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 Asada, Takahashi headline Four Continents

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PostSubject: Asada, Takahashi headline Four Continents   Fri Feb 18, 2011 5:40 pm

Takahashi, Asada headline Four Continents

source - Mainichi Daily News

TAIPEI (Kyodo) -- Reigning world champions Daisuke Takahashi and Mao Asada will spearhead Japan's medal assault when singles action gets under way Friday at the Four Continents Championship, the last major international event before next month's world championships in Tokyo.

Asada, who endured a nightmare season on the Grand Prix circuit before coming good at the national championships in December, claimed a morale-boosting Four Continents win prior to the Vancouver Olympics last year and a repeat would provide a major boost ahead of the worlds, where she is set to renew her rivalry with South Korean Olympic champion Kim Yu Na.

"I just have to do what I have to do and see how well I can perform," Asada said Thursday after her first practice session since arriving in Taiwan. "I won't be thinking too much about points."

"I have made a lot of changes to my free program and it has become completely different to when I skated at the nationals."

Asada's performances on the GP circuit last year mirrored her struggles from the previous campaign, which eventually ended on a high note with a world gold medal that followed a silver-winning skate in Vancouver.

After placing a career-worst eighth at the season-opening NHK Trophy, a fifth-place finish at the Trophee Bompard ended her slim hopes of qualifying for the prestigious Grand Prix Final in Beijing.

But she regrouped to book her berth at the worlds after finishing second at the nationals behind Miki Ando, who will be challenging in the women's program beginning Saturday along with Akiko Suzuki and American Grand Prix Final champion Alissa Czisny.

"I still haven't quite got my timing right with my jumps and hopefully my form will get better," Ando said. "I want to try and earn points with the steps and spins that I have been practicing."

The singles action begins with the men's short program on Friday, when Takahashi is expected to face a stiff challenge from compatriot and Grand Prix Final bronze medalist Takahiko Kozuka.

Japan's 2010 junior world champion Yuzuru Hanyu and Americans Adam Rippon, the defending champion, and Jeremy Abbott are also competing here.

Takahashi, who finished in third place at the nationals behind Kozuka and Nobunari Oda, was in high spirits after nailing a quad in Thursday's practice.

"My quads haven't been perfect but it has put me in good spirits making one before the start of the competition," said Takahashi. "I'm in better shape than I was in the first half of the season. I want to show I can still cut it going into the world championships."

Kozuka and Hanyu both look in good form.

"I have got back on form since arriving here. I don't have any concerns," said Kozuka. "Now I just have to go for it. I will just try and stay focused and give it my all."

(Mainichi Japan) February 18, 2011

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