Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mao Asada’s journey and my evolution as a Mao fan: Part 17

Part 17: 2008-09 season—“The me that is so strong that you can’t believe it” [信じられないぐらい強い自分]

Mao had two weeks before her next competition, the NHK Trophy in Japan.  Instead of going home to Nagoya to train, which had been the original plan, Mao headed to Russia for an “emergency” training session.

Then the media started to reveal what had happened.  Mao wasn’t quite used to Tarasova’s method yet.  While Mao preferred to spend about 7-8 hours on the ice everyday, jumping, jumping, jumping until she was satisfied, Tarasova preferred short, very focused sessions (2-hour sessions, twice a day).  Mao hadn’t yet gotten comfortable with cutting her on-ice practice time in half.  In addition, she was still going through a “getting to know you” period with Tarasova.  The failure at TEB taught Mao that she really had to communicate better with Tarasova and make sure that Tarasova understood what she was thinking and feeling.

Once I found that out, I felt relieved.  There were clear reasons for Mao’s poor performance at TEB.  There were tangible problems that Mao could fix.  I started to look forward to NHK Trophy.  Mao will surely rebound there, I thought.  I even thought, I think Mao’s going to win the Grand Prix Final.  Everyone’s calling Yu-Na the favorite, which means Mao can go out there with no pressure and beat Yu-Na in her own country!


At the NHK Trophy, Mao showed that “unbelievably strong” self.  In the short program, she landed the triple-flip/triple-loop combo (though the loop was judged underrotated), and she landed the triple lutz cleanly from the outside edge!

2008 NHK Trophy SP (age 17)
“Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy

Tatiana Tarasova, Mao and Shanetta Folle in the kiss ‘n’ cry

In the free program, Mao landed the opening triple axel beautifully, but she didn’t do the combo as originally planned.  That meant she’d have to tack on a double toe loop at the end of her next axel attempt.  “Would she do it? Yes!  She did it!!  She landed two triple axels in the long program!!  A world first!!”, I thought.

Mao then completed jump after jump, including the triple salchow.  Her only “mistake” was making the triple-flip/triple-loop combo into a lone triple-flip.  She poured all her energy into the final, exhausting step sequence—“Do it full out even if it kills you,” Tarasova had said—and she capped off her program with a hilarious near-fall on her ending pose.  (That’s Mao Asada for you, always full of surprises!)

2008 NHK Trophy FS
"Waltz" from "Masquerade Suite" by Aram Khatchaturian
See it with British Eurosport commentary here.

In one competition, it seemed that Mao had accomplished all her jump goals—a clean lutz, a triple salchow, and two triple axels.  But the last proved elusive—her second triple axel was judged underrotated.

I didn’t care.  Mao had skated two clean (to the untrained eye) programs.  It had been the first time she had done that since the 2005 Grand Prix Final.  I was ecstatic. Even though Mao hadn’t gotten credit for her second triple axel, I was sure that that she’d be extra motivated to do it next time.

Tatiana Tarasova, Mao and Shanetta Folle in the kiss ‘n’ cry

(You can just feel the love and joy, can’t you?)

I was so thrilled by Mao’s win that I made my first earnest attempt to write about the Mao/Yu-Na rivalry, and why you should care about Mao Asada.


At the time, I thought it was only natural that Mao would come back strong after stumbling at the Trophee Eric Bompard (TEB).  In reality, however, it seems that the “emergency” practice session in Russia did not go very well. 

According to Mao Asada, Brilliant Eighteen, the latest book on Mao by Naoko Utsunomiya, Tarasova got really mad.  She couldn’t understand why Mao couldn’t jump at TEB.  She got so mad that she once threw a water bottle at Mao; it didn't reach her, but it got the staff wet.  Her anger was so powerful that Mao was shocked and couldn't speak. (1)

Poor Mao might have been stunned and hurt at the time, but I think that this outburst was simply a manifestation of Tarasova’s strong love and belief in Mao.  Tarasova’s staff said that no one had ever made TAT that mad before.  She might have been worrying a bit about her own reputation as a coach, but I think the real reason why she was so mad was because she cares about Mao so much; she truly believes that Mao is the best, and she truly loves her.

1)  Mao and Nobunari Oda, winner of the men’s competition, on an NHK TV program the day after the competition.

Mao looks so cute in her kimono!

2) Read about Tarasova’s reaction to Mao’s NHK performance in the 8th post on this page (my translation of the first few pages of 浅田真央、18歳 [Mao Asada, Brilliant Eighteen]).  There are more mini-translations from the book in the rest of the thread.

1) See pg 48 in Mao Asada, Brilliant Eighteen.

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