Mao to take on Meissner in GP opener

by Jack Gallagher

Mao Asada, the 15-year-old skating sensation who won last year’s Grand Prix Final but was too young to compete in the Turin Olympics, will begin her Grand Prix campaign this season along with older sister Mai, and Miki Ando, at Skate America in October, according to an entry list posted on the Web site of the International Skating Union recently.

News photoMao Asada, winner of the Grand Prix Final last season, will face American world champion Kimmie Meissner in the season-opening Skate America.
AP PHOTO

The Japanese trio will be going up against American world champion Kimmie Meissner when they take the ice in Hartford, Conn., for the season-opening competition scheduled from Oct. 26-29.

Mao, who won last year’s Grand Prix event in Paris, has also been chosen by the Japan Skating Federation to skate at the NHK Trophy in Nagano from Nov. 30-Dec. 3.

After winning the GP Final in Tokyo last December, Mao became the first female skater in history to execute two triple axels in the same program, when she accomplished the feat on Christmas Day at the Japan national championships (where she finished second to Fumie Suguri).

Mao, who finished second at the world junior championships in Slovenia in March to South Korea’s Kim Yu Na, will be one of the favorites at the 2007 world championships, which will be held in Tokyo from March 19-25.

Suguri, a four-time national champion, who finished fourth in the Turin Olympics, will start her GP season at Skate Canada, scheduled for Nov. 2-5 in Victoria, British Columbia. She has also been assigned to skate in the NHK Trophy.

Joining Suguri at Skate Canada, will be veteran Yoshie Onda, who was fourth at the Japan nationals last December.

Ando, a two-time national champion, who placed a disappointing 15th in Turin, will be Japan’s sole representative at this season’s Trophee Bompard in Paris (Nov. 16-19).

Meissner is also entered for the event in France.

Yukari Nakano, the surprise winner of last season’s NHK Trophy, has been been tabbed to compete in the Cup of China in Nanjing (Nov. 9-12), along with senior tour newcomer Aki Sawada, and will also defend her NHK Trophy title.

Onda and Sawada will represent Japan at the Cup of Russia in Moscow (Nov. 23-26).

Kim will put on the blades for Skate Canada and the Trophee Bompard.

This season’s GP Final will be held in St. Petersburg, Russia (Dec. 14-17).