Asada uses finesse to stave off Leonova

Both skaters place well enough to make Grand Prix Final

With silver at NHK Trophy and now gold at Rostelecom Cup, Mao Asada will advance to the Final.
With silver at NHK Trophy and now gold at Rostelecom Cup, Mao Asada will advance to the Final. (Getty Images)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(11/26/2011) - Who says jumps are everything?

In a stroke of irony, Japan's Mao Asada, best known as the ladies' foremost exponent of the triple Axel, put her biggest weapon aside and instead relied on the grace and fluidity of her "Liebestraum" program to carry her to victory at Rostelecom Cup.

The two-time world champion landed just three clean triples -- including two fine triple flips, both done in combination, and a triple loop -- and racked up points with three lovely Level 4 spins and a stellar Level 4 step sequence. Although her mistakes -- including falling out of a triple Lutz and faltering on a double Axel -- might have cost her in a more competitive field, her season-best 118.96 points and 183.25 overall was good enough to beat Russia's Alena Leonova by 2.8 points.

"I am very happy to be in the Grand Prix Final, but today's performance was only about 50 percent of what I can do, and I am disappointed with that," Asada said. "I will go home and train more before the Grand Prix Final."

Leonova landed more triples in a more-than-respectable outing of Requiem for a Dream -- including her reliable triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination -- but a fall on a double Axel proved costly, and she settled for silver with 180.45 points overall.

"I am glad to have skated almost without mistakes, except for the double Axel. Things like that happen; it was a lack of concentration," Leonova said.

Both ladies have qualified for the ISU Grand Prix Final in Quebec City next month.

The battle for the bronze came down to two Russian youngsters. World junior champion Adelina Sotnikova overcame a fall on a triple flip to win out with an elegant skate, also to "Liebestraum." She earned 111.96 for the free and finished with 169.75.

"I skated better today than at the Cup of China, but not by much," Sotnikova said. "I didn't do my triple-triple combination, and I want to do it next time."

Agnes Zawadzki, fourth in the U.S. last season, fought back after falling on a triple toe early in her "Rhapsody in Blue" free to perform with verve and hit several triples, although her final triple Salchow combination was ruled invalid. She earned 95.57, a new season's best, and ended up seventh with 149.38 points.

"I'm very proud of you, that's digging deep," Zawadzki's coach, 1981 world silver medalist David Santee, said in the kiss and cry.

Rachael Flatt had a solid performance of her "Firebird" free skate, landing four triples in a vast improvement over her free skate at 2011 Skate Canada. Still, the U.S. silver medalist did not make much headway with the judges, earning 94.27 points and finishing ninth overall with 147.63 points.

Christina Gao, fifth at the last two U.S. Championships, had a rough free skate, falling on two jumps and making several other mistakes. The 17-year-old, injured for much of the offseason, may still be catching up on her training. She placed 10th with 117.77 points.

Information from the ISU press release was used in this article.