A lot of what she said was surprising because it must be hard for athletes to say these things about their biggest competitor. I'm guessing that retirement and time has helped Mao open up on her true thoughts towards Yuna and their bitter rivalry. Huge respect to Mao for being so honest - not all athletes could do that, no matter how long they've been retired.
I don't sense any bitterness from Mao's end based on this article or anything she has said about the matter from previous interviews. On the other hand, she has always looked at the rivalry from a positive perspective and as something that had motivated her. Even though she says that she was conscious of Kim, I still don't think she was "fixated" per se like all those old media articles liked to describe it at the time. It is only natural to be aware of one's main competition, but in the end, she still focused mainly on improving her own strengths and performance. Of course, she needed the axels to have a chance to win, but that has been her strategy whether she competed against Slutskaya, Kim, or the Russians later in her career.
The most surprising thing from this article was Mao's wish to repair the friendship she had with Yuna during their junior years. It was sad to have her confirm that the friendship faded due to outside factors like the intense media scrutiny. Considering how much criticism Mao got during those years from both Korean and Japanese media at times and her name was at times even dragged into situations related to Yuna, for her to speak so candidly and positively about the experience really showscases her strong and honest character.
Evgenia has an instagram displaying her artwork. She did a wonderful portrait of Mao in her blue Sochi dress. https://www.instagram.com/medoart2020/?igshid=67ucvow0b36b
That's really impressive. I especially like how Evgenia stresses the beautiful fighter element in Mao in the painting. I remember Evgenia expressing such great admiration for Mao's Sochi LP and giving her such wonderfully warm words of gratitude as an honorable tribute for her achievements when Mao retired.