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Asada spreads wings to win third Four Continents

Suzuki, Murakami win silver, bronze to make it a Japanese sweep; Americans place fourth, sixth, eighth

Mao Asada's win in Osaka makes her a perfect 5-for-5 on the season.
Mao Asada's win in Osaka makes her a perfect 5-for-5 on the season. (Getty Images)

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By International Skating Union
(02/10/2013) - Mao Asada led a Japanese podium sweep in the ladies event at the 2013 Four Continents Championships. She was followed in the standings by teammates Akiko Suzuki and Kanako Murakami. The Japanese ladies had swept the podium once before at Four Continents: in 2003, with Fumie Suguri, Shizuka Arakawa and Yukari Nakano.

Performing to Swan Lake, Asada first landed a triple loop and then went for a triple Axel, but she under-rotated and two-footed it. The 2010 Olympic silver medalist produced three more clean triples but under-rotated two others. Her spins were all rated Level 4.

Asada scored 130.96 points, narrowly surpassing her previous season's best, and racked up 205.45 total points.

"For the first time since the Olympic Games, I went over 200 points, so I feel that I am coming back to my performance level," the two-time world champion said. "Today's performance was about in line with my practice, so I need to practice more to exceed today's level."

"Throughout this Four Continents Championships, I was able to have great performances in both the short and free. My short program was beyond my practice level, and my free program was within the range of my practice level."

Suzuki produced six triples, including a triple flip-double toe-double loop combination, and three Level 4 spins in her routine to "O" from Cirque du Soleil. However, she singled an Axel.

The world bronze medalist earned 124.43 points, giving her a total of 190.08.

"It was good, because in the competition just before this (the Japanese championships), I did very badly. My aim was to redeem myself in this competition," Suzuki said. "I talked to my coach a lot about how to become stronger mentally before the competition."

Murakami's tango-themed program included five triple jumps and two Level 4 spins, but she under-rotated two triples and singled an Axel.

She picked up a new season's best for the free skate with 116.99 points en route to winning her first ISU senior championships medal.

"The jumps were OK; however, my skating was not powerful enough. My coach told me that as well," the Japanese silver medalist said. "I only focused on my jumps, so that is the reason I could not care about the skating."

"I definitely got my confidence after my short program in this competition, but my task is to skate more powerfully in both short and free program," Murakami continued. "That is what I want to do at worlds."

American Christina Gao finished fourth with 176.28 points. She landed five triples in her "Libertango" free skate, one coming in a triple toe-double toe-double loop combination. Her lone miscue was a fall on her Lutz.

"I'm disappointed that I missed the Lutz, because I almost never miss my Lutz," Gao said. "I'm glad I pulled it together and still did everything afterward. It was a weird fall, and if I landed it, maybe I would have had a higher placement."

Zijun Li of China moved up from 10th to fifth on the strength of a free skate that garnered 115.91 points and was rated fourth best of the day.

Slipping from fifth to sixth was Team USA member Gracie Gold, who amassed 166.66 points. Her Life Is Beautiful free skate included a double Axel-triple toe and a triple Salchow-double toe-double toe, but she fell on one Lutz, popped another, and stepped out of the landing on her triple flip.

"It wasn't a very good performance," Gold said. "I have a lot of time to prepare for worlds, and I think I will give a much better performance at worlds. I was nervous for my skate and was shaky on my practices. I wasn't at the top of my game."

Agnes Zawadzki started out her Rhapsody in Blue program strong, landing a triple Lutz and a triple toe-double toe, but she was doomed by mistakes on a couple of combinations later in the skate.

She finished eighth with 158.99 points.

"I'm not happy with the way it turned out, especially the last section," Zawadzki said. "I'm disappointed, but I tried to fight through it. I have a lot to work on for next season."