Mao Asada – The fight must go on

Mao Asada and her coach Nobuo Sato

By Vladislav Luchianov

I think a lot of skating fans watching performances of Mao Asada at the World Championships in Nice thought: “Why she is trying again that difficult triple Axel? What is this fight for? She can execute just double Axel and then add a cascade of some triple – triple. With her really high components she could take the gold for sure! And now she finished just sixth!” At first I thought this way too.

But I thought so until I saw her confident look in the “kiss and cry” corner. Mao didn’t want to win this championships by using the way, which is usual for the majority of others. She needed her triple Axel. Why? Because she likely thinks other way. She has absolutely different strategy and tactics.

The interesting thing is that she no needs to prove anything and to anyone. She is already the 2010 Winter Olympic silver medalist, a two-time (2008 & 2010) World champion, a two-time (2008 & 2010) Four Continents champion, a two-time (2005–2006 & 2008–2009) Grand Prix Final champion, the 2005 World Junior champion, the 2004–2005 Junior Grand Prix Final champion and a five-time (2006–2009, 2011) Japanese national champion.

But there is a big feature of this figure skater – work for the future; for the prospect. She understands that ladies single skating will become more difficult, whether we like it or not. It will be different already in the next season, when at the big stage will appear the stars of junior skating, such as Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, Adelina Sotnikova, Gracie Gold and others.

These juniors can’t imagine winning the major competitions without, for example, the cascade of triple-triple jumps. It is also a very difficult element and it’s sad that its base value is lower than that of triple-double-double cascades, which is simpler. They will definitely work on improvements of their programs and Mao perfectly knows it. This is called the work for the future.

This Japanese figure skater does not need a simple victory. She needs a convincing victory, which leaves no chance for rivals and no doubts for all others. This season she has done much for this goal. Mao has all the complex technical arsenal of the modern ladies skating. The only element which still remains unstable for her is triple Axel. But there is a progress too. In her free skate program in Nice her triple Axel could be executed but, in my opinion, she went on it with too much power. But nothing is wasted. No doubts that she will take into account all mistakes, will work hard on them on trainings and it’s very likely that she will achieve the desired result.

All this can be compared with victories of ancient Rome. Those of you who are familiar with history knows, that the Romans almost always lost every first battle. But they are very well learned the lessons, discovered the rivals, worked on improvements and then achieved tremendous victories and conquests in really big and the most significant fights. Victories of various medieval kingdoms look very modest on this background.

All that distinguishes Mao Asada from many others. She can afford to lose the world championships, which takes place every year, but when she wins, her victories are really immense.

Photo: Lionel Cironneau

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