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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

ICE TIME

Ando's return highlights busy season ahead for Japan


The recent announcement of Grand Prix assignments signaled the beginning of the 2012-13 season, one that will be an unusually busy one for Japan, which will host four significant events spread throughout the country.

Jack Gallagher

The first will be the NHK Trophy in Sendai (Nov. 23-25), the second is the Japan nationals in Sapporo (Dec. 21-23), the third is the Four Continents in Osaka (Feb. 6-11), and finally the World Team Trophy in Tokyo (April 11-14).

The skating bonanza will be welcome news for fans in Japan who have found obtaining tickets here so difficult that some have traveled abroad to see their favorite Japanese skaters compete.

The GP assignments released by the ISU hailed the return to the ice of two-time world champion Miki Ando, who took this past season off to rest after skating competitively for more than a decade. Ando, now 24, is entered in the Cup of China (Nov. 2-4) and Trophee Bompard (Nov. 16-18).

Ando will face off with reigning world champion Carolina Kostner of Italy in both Shanghai and Paris.

Fellow two-time world champion Mao Asada, who is coming off a solid season outside of her sixth-place showing at the worlds, will take the ice at the Cup of China and NHK Trophy.

News photo
Back for more: Two-time world champion Miki Ando will return to competition for the 2012-13 season after taking last year off. AP

World bronze medalist Akiko Suzuki, who just enjoyed the best season of her career, will put on the blades at Skate Canada (Oct. 26-28) and the NHK Trophy.

Kanako Murakami, the 2010 world junior champion, competes at Skate Canada and Cup of Russia (Nov. 9-11). Murakami will go up against world silver medalist Alena Leonova of Russia.

Haruka Imai, fourth at the nationals last season, will pull the boots on at Skate America (Oct. 19-21) and the NHK Trophy. Imai will be part of a lineup that will include Leonova and U.S. champion Ashley Wagner.

An interesting note is that American Mirai Nagasu, the fourth-place finisher at the Vancouver Olympics, received only one assignment — for the Cup of China — this season following two disappointing years.

Also, Kim Yu Na, the gold medalist at the Vancouver Games, is not entered in the Grand Prix events for a second straight season. This likely signals the end of her fabulous competitive career.

On the men's side, 2010 world champion Daisuke Takahashi is slotted in for the Cup of China and the NHK Trophy. Takahashi will battle 2007 world champion Brian Joubert of France in Shanghai.

Nobunari Oda returns to competition this season, after missing the second half of last season following an injury to his left knee that forced him to withdraw from the nationals. He is schedule to participate in Skate Canada and the Cup of Russia.

Oda will clash with two-time defending world champion Patrick Chan on his home ice in Windsor, Ontario, and again in Moscow.

Yuzuru Hanyu, the bronze medalist at the 2012 worlds, will travel to Kent, Washington, for Skate America, where he is part of a field that includes three-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott.

Hanyu is also slated to make an emotional return to his native Sendai at the NHK Trophy, where he will certainly be the sentimental favorite. It was there on March 11, 2011, that he ran out of his training rink — with his skates still on — when the 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck nearby.

Takahiko Kozuka, the 2011 world silver medalist, who just struggled through a disappointing season, has been assigned to Skate America and the Cup of Russia.

Tatsuki Machida, who placed fourth at nationals, will go to Skate America and the Cup of China. Takahito Mura, who finished fifth at nationals, has drawn Skate Canada and the Trophee Bompard.

Daisuke Murakami will compete at the NHK Trophy.

World pairs bronze medalists Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran are going to Cup of China and the NHK Trophy. Takahashi and Tran will vie for medals with 2010 European champions Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov in Shanghai.

Ice dancers Cathy and Chris Reed will represent Japan at the NHK Trophy.

Preparations begin: Akiko Suzuki, Kanako Murakami and Haruka Imai have been training at the Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, the past few weeks.

The DSC is where 1994 world champion Yuka Sato, now a coach and choreographer, and husband Jason Dungjen are based. The skaters in their stable include Jeremy Abbott and Alissa Czisny. Sato has also choreographed for Kozuka.

Pasquale Camerlengo, who choreographs for Suzuki, also works out of the DSC.



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