Asada plans triple Axel in both programs

Japanese ladies cope with altitude issues; all plan triple-triples

Mao Asada intends to bring out the heavy artillery at the Four Continents Championships.
Mao Asada intends to bring out the heavy artillery at the Four Continents Championships. (Getty Images)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(02/09/2012) - Facing a phalanx of Japanese reporters and camera crews Thursday morning, Mao Asada, Haruka Imai and Kanako Murakami took turns in the spotlight discussing their jump strategies.

All three skaters answered questions in Japanese, and an interpreter translated their responses into English.

Of course, attention centered on Asada, the two-time world champion who gained the sympathy of the figure skating world when her mother, Kyoko, died at age 48 in December. Many of the questions revolved around her triple Axel, a jump she has yet to land in competition this season.

The 21-year-old skater, who withdrew from the Grand Prix Final due to her mother's critical illness, did not land the jump in her programs this fall and did not need it at the recent Japanese championships, where she won her fifth title.

"After Japanese nationals, I have been trying to do triple Axel," she said. "I am willing to do it here at Four Continents.

"So far, my plan is to try to do triple Axel in both my short program and free skate ... My coach, Mr. Sato, is not against me trying the triple Axel here. I will also attempt the triple flip-triple loop."

Asada tried a triple Axel in a run-through of her free skate Thursday morning, but popped it. She came closer on other attempts, two-footing the landing of several.

Imai, who placed fourth at the most recent Japanese championships, also hopes to up her jump ante.

"This will be my first attempt to do a triple-triple in my program, so I am trying to concentrate on that," said the 18-year-old, who trains in Detroit under Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen. "I would also like to [improve] the levels in my spins and steps, to make the best program."

(After the press conference, Sato confirmed that Imai would try a triple toe-triple toe in her free skate.)

Imai added that a stress fracture to her right foot, which limited her training earlier this season, has healed.

"Before, it didn't feel right, but now it is OK," she said.

For Japanese bronze medalist Murakami, the goal is to skate two solid programs.

"I have never succeeded in both my short program and free skate in competition, so I will try to do my best in both segments, as a good lead in to worlds," the 17-year-old said. "I am attempting only one triple loop in my long, so I hope I succeed.

"I had boot problems and struggled during the first half of the season, but after Trophée Eric Bompard [where she placed fourth] I found suitable boots, and now I have no problems."

Colorado Springs' 6,000-foot altitude troubled all three skaters in different ways.

"I am not worried about my jumps -- they are easier to rotate -- but I am worried about my stamina," Asada said. "I pray for success."

"My triple toe-triple toe [planned in her short] is much easier here in the altitude. However, the last part of my program is very hard," Murakami said.

"My edge jumps are easier here, but my toe jumps are too high and difficult to control," Imai said. "I am not worried about the short program, but I am worried about my stamina in the long program."