year-old Mao Asada is skating's brightest star. With her older sister Mai
(herself a champion skater) blazing her trail, Mao has ascended
through the ranks of international skating at an alarming pace and
is now the reigning World Champion.
Growing up in Nagoya, home of many
excellent Japanese skaters, Mao was developed by famed coach Machiko Yamada for several years. Landing triple Axels and stunning
triple-triple combinations in novice and junior competition since
2001, Mao had some time to develop her artistry while Japan was
sending other phenomenal junior skaters to international
competitions. The three-time junior national champion was finally
old enough to compete on the Junior Grand Prix circuit in 2004-05.
Mao won all of her competitions, and landed triple Axels at the
Junior Grand Prix Final in Helsinki and the World Junior Championships in Kitchener, Ontario. She also placed a close second
behind Miki Ando at the Japanese senior ladies championship.
In 2005-06, The
Japan Skating Federation allowed Mao to compete on the Senior Grand
although she was too young under ISU regulations to compete in the
Olympics and World Championships. She had an excellent season,
winning Trophée Eric Bompard and the Grand Prix Final in a field
that included defending world senior champion Irina Slutskaya.
At the Japan nationals, Mao became the first female skater ever to
perform two triple Axels in competition en route to a silver medal.
At the World Junior Championships, Mao finished second behind
Korea's Yu-Na Kim, another chapter in a rivalry sure to last until
at least the 2010 Olympics.
2006-07 was Mao's
first full year on the senior circuit internationally. At
had to deal with some consistency issues. She won her first
All-Japan championship in December en route to a silver medal behind
countrywoman Miki Ando at the World Championships held in Tokyo.
In 2007-08, Mao was solid in all her competitions, although
occasionally struggling with a triple-triple combo in her short
program. That season also saw her and sister Mai leave Japan
for Lake Arrowhead, California to train with Rafael Arutunian.
By the end of the season, however, Mao had returned to Japan.
She defended her Japanese title in December, and then in March won
her first World Championship, in Sweden. Overcoming an early
miscue when preparing for a triple Axel, Mao was flawless the rest
of the way.
For the 2008-09
season, Mao will train with Tatiana Tarasova, making trips to Moscow
from her base at Chuyko University in the Aichi prefecture.
On the ice, Mao’s performances are
characterized by mature artistry and ballet (a personal interest) as
much as technical prowess. In public, Mao is outgoing and confident, and will
dutifully give interviews, pose for pictures and sign autographs for
fans for as long as is necessary. Mao is seemingly unaffected
by the enormous press attention in Japan, and has developed a great
amount of poise when dealing with fans and media. She is a
popular talk show guest in her native country, and appears in many
promos and TV commercials. She talked about her feelings about
dealing with the media in her
with Japan Skates at the 2007 Skate Canada International.
Mao is a favourite to medal at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
We at Japan Skates look forward to covering her career to Vancouver