There could still be some hope for Mao

Compared to her past record, it would seem as if Mao Asada is a lost cause in the international scene, her once brilliant star diminished. However, after watching her Liebestraume LP from this season (I felt a need to listen to the song after Johnny Weir mentioned it at his gig at Macy’s), I feel that Mao will get her comeback, although the extent of her success may be dependent on the success of the two up and coming Russian ladies, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Adelina Sotnikova.

Worlds:

Four Continents (this is probably the best performance of the season):

So after watching that LP, these are my observations:

Some good things:

  • The triple axel seemed a bit pre-rotated at Worlds but we know she is still perfectly capable of doing a clean 3A from her 4CC LP performance.
  • She still has wonderful lines and extension.
  • Her footwork is difficult and intricate, as always, and she has lovely edges and skating skills.
  • Her flutz is less obvious. I don’t think it’s the deep outside edge the judges would like but it’s close to a straight edge.
  • She’s trying to tackle a lot of her weaknesses like the flutz and the salchow (which made an appearance for the first time in a long time this season).

Some stumbling blocks:

  • Some of her jumps are a hair lower than I would like them. She really needs to get herself up in the air to finish those jumps. There were quite a few two-footed jumps this season.
  • Mao really needs to think about her performance. Maybe this season, she should get involved with the process of her programs, get her to choose her music. What does she want to express? What sorts of stories does she want to tell? I kind of hope that she tries Liebestraume again seeing that she’s expressed the desire to find true love (or at least a boyfriend) sometime soon, which matches the music.
  • In her Worlds performance, I get the feeling that she was concentrating on her jumps so much that she forgot all the things she usually does, like point her feet. Those jumps need a lot of practice so she can do them without thinking.
  • Right now, she needs to bring back the consistency. It’s going to take a lot of work but the fact that she’s willing to go through the past season shows resolve, strength and courage. Not only is she not afraid of falling but she always get back on her feet to compete again.

It’s going to take a lot of work for Mao to take back all the titles she’s lost but this girl is a trooper and a fighter. (Ganbare, Mao-chan!) Maybe watching the little Russian divas will light a flame under her butt to get her to work harder. I’d be scared of the Mother Russia’s ladies skaters right now if I were her. They’re poised for great things next year. And remember, Tessa and Scott went from a mover and shaker team in the post Olympic season to one of the best teams in the world the year after. Next year, we’ll get a clearer picture of who is at the forefront for medals at Sochi. There will be an abundance of Russians, I expect. Just as there was an abundance of Canadians 4 years ago.

Then again, with Miki Ando (I believe) taking next year off and possibly retiring, Mao will likely regain her National title with young whippersnapper, Kanako Murakami, still in the background, waiting to bloom. No matter what happens in the Grand Prix circuit, Japanese Nationals will be the competition to watch in terms of what is going to happen to Mao’s career. Mao is still the JSF’s darling poster girl and she’s really raking in the crowds (and consequently, the money) for figure skating in Japan. However, Kanako Murakami’s adorableness is sellable and therefore she could find herself in Mao’s position in a year or two.

In other words, it’s crucial that Mao continue to skate well or she’ll find herself dumped by the JSF and put in the backburner for Sochi politicking. This is exactly what happened to Belbin and Agosto in 2010 (and Ben’s injury did the team no favours either). There are a few dissimilarities between the two cases (Ben was injured, Tanith was dragging the team down in terms of her skating skills, the USFSA doesn’t really care about ice dance – they’re still looking for a leading lady to fill the shoes of all the past prima donnas – Meryl and Charlie were improving very quickly and Marina Zueva and Igor Shpilband were able to take the ice dance coach/choreographer crown from Gennadi and Linichuk and the coaching change did hurt Ben and Tanith in terms of politicking and coaching – Domnina and Shabalin were going to be Linichuk’s priority), but it would do Mao no good to be the #2 Japanese lady, so keep an eye out for Kanako next season. (On another note, Akiko Suzuki may not find herself totally dumped with Ando gone…) It should be noted that Kanako will have to up her game tenfold if she wants to replace Mao, but we know that despite the sempai/kohai (upperclassman/lowerclassman) relationship, Kanako’s ultimate goal is (or at least has to be) to be on top of that podium and to do that now, she’ll have to push her idol off the top to take the spot for herself.

