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Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2007

Mao aiming for world title after near miss in Tokyo

Staff writer

Fresh off a training stint in Russia with famed coach Tatiana Tarasova, and a short vacation in Japan, world figure skating championship runnerup Mao Asada is making no secret of her ambitions for the upcoming Grand Prix season.

News photo
Mao Asada, runnerup in last season's world championships, has stepped up her game in an effort to win the title in 2008. KYODO PHOTO

"I want to defend my title at the national championships, and also would like to win the gold medal with the best performance at the world championships," Asada said at a news conference with her sister, Mai, at Narita Airport on Aug. 5, before heading back to their training base in Lake Arrowhead, Calif.

Mao, who narrowly lost out on winning the world title in March in Tokyo to compatriot Miki Ando, is anxious to put to use her new short program — to Jean Claude Petite's "Fantasia for Violin and Orchestra" — created by Tarasova.

"I went to Russia for the first time and was given the music by Tarasova-sensei for my short program. Hopefully I can exhibit what I learned in Russia through ballet and athletics training in my free program as well," said Mao.

Tarasova, one of the most successful coaches in history, can be intimidating to young skaters no matter what their track record is.

"I didn't know much about her and thought she looked a bit scary," said Mai. "But as I got to know her, she taught me really well. Her training sessions were really hard, but taught kindly. She told me that I always have to give it my all."

"When I saw her (Tarasova) for the first time, I felt some aura from her," said Mao.

"I was nervous at our first meeting, but she was actually very kind. She didn't only talk to us about skating. She also gave us advice about diet and clothing as well. On the ice, she told us to perform with more emotion."

Mao, who won last season's NHK Trophy in Nagano, is slated to compete in Skate Canada, in Quebec City, and the Trophee Bompard, in Paris, this season.

Mai, who finished sixth in the Cup of China last season, has been assigned by the Japan Skating Federation to participate in the season-opening Skate America, in Reading, Pa., in late October.

Mai, who celebrated her 19th birthday last month, is confident her results will improve this season after working with Tarasova.

"We worked on extending speed and training for spinning, and I also learned about how to use my arms better from the ballet teacher.

"I feel I was able to train more both on skating strongly and my exhibition, and I am expecting those things will change my performance this season."

Both sisters, who were born and raised in Nagoya, cited specific goals with regard to their new routines.

"The music for my short program is totally different from my previous ones, so I want to show how I perform differently from my previous performances," said Mao.

"In my short program (to the music of Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet" — also choreographed by Tarasova) there are parts I skate with strength, unlike my previous program, so I want to show it," said Mai.

Famed choreographer Lori Nichol arranged free programs for both Mao and Mai.

"In my free program (to Alain Lefevre's "Un Ange Passe"), contrary to my short program, the music is really soft," Mai noted. "So I want spectators to see how I perform in each of my short and free programs with the different music."

Mao, who turns 17 next month, said that she had not had much of an opportunity to work on her free program (Chopin's "Fantaisie Impromptu"), so it was difficult to pinpoint exactly what she wanted to highlight.

The sisters will continue to train under their regular coach, Rafael Artunian, in California.

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