Apr 14, 2017
Mao Asada announced her retirement from competitive figure skating earlier this week. By this point, thousands of fans have undoubtedly re-watched and ruminated over Ms. Asada's most indelible performances--her 2014 Olympics LP to Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, for instance, or her two short programs to Chopin's Nocturne Op. 9, No. 2 in E-flat major. No doubt there have also been much reminiscing over Ms. Asada's determination and perseverance in completely over-hauling her jump technique, her never-ending quest to perfect her triple axel, and her humility and grace in the face of injuries, personal grief, and the vagaries of uneven tech panel calling.
For me, I have little to add to what has already been said about one of the leading icons of ladies figure skating for the past decade. All I want to share is a little-known Mao Asada performance that happens to be one of my favorite performances of all time: Mao Asada's exhibition skates at the 2010-2011 Japanese Nationals. Ms. Asada begins with a gorgeous performance to Chopin's Ballade No. 1, a superb pairing of styles that can plausibly be likened to pairing caviar with champagne. But there is also dessert for those who wait: less than a minute after finishing Ballade No. 1, Ms. Asada skates her encore, the final part of the original incarnation of her Liebestraum long program. With less pressure and fresh(er) legs than usually seen in competition, we can finally enjoy Mao Asada skate to Liebestraum the way it was meant to be skated to: with both sweeping romanticism and ethereal lightness, yes, but above all, with also an open and palpable love for skating.