Well, I don't usually post translations on this blog, but since others have already translated this article, and the link has already been shared on the Mao Asada Fan Forum, I thought I would post my own translation here. ^_^
Why bother translating if someone already has? Well, I figure that everyone translates things differently, and I enjoy translating the articles by Naoko Utsunomiya because she is the one who has been writing the yearly books about Mao, and seems to understand her well. And most of all, she truly seems to love Mao.
So here it is! Enjoy!
My fate is mostly decided
Sports Graphic Number 769
Mao Asada tells the truth about her silver medal in Vancouver and her gold at the World Championships. The Olympics where her silver medal shone, and she lost her rival.
The World Championships where she stood on the center of the podium one month later.
On her dream stage, she carried the big expectations of Japan. She spoke about how she felt on the ice, and her thoughts about her medals.
“The Olympics have been my dream since I was small. That’s why, after it was decided that I would compete there, I felt like I had to try harder than I usually do.
At the very least, I didn’t want to think ‘I should have practiced this more,’ so I practiced until I was satisfied that I wouldn’t feel that way.
Before I left for Canada, I become quite nervous. But when I arrived, I was fine. In Vancouver, the whole city was caught up in the Olympics, and I thought, ‘it really is different from a normal competition.’
It seemed that everyone was enjoying the Olympics, so I was also excited. From that point on, I tried to enjoy my time there.”
In truth, Asada did enjoy that grandest stage. She was joyful. However, before she reached that point, her days were filled with all kinds of complications.
There was once a time when she was called both a “fairy” and an “angel.” However, in reality she was very much human-like. There were times when she suffered, and when she worried.
Beyond her skating ability, another thing that I find extraordinary about her is her “ability to forget.” She forgets things that happen right away. To the point that it’s hard to believe. That’s why she is strong.
What I am recording from here are Mao Asada’s words. She spoke for a long time. Without faltering, without hesitating, without embellishing, she looked at herself with a strict eye.
“During the Olympic season, I wasn’t able to practice with Tatiana (Tarasova)-sensei very much. If I add it all up, it was probably 4 sessions of 10 days each.
She created a level 4 step sequence for me, and brought out a new side of me, so I’m grateful.
However, because we met so infrequently, so we couldn’t properly build a relationship of trust.
To stay in Russia full time was impossible for me. I love Japan, and I didn’t have that kind of courage.
In Japan, Zhanna-sensei (Tarasova’s assistant) looked after me. While we practiced, Mama would always interrupt, so we even got into arguments. ‘I’ll do it with Zhanna, so don’t interrupt’ I said. (Laughs)
I knew from the start of the season that my jumps were messed up. For a long time, I had been thinking that I wanted to fix them properly, but I knew that even if I tried to fix them before the Olympics, I absolutely wouldn’t make it in time.
So, for the Olympics, I decided to go with the best jump layout I could do. In other words, three triple axels.
I am often asked, didn’t you think of a back-up plan? But doesn’t thinking of a back-up plan in itself mean that you think, ‘I’ll fail at the axel; I won’t be able to do it”?
I thought, that’s something that I can’t really do.
At the Olympics, I will absolutely do three triple axels! That’s what I thought.”
A jump layout that depends on triple axels is probably somewhat reckless. However, for Asada as she was then, it was the very best layout. You could even say it was only way she could compete.
Furthermore, the challenge of the triple axels helped her maintain her motivation. After the 2009 Rostelecom Cup (Grand Prix Cup of Russia), she was exhausted, and she was starting to lose her desire to go to the Olympics.
“After [the competition in] Russia, if I had stayed in that state while training for Vancouver, I don’t think I would have been able to control my feelings or my body.
What changed my mindset was going to Korea for the Four Continents Championship. I ate yakiniku and ddobboki [spicy rice cakes] and became cheerful, so it was a good diversion for me.
I entered Canada on February 20.
This happens before every big competition, but for a few days before I set off, I am unable to eat anything. I become rock-bottom depressed. If this doesn’t happen, then things don’t go well—contrary to what you would think.
