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 Mao refines jumps by getting back to basics

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PostSubject: Mao refines jumps by getting back to basics   Sun Feb 06, 2011 11:58 am

Mao refines jumps by getting back to basics

- by Takeshi Sakagami, Asahi.com

It's been a busy new year for Mao Asada.

The world champion has been shuttling between ice rinks in Nagoya and Yokohama as she prepares to defend her figure skating world title in March in Tokyo.

Asada, who finished second to Miki Ando in December's nationals, will first skate in the Four Continents in Taipei later this month before taking on South Korean Olympic gold medalist Kim Yu-na at Yoyogi National Gymnasium.

"I had three goals at the national championships," Asada says. "The first was to earn a ticket to the world championships. The second was to get back my own performance. And my last goal was to win. I was disappointed that I didn't win, but I reached two of the three goals, so I am not too concerned about my ranking."

After struggling in the early part of the season, Asada successfully landed triple axels--her signature jump--in both the short program and free skate at the nationals in Nagano's Big Hat arena. She says her jumps have finally caught up to her skating speed, which increased under the instruction of coach Nobuo Sato.

"I finally got it together at the national championships. If I continue at this pace, I think the jumps will finally be my own," Asada says. "Coach Sato told me I should avoid doing the triple axel in the short program, but I just had to do it. So I told him I wanted to do it, and went for it. I wanted to show the fans that I can land a triple axel in both the short program and the free skate."

Asada rang in 2011 with a visit to her local Atsuta Shrine with her mother on New Year's Day.

"We went in the afternoon when it gets really crowded. There was a huge line, but I stood in line with everyone else and eventually went to the very front," she says. "I wished for success in my skating and good health for my family. What exactly did I wish for in my skating? That's a secret."

The next day, Asada began training at Chukyo University along with training partner and fellow Olympian Takahiko Kozuka. Her lessons with coach Sato began Jan. 11.

"What I am focusing on most right now is my jump rotation," Asada says. "During practice I concentrate on rotating tightly. I can jump, but my body sometimes opens too early or my body isn't straight enough. So I'm very conscious of rotating firmly until the end before landing on the ice.

"I achieved my non-jump related goals at the nationals, so now I just need to rehearse the program over and over."

Asada has also become used to using two training bases--at Chukyo University in her home town of Nagoya and the Shin-Yokohama Skate Center in Yokohama. She says she enjoys making new discoveries at the Shin-Yokohama Skate Center.

"It's better than training at the same rink every day. At Shin-Yokohama, I get to practice with many children. And the change in environment refreshes my feelings. I've seen (2006 Olympic gold medalist) Shizuka Arakawa practice here as well. I learn so much. I get advice from coach Sato while watching Arakawa-san skating. Arakawa-san skates so smoothly as if her legs are not even pushing the ice. Coach Sato tells me to watch for things like that."

Sato's instructions are very detail-oriented. But they are not all just about jumps.

"I have learned a lot from Kozuka's spins," Mao says of her training partner. "I also get tips from him by practicing with him. The other day, I asked coach Sato to measure how many times I can spin in one kick. I was able to spin 104 times. Until then, I was only able to spin about 30 times, so I was really surprised."

Next up for Mao will be the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships that get under way in Taipei on Feb. 15. She will be representing Japan along with national champion Ando and Akiko Suzuki.

"I'd like to bring my condition up to 80 percent at the Four Continents, and see how my performance is received by judges," Asada says. "Whatever I am lacking then, I will work on before the world championships.

"To be honest, I just get tired right now thinking about rankings and competing with other skaters. I just want to focus on how much I can improve my technique."

Having reached 20 years of age on Sept. 25, Asada's skating future looks bright as long as she continues her training.

Mai Asada, Mao's 22-year-old sister and a competitive skater in her own right, says Mao should prepare for the 2014 Sochi Olympics without a sense of urgency.

"Mao hasn't changed much even though she just turned 20," Mai says. "She's pretty normal, but kind of quirky. The one time we drank alcohol together, Mao got really excited and gave me a long lecture. Then she suddenly fell asleep. It was really funny.

"This season, Mao began fixing her jumps from scratch. I don't think she's feeling a sense of urgency. I'm glad she was finally able to produce results at the nationals.

"For Mao, this season isn't her entire career. She's thinking about the future. This is just the beginning toward the next Olympics, so I'd like her to take her time and slowly improve her condition."

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PostSubject: Re: Mao refines jumps by getting back to basics   Tue Feb 08, 2011 10:16 pm

Cool article. "She's thinking about the future. This is just the beginning toward the next Olympics........"
Yeah Baby!!! Mao, Miki & Kanako (or Haruka) on the podium in Sochi!!!!
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