Wednesday, November 17
Is This a Big Week for Mao Asada?
No, Mao Asada won't be competing at the Cup of Russia this week; she is still scheduled for the Trophee Eric Bompard which ends the regular-season Grand Prix circuit next weekend. However, what happens at Cup of Russia could add a tremendous amount of pressure to her already shaky season.. Why is that?
Okay, let's be honest. With a coaching change and an attempt at re-gaining previously lost jump elements, it is going to be a long road back to top form for Asada. But while she has her struggles, we can't forget about the tremendous depth of the ladies in Japan and how they are doing so far this season.
Kanako Murakami has made the step up to the senior level a successful one so far, creating a huge buzz and winning the Skate America gold medal a few days ago. Miki Ando already has a win at the Cup of China, while teammate Akiko Suzuki finished with the silver medal in the same event. Both Ando and Suzuki are back to compete for positions in the Grand Prix Final at the Cup of Russia, and a third place or better for Ando should book her ticket to Beijing, while another silver for Suzuki should also be enough to qualify as long as home-country skaters Ksenia Makarova and Alena Leonova don't spoil the party.
Anyways, enough with the predicting and playing with numbers. The bottom line is that Murakami's spot in the Final is already assured, Ando looks great as long as she doesn't have a severe meltdown, and Suzuki also has a great chance at being there. Three possible Japanese ladies entries in a six-competitor field, and that doesn't include Asada (who has no chance after her eighth-place NHK Trophy finish).
The Japanese ladies earned three entries to the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo, thanks in large part to Asada's gold medal win in 2010. If Ando, Murakami, and Suzuki all qualify themselves to the Grand Prix Final, will it put Mao at a disadvantage come the Japanese National Championships? Second, does she dig the hole even deeper with another poor performance at Bompard?
I love the Mao we have seen so far this season, even through all of the mistakes. However, let us remember back to the 2006/2007 season. Fumie Suguri, the World silver medalist at the time, only finished fourth at the Nationals and was left off the World team. I guess the one shining light here is that Asada, Suguri, and Ando all made the Grand Prix Final that year, while Yukari Nakano bested Suguri for the Worlds spot-- so missing the Final isn't the be-all, end-all of her season. However, I really question whether she will be able to pull it together in time if Bompard doesn't go well.
at 2:48 PM