Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mao Asada’s journey and my evolution as a Mao fan: Part 8

Part 8: 2007 Off-season—Sharing her smile with the globe

Mao Asada was quite the jet-setter in summer 2007.

She skated in “Stars on Ice” in Canada, performing her lovely “Nocturne” SP program and giving the fans a glimpse of a skater who would probably return three years later to battle for Olympic gold.  Why "Nocturne" instead of her "Carmen" exhibition?  Because she wanted to erase the mistake on her triple-triple combo at 2007 Worlds, and put on one last clean performance.

Stars on Ice (in Vancouver) - April 2007

(click on the YouTube link to watch in HD)

While there, she and Mai took a sightseeing tour of Vancouver with Japanese TV personality and devoted skating fan Shuuzou Matsuoka.  Not only did they get to see the sights, sample the local cuisine, and shop, but Mao also got her first chance to skate at the Pacific Coliseum, which would be the rink for the 2010 Olympics.  

Mao and Mai Asada in Vancouver

Mao also skated in Italy as part of the "Japan on Ice" tour, providing the thrill of a lifetime for a few young fans and skater hopefuls.

Mao Asada in Italy

Then there was also “THE ICE” back in Nagoya, an ice show produced by Olympus, one of Mao and Mai’s major sponsors.  Here, Mao and Mai put on a very short pair program, much to the delight of the crowd and themselves.  And Mao and Mirai Nagasu had an adorable joint interview in the middle of the show (see post here).

Mai and Mao skating in the 2007 ‘THE ICE’


Late in the summer of 2007, Mao Asada went to work with the coach who would have a major impact on her future skating career—the so-called “Champion maker,” Tatiana Tarasova.  She Mai, Mao and their mother traveled in Moscow, where Tarasova greeted Mao warmly.  Mao recalls, "when we first met, she hugged me tight and buried me in her chest.  It was soft, and it felt really good.  Her perfume also smelled good." (1)

And in many ways, it was “love at first hug.”  At first Mao was a little in awe of Tarasova, and perhpas a little intimidated, but she soon realized that while Tarasova might be strict in practice, she was warm and loving off the ice. 

After the very first listen, Mao chose Nigel Hess’ “Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra,” as her short program music.   During the choreography session, Tarasova devised ever-the-more complex choreography for constantly asking, “Can you do this step, Mao? What about that?”, and delighted in Mao’s mastery of even the most devilish twist and turns.  She said, "That's wonderful.  You can do anything, can't you?  And beautifully too.  I never imagined that your skill level would be this high!"  (2)

For her part, Mao eagerly embraced the challenges Tarasova created for her; she enjoyed testing her limits and looked forward to showing the world a new, improved, more mature Mao.

While in Moscow, Mao also worked with a ballet teacher to help improve her artistry.  Finally, Tarasova gave Mao unusual instructions for how to improve her expression: “Fall in love,” she said.

As they parted ways at the end of the training camp, Tarasova remarked, “if anything ever happens in Japan, come to Russia.  You can compete as a Russian skater.” (3)  

She may have been joking, but her words do reflect her true feelings for Mao.  She said, "Mao's physical ability is amazing.  On top of that, she loves to practice and is diligent.  Up until now, I have raised a lot of skaters, but I've never seen a skater like her." (4)


For her long program, Mao faced a bit of a dilemma.  Despite her record-setting success with ‘Czardas’ at the 2007 World Championships, Mao reflected that it was the program that never really fit her, that she never quite liked. (5)  She considered reusing it in the 2007-08 season to give herself a chance to really master the program, but in the end, she and choreographer Lori Nichol chose Chopin’s “Fantasie-Impromptu” for her long program.

With her programs choreographed, Mao returned to Lake Arrowhead.  All that was left was to practice, practice, practice before the start of the season, when Mao would have her first chance to show off her new complex and beautiful short program.

1) See pg 14 in 浅田真央、17歳 [Mao Asada, Miracle Seventeen].
2) See pg 19 in Mao Asada, Miracle Seventeen.
3) See pg 18 in Mao Asada, Miracle Seventeen.

4) See pg 22 in Mao Asada, Miracle Seventeen. 
5) See pg 24 in Mao Asada, Miracle Seventeen.

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