So, as we wait for the beginning of the next skating season, we can only hope that somewhere in Japan, Mao is working hard with the desire of being the best blazing within her. Personally, I think she should channel Katarina Witt.

Thoughts? Comment below!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sana
    Jun 11, 2011 @ 20:13:42

    It should be noted that Mao’s condition at Worlds was not good. She reportedly lost a considerable amount of weight due to stress caused by the Earthquake in Japan. It should also be noted that her score at 4CC is the second best this season, so her scoring potential has not diminished. She does need to bring back her consistency but her going back to the basics has always been a risky strategy. That’s why few skaters try chooses to do this at this stage.
    As for Kanako, I foresee issues in the future for her because she also has a big flutz and her technique on her flip is really iffy.

    Reply

    • rinksidecafe
      Jun 13, 2011 @ 01:25:15

      The weight loss does account for her poor performance at Worlds. However, I feel that going back to basics is extremely important. Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto went back to basics by switching coaches and sure, this coaching change hurt them in terms of their choreography and politicking (or lack thereof) but they (especially Tanith) showed a great improvement in their stroking, power and skating skills.

      Besides, the Russians aren’t going down in Sochi without a fight and at the moment, I’d be seriously terrified of Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Adelina Sotnikova. They lack polish but either of them could be a little ingenue just as Mao was a few years back. Not to mention Yuna Kim may have bad posture and extension but her jumping skills are consistent and nearly textbook perfect. Mao will need everything and anything to be competitive, especially when you get the Russians working against you. With Yuna probably not going to the GP circuit and Miki taking a break, the two young Russians are set to make huge waves next season.

      As for Kanako, her flip and lutz technique remind me of Mao a little bit (as well as Rachel Flatt and to a lesser extent Caroline Zhang) in that she picks into the ice away from her takeoff foot. I find that a lot of flutzers have that technique. Yuna and Joannie (who is a reformed flutzer) pick directly behind the takeoff foot. I hope she does correct her technique because she is an absolute joy to watch though.

      Reply

  2. sana
    Jun 13, 2011 @ 08:32:49

    I am not saying she shouldn’t go back to basics. It’s just that it’s a risky route that may or may not pay off in terms of results. I also do agree about the Russian skaters but that’s an outside factor; not something Mao can control. She may very well become a better skater overall but still be overshadowed by the young Russian skaters. This is what happened to Joannie in the last Olympic cycle. Of course as a big fan of Mao, I hope it pays off in the end for her and that she continues onto Sochi as a strong contender.

    Reply

    • rinksidecafe
      Jun 14, 2011 @ 19:09:25

      The difference between Mao and Joannie is that Joannie was never in Mao’s (or Yuna’s) league. (I thought that Joannie shouldn’t have been on the podium at 2009 Worlds.) Joannie never had the great talent that Mao had shown since her junior years. Mao, on the other hand, COULD be in the league of the talented young Russians but at the moment, she’s not up to her usual high standard and therefore isn’t. In fact, her Olympic performance may be hard to hold up against something like Elizaveta (with strong Mishin-style jumps) with good choreography for once or Adelina performing the way she has all season. Going back to basics is risky but it’s a long-term process that may not look good for the short term (like for a season) but hopefully, with hard work, we’ll see great progress.

      Reply

  3. andanta
    Aug 19, 2011 @ 15:52:48

    Actually, I translated this article into Chinese and posted it on a Chinese fansite of Mao and they all like it. (I had your blog link on top of my post so that they can see the original text for themselves and I’m sure they have no troubling reading English.) Hope you don’t mind.

    Reply

  4. rinksidecafe
    Aug 21, 2011 @ 23:54:49

    @Andanta That’s fine! Thanks for your support!

    Reply

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