance out there tonight, it wasn’t my best. After the first mistake, I was glad I stayed on my feet after that. I forgot about the fall and focused on what I had to do to make the rest of my elements happen.”

Akiko Suzuki of Japan is sitting in sixth place with 57.64 points. She stumbled on her first jump, a triple flip, but was quick to move her combination to the second jump, the Lutz. She also hit the double Axel.

“I’m not happy because I made a mistake on the first big element – the triple flip combination,” Suzuki told the press. “But after that I could recover and did the combination with the triple Lutz. The triple flip combination didn’t work this morning in practice and so I was worried about it. Overall, I felt good. Unfortunately, this is my last big competition for this season. So I’d really like to give out everything I can.”

Cynthia Phaneuf finished seventh after missing her triple Lutz, but she landed a triple toe-double toe combination and the double Axel (55.65 points).

“I’m not very happy with the performance,” said the Canadian Champion. “I did a lot of clean short programs in practice, so coming here it was my goal to skate clean. I can do that easily, but after a tough warm up it has been difficult to go back on the ice and be aggressive. I just want to come back tomorrow and knowing when I get on the ice, that I’ll attack this program and be proud of myself”.

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