Mao Asada, the 21-year-old former World Champion from Japan, showed off a new costume and rekindled confidence in today’s short program at the 2012 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Colorado Springs, Colo.
With a strong short program—marred only by a glitch on the landing of her opening triple Axel, Asada stands atop the leader board with 64.25 points.
“Today my performance was good except for the triple Axel,” she said in the post-event press conference. “I look at this as a learning opportunity for me, and will use it to build on tomorrow’s performance.”
Up until this point in the season, Asada sported a unitard for her Scheherazade short program, which she felt hindered her ability to land her signature triple jump.
“I wasn’t able to move freely in the pants,” she explained. “This costume allows me to do the triple Axel.”
Asada takes a miniscule .18 point lead into the free skate over freshly-crowned American champion Ashley Wagner, who skated the performance of her career thus far. Her performance to music from the film Pollack was perhaps the best received by the Colorado crowd.
“This is the best that I have ever skated internationally,” the 20 year-old said. “To up the ante by nine points (over her previous personal best) is not too shabby.”
Wagner opened with a triple flip-triple toe loop combination—an upgrade from the triple-double that she completed at the U.S. Championships. Though she received full credit for the jump, Wagner was not completely satisfied with the attempt.
“It has been great in practice,” she noted. “I landed it on one foot in the warm up, but I was a bit nervous and the two-foot ugly face reappeared.”
Wagner heads into tomorrow’s free skate with 64.07 points.
Asada’s teammate, Kanako Murakami is in third place after struggling in international outings all season long.
“I got off to a rough start because I was having boot issues,” said the 17-year-old, “but everything has been good since I got new boots. Since I came to Colorado Springs, I have had a little bit of an upset stomach, but I think that might have been nerves. I’m okay now.”
Murakami opened with a strong triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination, and skated with confidence throughout her Violin Muse program. The only issue was a tentative entrance into her double Axel.
“I was nervous about that today,” the former Junior World Champion said of her Axel. “It was good, but I will try harder in tomorrow’s free skate.”
The Japanese bronze medalist is less than a point out of first place with a score of 63.45 points.
American pewter medalist Caroline Zhang finds herself in a familiar position—fourth place after the short program. The 18 year-old has been on a high since her resurgence in San Jose, Calif. a little more than a week ago.
“I have just learned to love my skating more,” Zhang said with her bright smile. “I really hope it shows in my performances.”
Zhang went for the triple loop-triple loop combination in her Rushing Wings of Dawn program, but was unable to hold onto the landing. She received full credit for the rotation of both jumps, however.
“I’m disappointed because other than the one that I did in warm up today, I haven’t missed any since nationals,” she shared. “I’m happy that there wasn’t a downgrade, but I wanted to nail it.”
Zhang earned a total of 58.74 points in the short program, one of her best totals since winning the silver medal at the Junior World Championships back in 2008.
“I’m not paying attention to the standings,” the 18-year-old said. “I’ll take anything that I can get. I don’t have any goals in terms of points or placement. I just want to skate well.”
Kexin Zhang, 16, of China earned a career best of 54.07 points despite a fall on the triple Lutz, and is in fifth place.
USA’s Agnes Zawadzki fell on her opening triple toe and is in sixth with 52.87 points.
“I don’t have that much pressure on me since I’m not in medal contention,” said the 17-year-old of the upcoming free skate. “Im going to skate free, not worry about anything, and let everything fall into place. I’m going to leave it all on the ice.”
The Canadian ladies continue to make things interesting. Reigning champion Amelie Lacoste, 23, takes a slim .96 point lead into the free skate over teammate Cynthia Phaneuf, 24. Both skaters are in the running for Canada’s single allotment for the 2012 World Championships next month in Nice, France. They are in seventh and eighth place respectively.
Korea’s Min-Jeong Kwak and China’s Bingwa Geng, both 18, round out the top ten.
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