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Asada rebounds from disappointment to win gold

Zhang earns bronze; Dobbs slips to fourth

Mao Asada blew away the field to win gold at the Four Continents Championships.
Mao Asada blew away the field to win gold at the Four Continents Championships. (Getty Images)

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By Tatiana Flade, special to icenetwork.com
(01/29/2010) - Japanese star Mao Asada came back from a disappointing start of the season to win the gold at the Four Continents Championships on Friday in Jeonju, Korea. The silver medal went to Asada's teammate Akiko Suzuki, and Caroline Zhang claimed the bronze.

For the first time this season, Asada hit her two triple Axels in the program. She also completed four other triples and earned Level 4 for all her spins and spirals. The 19-year-old looked confident throughout her routine set to "Bells of Moscow" by Sergei Rachmaninov and seemed to shake off the disappointment of short program and the Grand Prix season. Asada got a season-best score of 126.74 points in the free skate and vaulted from third to first at 183.96 points.

"I am satisfied with today's performance, and I think it will be good towards the Olympic Games", Asada told the press. "I am very happy that I tried two triple Axels, and to have done them will help me at the Olympic Games."

Suzuki landed six triples in her program to "Westside Story," but as in the short, she popped a loop. Her score of 114.84 points was about three points lower than her personal best, but with 173.72, she won the silver handily.

"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 the "Westside Story." I missed one jump, and there were some little mistakes, but I stayed focused until the end. That was good," the 24-year-old said.

Zhang, who was ranked fourth in the short, made it to the podium with a solid performance to "Nutcracker" that featured five clean triple jumps and strong spins. The Californian just under-rotated her triple Lutz and stumbled on it. Zhang picked up 105.68 points for the free skate and had 160.58 points overall to win her first medal at Four Continents.

"I think it was a pretty good overall performance. The mistake on the Lutz was surprising and confusing, because I didn't even rotate at all. 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 from how I skated at nationals," the 16-year-old said.

"At nationals, I guess there was some pressure. I want to make sure that I don't get any downgrades on any of my jumps next season. I didn't try my triple-triple here, because I was tired from just coming from nationals, and I didn't want to risk any downgrades. I want to make sure that from the start of the season I do triple-triples. I want to stay injury-free and make sure that I can come out as a new Caroline next year. I didn't expect any international assignments after nationals, and I tried to make the best out of the opportunity and, I think I did pretty well," she explained.

Amanda Dobbs fell on her triple flip -- which was downgraded -- but made no further error. Nevertheless, she slipped from second to fourth place at 158.23 points.

"This is the best I've skated all season in the long program, and I was happy that it was a season-best. I'm just happy that, mentally, I did get through three weeks of competing. I kept it together nicely. I wish I'd had better go on the flip, but everything else was pretty good," she commented. To be fourth at Four Continents is a little bit of a confidence booster."

She added that she plans on to continue to compete in both singles and pairs next season. Two young, up-and-coming Asian skaters, Haruka Imai from Japan and Korea's Min-Jung Kwak, came in fourth and fifth, respectively, with solid performances.

Alexe Gilles had two good triple Lutzes in her program but made some errors on easier jumps to remain in ninth place in her debut at the international senior level.

"I felt I fought throughout the whole thing, and that was one of my goals -- to commit to everything", Gilles said.

"There were a few minuses here and there, but it's right after nationals, and so my legs are still really tired."

She enjoyed the experience at Four Continents. "It was my first one, so I was really excited. Hopefully next coming years I'll keep improving on it", she continued.