Olympic Focus for Mao Asada

Susan D. Russell
Mao Asada

While it was a busy summer for Mao Asada, the Japanese star is hoping the work she has invested will pay high dividends in the coming months.

Last season was a tough one for Asada, both on and off the ice. She got off to a good start capturing silver at NHK Trophy and gold in Russia, and qualified for the Grand Prix Final.

But the day prior to the short program in Québec City Asada learned that her mother had been hospitalized and was in critical condition. She immediately returned to Japan but her mother died before she arrived.

A few weeks later she rose from the ashes of despair to win her fifth national title, and earned a berth to the World Championships but landed in a disappointing sixth place. “It was a hard season for me but now I am concentrating on next season and developing my new programs,” Asada said.

She spent three weeks over the summer in Budapest, Hungary working with Zoltán Nagy, a choreographer and physical trainer who is known for his balletic mastery.

Asada turned to Canadian choreographer Lori Nichol for her short program, something she described as lighthearted and fun. Nichol also crafted a new exhibition number.

Her former coach Tatiana Tarasova designed the free.

“My short program is to happy music and my free is to beautiful classical music,” the Nagoya native said, declining to reveal the theme of either program at this time.

Asada had minimal success with the triple Axel last season, but said she will likely include the jump in her repertoire this year.

While part of the summer was spent performing in shows in Japan, Asada took time out for a summer vacation. “I went to a forest resort in Japan. I enjoyed time at the spa, good food, walking in the quiet forest, planting vegetables and horseback riding,” she said.

Though her competitive results have not always been what she achieved in previous years, Asada said she loves skating and remains motivated to be the best she can be. “I want to see how much I can achieve. I want to take my skating to a higher level both technically and artistically,” she explained.

Many found her long program from the 2009-10 season (“Prelude Op.3 No.2 in C Sharp Minor”) not to their liking, but Asada said it is her favorite routine to date. “I liked that program the most since I performed it the best I could have done at that time.”

Though things did not go as she had hoped at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Asada said it was still a memorable time for her. “I loved and enjoyed the city of Vancouver and the Olympic experience.”

Her focus is set squarely on capturing gold at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games and Asada said she has made no plans beyond that event. “I don’t know if that will be the end of my competitive career. I will see what happens in Sochi.”

In 2011 Asada launched her own high-end kimono brand “MaoMao” which has been very successful. “I love kimonos because they are so traditional for Japanese women. They are so pretty and gorgeous,” she explained. “The design theme of my kimonos is a mixture of classic and modern which I like. Some of them have snowflakes and some of them for kids have my silhouette logo on them that makes very original.”

Asada, now 21, won her first competition at the novice level a decade ago. She described the journey as a revelation. “There have been many things that I can’t explain in a word or even a sentence,” she said. “I have experienced good times and hard times but I have learned so many things from skating.

“My advice to up and coming skaters who dream of becoming champions is to never forget in your mind that the reason you train so hard every day is because you love skating.”

Visiting new places is something Asada said she really enjoys. Her favorite country outside of Japan is Italy. “I loved eating gelato, pizza and Tiramisu,” she said. “It was also my first experience eating mozzarella cheese.

“But I love Hawaii for vacations. I went there many times when I was little. I also went there after the Vancouver Olympics. Hawaii is always exciting and there are so many things to do. It is never boring.”

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