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Thursday, Nov. 29, 2007

Ando looks to earn place in Grand Prix Final after recovering from injury

Staff writer

SENDAI — World champion Miki Ando will continue her bid to secure a spot at next month's Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, when she takes to the ice here on Friday night in the NHK Trophy, the last of this season's six Grand Prix events.

News photo
Japan's Miki Ando performs during a practice session on Wednesday at Sendai Municipal Gymnasium prior to the NHK Cup starting on Thursday. KYODO PHOTO

Ando will be trying to join compatriots Mao Asada, who won both Skate Canada and the Trophee Bompard, and Yukari Nakano, who finished second at Skate Canada and the Cup of Russia, both of whom have locked up berths for the GP Final.

Ando, who finished second to American Kimmie Meissner at last month's Skate America, should assure herself of a spot in the GP Final with a podium finish this weekend. The top six skaters in this season's final Grand Prix standings qualify for the trip to Turin.

Bothered by an injury to her right shoulder suffered during practice before last month's U.S.-Japan International Counter Match in Yokohama, Ando returned to Japan for treatment earlier this month.

Coach Nikolai Morozov, who traveled to Nagoya last week and worked with Ando in practice, said she is recovered from the ailment and back in top form.

"She is 100 percent and ready to go," said Morozov. "She is looking good in practice. I am very confident she will make the Grand Prix Final."

The top challengers to Ando here are Italy's Carolina Kostner and Switzerland's Sarah Meier.

Also skating for Japan in ladies singles are Mao's older sister, Mai, and Nana Takeda.

Daisuke Takahashi, the silver medalist at last season's world championships, leads the host nation's men's singles contingent, which also includes Kensuke Nakaniwa and Yasuharu Nanri. Takahashi won Skate America earlier this season.

Takahashi's competition will include Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic, who finished fourth at the worlds, and last season's world junior champion Stephen Carriere of the U.S.

European champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, who won Skate Canada, and Canada's Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison, who took top honors at Skate America, lead the pairs entries. Both have already qualified for the GP Final.

France's Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder, who won the Trophee Bompard and are the reigning European champions, are the top team entered in the ice dance competition.

Cathy and Chris Reed, Japanese-Americans born in the U.S., but who have chosen to skate for Japan via their dual citizenship, will skate in ice dance. Japan does not have an entry in the pairs event.

The NHK Trophy gets underway with the compulsories in ice dancing on Thursday evening.

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