The same thing happened before I went to Vancouver, but I practiced to the point that I could say ‘I can’t do any more than this,’ so I didn’t feel nervous.
I started practicing in Vancouver on the day I arrived in Canada. Competing in the Olympics was my dream from when I was 10 years old, so because of that, you would think I’d have some kind of special thoughts, but when I stood on the rink, all I thought was, “Oh, it’s the Olympics!” It was super fun.
And then, I was happy that the food at the athletes’ village was delicious. My favorite was yogurt with maple syrup on top.
In addition, there were all kinds of foods like sushi and Italian and Chinese, and no matter how much you ate, it was all free. (Laughs)
Before the short program, Tarasova came, so I was glad. For me, it was my first Olympic appearance, but Sensei had experienced it many times before, so I could be strong.”
“My goal at the Olympics was to win and do my short and free programs perfectly. Especially the short program. I thought that winning would depend on the short program.
In reality, I did very well in the short program. Even I thought that I would get my season best score (73.78). The triple axel combination jump was good, and other than the steps, I got all level 4s, so I was very satisfied.
However, I was in second place, and between me and Yu-Na in first place, there was a pretty large point gap (4.72), and so I thought that even if I were to be at 100%, if she didn’t make any mistakes it would be hard for me to come from behind and win.
Yu-Na and I have been seen as rivals since we were young, but we’re the same age, and I think we were able to reach this point because we’ve motivated each other.
While practicing, there were times when I was conscious of thinking “Yu-Na must be trying hard.” With this in mind, I have been able to think, “I’ll work even harder.”
At the Olympics, I thought, “Ah, this is my biggest competition against Yu-Na.” That was it.
Other than that, I focused on myself. ‘Just bring out everything you can do—if you can do that, there will be no regrets.’ That’s what I thought.
On the day of the ladies’ free program, there were no empty seats. Even in the far-away reaches of the arena, there were Japanese flags in every direction, and many were being waved.
The competition went on without delay. And Kim did not make any mistakes. Her total score was 228.56. This score was one that you see in the men’s competition, which has different elements, and it was the highest ladies’ score in history.
“After the short program, of course I thought that it would be better to have a gold medal rather than a silver. (Laughs) But I did not feel pressure to medal. My desire to land the triple axels was stronger.”
Once the competition started, I was not conscious of Yu-Na at all. However, I was scheduled to skate right after Yu-Na, so I could hear the terrific cheering, and I thought, “Ah, it must have been an amazing performance.’
Other than that, I was completely in my own world. While warming up, I checked the feel of the ice. The ice was not bad. I had a good feel for it. If I think about it now, I was calm, I think.
In my free program as well, the beginning was good. I landed the triple axels, and I thought, “If I can keep going like this, I can give my best performance of the season.” No mistakes, perfect, 100%.
However, that was only the 2 minutes of the first half. Before the flip, my body became stiff. Once I thought about the score, my body changed. It wasn’t natural. And then, I underrotated the jump.
As for the toe loop which I singled—that was because I got stuck in a divot (a hole in the ice rink). It’s a jump I can do anytime, but at that time, my foot got pretty stuck, so it was impossible.
It was extremely vexing. Even if I recall it now, it’s upsetting.
Right after I finished skating, I didn’t care about anything, not even my placement. All I could think was that I didn’t give a good performance and was upset.
Before my score (205.50) came out , I already knew, ‘it’s over (I can’t win).’ Once I messed up my jumps, I thought that.
In the end, I was second. Even so, it’s really vexing. If I had done my performance properly and ended up second, I probably would have been satisfied, but I wasn’t able to do that.
In the kiss and cry, I didn’t cry, but in the interview after that, I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t clear my head at all.
That’s why, even though I was asked, ‘How do you feel now?’, I wasn’t able to answer anything. All that came out was ‘Aah.’ In my heart, I felt, ‘The Olympics just finished.’
When was it that I recovered, I wonder…During the medals ceremony, in the beginning it was painful, but when I received my medal, and when the ‘Hi no maru’ [Japanese flag] was raised, my joy was pretty amazing.
