SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Mao Asada is still trying triple axels.
More important at the Sochi Olympics, perhaps, is the renewed focus on the rest of her jumps.
The Japanese star now does just one triple axel in her free skate, instead of two. It’s still far more difficult than most other top women’s figure skaters, but the two-time world champion believes the change improves her overall performance.
The two triple axels were a “burden,” Asada acknowledged Monday. They also made for what her coach called a boring program. Setting up for a triple axel twice made the flow of the performance redundant, so mixing in different jumps and combinations allows for more variety.
“At this Olympics, I want to show all my jumps,” she said through a translator.
Asada’s showing at the 2010 Olympics was a harsh reminder that it’s not all about the axel. Her struggles came later in her free skate on other jumps — she wound up landing only four clean triples. Asada stumbled on the footwork into her triple toe loop, which forced her to cut it to a single.
She won the silver medal but was a distant second behind Yuna Kim of South Korea. The two skaters will renew their longtime rivalry starting with Wednesday’s short program in Sochi.
Asada took part in the new team event at the start of this Olympics, while Kim did not compete because South Korea hadn’t qualified. Skating her short program Feb. 8, Asada fell on her triple axel and finished third behind 15-year-old Russian Julia Lipnitskaia and Italy’s Carolina Kostner, who won silver at last year’s world championships when Kim took gold and Asada bronze.
Asada said Monday she felt a bit overwhelmed by the team event but is more confident now as her conditioning improves. She trained in Armenia for several days between the team and individual competitions, returning to Sochi on Saturday.
Asada was sixth at worlds in 2011 and ’12 as she struggled with her triple axel. She said she feels good about it now.
“I don’t think it’s a big burden for me,” she said. “I want to stay strong, because I want to do the jump. I really want to do the jump this time.”