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 Asada to test triple axel before Olympics

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PostSubject: Asada to test triple axel before Olympics   Tue Jan 26, 2010 12:52 pm

Asada to test triple axel before Olympics

- by Jean H. Lee, USA Today


SEOUL, South Korea Mao Asada will have one last chance to test out her triple axel before the Olympics when she hits the ice at this week's Four Continents figure skating championships.
The 2008 world champion from Japan is favored to win the competition which begins Wednesday in Jeonju. Longtime rival Kim Yu-na of South Korea is skipping the event in favor of training for the Vancouver Olympics.

"I can expect good results at the Olympics if I produce a good result here," Asada said, adding she was in "really good condition."

Asada will be fending off Japanese teammate Akiko Suzuki, the bronze medalist at last month's Grand Prix finals and another Olympic contender.

In pairs, world silver medalists Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao of China will be looking to improve on their third-place finish at the Four Continents last year with a win in Jeonju. Victory would set them up nicely for their second Winter Olympics.

Also expected to compete in South Korea are Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker of the United States, who finished a disappointing fifth at the U.S. nationals, and Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin of Canada, who also narrowly missed Olympic berths.

Up-and-coming stars headline the men's and ice dancing competitions. The men include world junior champion Adam Rippon and Ryan Bradley of the United States, Denis Ten of Kazakhstan and Shawn Sawyer of Canada.

The ice dancing competition kicks off with the "golden waltz" in the compulsories Wednesday. Competitors include Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada, who won the bronze at Skate Canada, and the 2009 world junior champions, Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein of the United States.

Asada and her triple axel will undoubtedly take center stage in Jeonju, with fans watching to see if the Japanese star can maintain the momentum from her victory at nationals last month after a lackluster season.

A powerful jumper, the 19-year-old Asada has gone head-to-head with Kim since their time as juniors and in recent years have taken turns seizing the top spot. She is one of the few women in history to successfully land the triple axel in competition.

Asada grabbed the world title in 2008, and whipped out her triple axel at the 2008 Grand Prix finals in Goyang, South Korea, to edge past Kim for the title on the South Korean's home turf.

Kim bounced back with a huge opening-season win at the Trophee Bompard in Paris, and claimed the world championship and Grand Prix titles in 2009. She's now heavily favored to win gold in Vancouver in what would be South Korea's first Olympic medal in figure skating.

Asada, meanwhile, failed to qualify for the Grand Prix final after a poor show at the Rostelecom Cup, allowing teammate Miki Ando to shine. Ando finished second to Kim at last month's Grand Prix final and will be heading to the Olympics.

But Asada dazzled at the Japanese nationals, winning her fourth straight title and reigniting hopes that she'll stage a come-from-behind win at her Olympics debut in Canada.

She put her triple axel through the grind at training Tuesday, noting that she launched into the jump 17 times during practice. Asada said she felt even stronger than at the nationals.

The Four Continents takes place Wednesday through Saturday at Hwasan Ice Arena in the historic city of Jeonju, 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of Seoul.

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