The Olympics really were special. I was really moved. That, and, at the medals ceremony, I strongly felt like I was a representative of Japan.
After all, the Olympics are a competition between nations, aren’t they? The result was a silver medal, but I thought, I’m glad I was able to win a medal. When I went around the rink holding the Japanese flag, I was really happy.
Leaving behind a pleasant, exulted feeling, Mao Asada’s first Olympics ended.
And then, after the Olympics, the season moved to Torino, Italy.
“After I returned from Canada, I rested for about two days, and then I returned to my previous routine. I did think, ‘I wish I could rest more,’ but Torino [Worlds] was approaching, so I tried not to lose focus.
But truthfully, it was really difficult. I probably felt a little bit of burnout. But then, I changed my mindset. ‘I’ll do what I can do!’
For the Olympics, I practiced a lot, so if I gave as much effort as I usually do, I figured that I’d be fine at Worlds too. Before I went to Torino, I didn’t get depressed. It was like I had become free, unshackled.”
At the World Championships, the Vancouver gold medalist, Yu-Na Kim, among other talented skaters were gathered, and a gorgeous stage was prepared.
“My goal was to skate perfectly—only that. In the short program, my triple axel was downgraded, but I thought I did a good job.
After the short program, there was a lot of time until the free program, so I ate gelato. The milk flavor was delicious.
Before Vancouver, I tried my best very stoically. That’s why Torino was so fun. My mood was completely forward-looking, and I completely believed in myself.
In the free program, I was determined to do the flip and toe loop that I messed up at the Olympics, no matter what.
And, the results [I wanted] came. Both axels were counted as underrotated, but other than that, I thought my performance was really good.
In terms of the short program, my Olympic performance was the best. But, for the free program, my performance at Torino was the best. Just because of that, I was happy, and then because I won, I was really happy. My mood became more and more fun.
My total score (Torino—197.58) was lower than at the Olympics, but I felt strongly that I brought out the results I wanted.
The competitions always have different judges, and depending on the competition, the scoring is completely different. So I don’t really pay attention to the scores, or let them bother me.
For me, the most important thing is doing all the elements I’m supposed to do properly, then #2 is the placement I get, and #3 is the score.
If I had been able to give the free program performance I gave in Torino at the Vancouver Olympics, then I don’t think it would have been so vexing, and I don’t think I would have cried. That was how satisfied I felt at the World Championships.
However, I was able to do that because I made mistakes at the Olympics. In the end, I guess you have to let things happen as they happen.
Fate—it’s mostly decided, isn’t it? If you work hard, then the future is already decided. That’s how I feel.
When I received my medal on the podium, I thought, ‘A gold medal really is great.’ I don’t compare it to my medal from Vancouver, but I definitely thought that gold is good.
My gold medal from Torino is proof that I challenged myself with the most difficult elements and performed my programs properly. That makes me the most happy, and I’m glad I was able to do that.”
However, the most precious medal to Mao Asada is her Vancouver silver medal. While she was speaking, she said over and over again that ‘the Olympics are special.’ With a joyful smile, she said this. That was her 2009-2010 season.
December 2010. Asada was practicing in Yokohama.
This season, her condition has been terrible. Especially her jumps. She keeps making mistakes. However, the people around her are not as depressed as you would think. They seem cheerful.
“I guess it has been the most painful time for me. But, I’ve been wanting to change my jumps for a long time, and if I’m going to change them, I have to do it this season. That’s why, I’m okay with it.
There is one week until the All-Japan National Championships. Depending on how much I can do in the next week, I will be able to see the results. I think it’s a very important time for me.
Nationals will determine whether I maintain my winning streak and go to Worlds, but I’m only thinking about doing the things I have to do. I will do all six types of jumps. I don’t plan to leave any out.
I want to give a performance that will make the people who are worried for me think, ‘she did well,’ and I will try my best to meet their expectations.”
Asada is an unwieldy/clumsy competitor. She can’t go on without forever challenging herself.
And even now, she will keep challenging herself.