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Asada Fights Back to Capture Gold

Mao Asada of Japan rebounded from a disappointing short program to claim the gold medal in the ladies event at the 2010 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships being held in Jeonju, South Korea, this week. Japan’s Akiko Suzuki took the ladies silver medal and Caroline Zhang (USA) captured the bronze.

In ice dance, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada danced to their first gold medal in an ISU Championship. The silver went to Allie Hann-McCurdy and Michael Coreno, also from Canada. Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell (USA) earned the bronze. It was the first medal at Four Continents for all three couples.

In the pairs event, Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang of China skated to the gold. Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker took the silver medal, and the bronze went to Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin.

THE LADIES

“I am satisfied with today’s performance and I think it will be [a] good [step] towards the Olympic Games,” Asada said.

Third after the short program, Asada scored a season best 126.74 points for her free skate (68.58 element score/58.16 program component score) and an overall competition score of 183.96. It was the second time Asada won the Four Continents crown. She first earned the title in 2008.

Skating to “Bells of Moscow” by Sergei Rachmaninov, Asada nailed her two triple Axels as well as four triple jumps. She also performed difficult spins. “I am very happy that I tried two triple Axels, and to have done them will help me at the Olympic Games,” she said.

The leader after the short program, Suzuki performed a lively free skate to “Westside Story.” She landed six triple jumps. However, her Lutz was a bit shaky and she also popped a loop. With a score of 114.84 points (62.20/52.64), the reigning Grand Prix Final bronze medalist ranked second in the free skate and slipped to second overall with 173.72 points.

It was Suzuki’s first medal at an ISU Championship. She had finished eighth in her two previous appearances at Four Continents (in 2002 and '09). “This is the first time I was first after the short program in a [major] international event, but I didn’t want to think about that. I just wanted to perform 'Westside Story.' I missed one jump, and there were some little mistakes, but stayed focused until the end. That was good,” the 24-year-old said.

Zhang completed five clean triples and strong spins in her routine to “The Nutcracker.” Her only mistake came when she stumbled on an under-rotated triple Lutz. The 16-year-old earned 105.68 points (56.80/48.88) and fought her way onto the podium with 160.58 points.

“I think it was a pretty good overall performance. The mistake on the Lutz was surprising and confusing. I didn’t even rotate at all,” she said. “That could have been a lot better, but I’m really happy with how I placed here. I didn’t expect to be so high. It’s a pretty good comeback after how I skated at nationals (where she placed 11th). I didn’t expect any international assignments after nationals. I tried to make the best out of the opportunity and I think I did pretty well.”

Amanda Dobbs (USA) dropped to fourth after falling on a triple flip attempt (158.23 points). Haruka Imai completed a successful day for team Japan by finishing fifth in her international senior-level debut (155.29 points).

ICE DANCE

Weaver and Poje delivered a passionate performance to “Phantom of the Opera.” The program was highlighted by beautiful lifts. The Canadians were awarded a season best 85.07 points and stayed on top with a total of 166.16.

They stepped on to the podium at an ISU Championship for the first time since they took the bronze at the 2007 ISU World Junior Championships in their first year as a team.

“We were very happy with our free dance today. Our goal coming into the free dance was to have a joyous performance and try to overlook anything that felt off,” Weaver said. “We just wanted to show this program the best we could [since it is] the last time we will be doing it for an audience. I think we accomplished that. We also raised our technical mark from yesterday, and that was also a thought throughout the program.”

Hann-McCurdy and Coreno danced to “La Strada.” They gave a crisp performance to score 81.46 points, which was a season best as well. Overall, they accumulated 159.56 points.

“I just have to thank the fans today, because right from the start of our program they got into it and they started clapping along. I can’t tell you how much that helps. The energy was high,” Coreno explained.

Hubbell and Hubbell produced an upbeat dance to a medley of songs byLenny Kravitz. "It felt like a great way to end the [senior] season. I think we’re just excited to go into our next events,” Madison Hubbell said.

Keiffer Hubbell stumbled on the synchronized twizzles, but the brother-and-sister team nevertheless earned a season best 77.69 points and grabbed the bronze medal with a total of 154.20 points (they ranked fourth in the free dance).

“We just wanted to skate our program well and I think I did that. I had a mistake in the twizzles, but other than that it was a strong skate for us,” Keiffer Hubbell said.

Xintong Huang and Xun Zheng (CHN) slipped to fourth. They had two deductions -- one for a fall Huang took and on an extended lift (150.38 points). The reigning World Jjunior champions Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein (USA) came in fifth (148.92 points).

THE PAIRS

Zhang and Zhang gave a season best performance to “Sheherazade.” “We’re very happy to have won with a good performance today and we hope this will us help at the Olympic Games,” Dan Zhang said.

Their routine featured a double Axel-triple toe loop combination, side-by-side triple Salchows, big triple throws and difficult lifts. The reigning World silver medalists earned 126.36 points (69.00 element score/57.36 program component score) and won their second Four Continents title with a total of 192.22 points.

“The Olympic Games are coming up soon and this competition was a very important practice for us,” Dan Zhang said. “Hopefully we’ll skate even better in Vancouver.”

Skating to the “Slumdog Millionaire” soundtrack, McLaughlin and Brubaker earned 105.61 points (53.85/53.76) and scored 170.17 points overall. “I thought our program was OK today.,” McLaughlin said. “We had two major mistakes, but I’m glad that we kept the component side of the program up, and the things we did, we did well. I’m happy that we were able to fight through.”

The Americans completed a triple twist, double Axel and throw triple Salchow, but also had to overcome two errors when she fell on their side-by-side Salchow and the throw triple loop.. “This competition is pretty hard for us, making a quick turn-around from nationals (where the placed fifth after winning the title in 2008, and ’09), and we are constantly reminded that we are not on the (Olympic) team. We wanted to come here and show what we are made of,” McLaughlin said.

Duhamel and Buntin were ranked fourth in the free skate with 101.12 points (51.80/50.32), but overall held on to third place at 158.02 points. “We had few pretty big technical mistakes,” Buntin admitted.

The Canadians aborted a lift midway through the routine and she missed the throw triple Lutz in their program to a selection of music by Pierre Porte. They did have some nice highlights as well, including a triple toe-triple toe sequence to open the routine. They also hit a solid throw triple loop “Aside from the technical mistakes we’re proud of ourselves for being able to get up from each one and keep going through the program and perform the way we did,” Buntin said. “We’re happy with our fight out there.”

Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin came in fourth (157.49 points), just edged out of the podium and Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran (JPN) were fifth (151.83 points).


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