Mao Asada bests field for top spot

Rochette takes second, Ando third

Mao Asada bested the field with a 132.31-point free skate to earn the gold medal.
Mao Asada bested the field with a 132.31-point free skate to earn the gold medal. (Getty Images)


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By Tatiana Flade, special to
(02/16/2008) - Japan's Mao Asada won the final gold medal at the 2008 Four Continents Championships in Goyang City, Korea. With a strong performance, she bested Joannie Rochette of Canada and reigning world champion Miki Ando of Japan.

Asada hit a beautiful triple Axel in the first seconds of her program to "Fantaisie Impromptu" by Frederic Chopin. Once she had that key element under her belt, the rest went smoothly. She landed five more triples, and only the triple toe in a combination with a triple flip was cheated and downgraded.

Asada achieved 132.31 points in the free skate, just short of her season's best of 132.55 points, but overall she did have a season's best total score of 193.25 points.

"Before my program, I was very nervous," explained Asada. "But when I started to skate, I felt stronger. And so I am very happy about how I skated today. I am especially pleased to have landed the triple Axel, and I will try my best for the world championships."

Joannie Rochette turned in a strong performance that featured five clean triple jumps, including two Lutzes, but she landed forward and stumbled on a triple Salchow in a sequence with a triple toe. She scored 179.54 points and overtook Ando to earn the silver.

"The first two jumps were very important," said Rochette. "I was glad I could stand up strong. I landed too forward, and I knew I wouldn't do the Sal [Salchow] right. I am glad that I went for it. For worlds, I'll have to get the sequence. This competition gives me confidence, but on the other hand, each competition is different. But I know I can do the triple-triple sequence."

Ando wanted too much. She ran into trouble right away when she did only a shaky triple Lutz-double loop combination instead of her planned triple-triple. Then she popped the quadruple Salchow, but the world champion recovered and produced four triples in her Carmen program.

"I am sad about popping the quad Salchow and missing the triple-triple combination," said Ando. "I was thinking too much about the quad, that's why I just popped it. But everything is OK. I was skating well in practice in the second part [of the program], but I didn't practice enough the first part."

Katrina Hacker was the top-ranked American in sixth place. She turned in a clean long program with five triples.

"I think doing every jump clean [was the best part of the program]," Hacker said. "That's the first time I've done that. I think it was a good way to end. I didn't make the world team, but I did get to come to Four Continents, and it's been great. I never ever could have imagined this. At the beginning of the season, I just wanted to build on each competition and see what happened."

Ashley Wagner used a fifth-place free skate to move up from 12th to eighth overall.

"This was really great for letting me know how I'll do at worlds," Wagner commented. "My short program was a good reminder that you can have the jumps, but there's still a lot of other things that I need to focus on. I'm going to go home and work on that so when I go to worlds, my short program has everything in it -- the total package."

Bebe Liang fell twice, and she dropped from fifth to 11th overall.

Liang chatted about her performance: "I think maybe after the first mistake, I was trying to get myself back together. It's all about putting that away and going on to the next jump. I think my training has been going really well. I'm just going to stay on the same path and just continue to push and be really consistent at home. Every competition, I try to take a lesson away. This time, I had a pretty good short, and I was really proud of that. I think I can learn from that. I'm just going to keep building on that."