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Nov 24, 2010

Whither thou, Mao?

The last Grand Prix event of this season, Trophee Eric Bompard, is this weekend. The elephant in the room for anyone making podium predictions for this event is obviously the reigning World Champion Mao Asada. Miss Asada, in terms of sheer skating ability and accomplishments, is clearly head and shoulders above the ladies field at Trophee Eric Bompard, but watching Miss Asada struggle on practically every jumping pass at NHK earlier this season was (to put it lightly) a near-dental ordeal.

In the spate of interviews since then, Miss Asada has repeatedly emphasized that her jumps are in much better condition now, and that NHK really was not a surprise for her. It is a well-known fact that Miss Asada has been revamping her entire jump repertoire, a move some may have seen as unnecessary (realistically, Miss Asada can probably flutz her way into at least one other world title given the mediocre technical content of the ladies field currently), but it is a move that will infinitely pay off in the long run if Miss Asada actually does want to continue onto Sochi, especially if a fully-trained Yu-Na Kim is still in the picture.

But let's be real here. Revamping jump technique, especially in Miss Asada's advanced old age, is always an uphill and long-term process. It would not be terribly surprising if it takes as long as two more seasons for Miss Asada to fully be able to reap the benefits of her labors. The issue here, however, is the fact that Miss Asada does not skate for Swaziland or Andorra or some other country where she will always clearly be the #1. Miss Asada is Japanese, and the incredible depth of the ladies field in Japan is truly something to behold (seriously, what is in the water in Nagoya, Japan?!). Despite her injuries, Miki Ando is still cranking out the jumps and has won two gold medals on the Grand Prix circuit this season. Akiko Suzuki has won two silvers and the judges are finally, at all odds, are acknowledging her existence by giving her the higher PCS she deserves. Kanako Murakami has also made a big splash in her senior debut this season with a gold and a bronze. All three ladies have made the Grand Prix Final, and Japan only has the maximum three spots on their ladies world team.

Who will be this season's Yukari Nakano? If Miss Asada does not get her act together by the Japanese National Championships, it could very much be her, especially if Trophee Eric Bompard does not go well. Which is truly a pity, as Miss Asada's LP this season is clearly quite stunning despite the mistakes.

Plus, it would truly be unfortunate if Carolina Kostner is able to win the world title this season without a flip or a lutz.

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