TAIPEI — Miki Ando skated a cut above countrywoman and reigning world champion Mao Asada in the short program to move into the lead at the Four Continents on Saturday.
Ando, winner of the national championship and the 2007 world champion, had a nearly flawless routine en route to scoring 66.58 points for her best performance this season.
“This was a solid performance,” Ando said. “I had worked on my short program in practices. It was a big step forward being able to get a high score for my spins. I can put more focus on my jumps now.”
Ando added: “I have learned to listen carefully to my music while I skate.”
Ando went for the safer bet instead of her signature triple-triple jump, but said it was only a matter of time before she pulls it off in competition.
“I’ve done it in practice, so I have to keep raising my level until I can do it in a tournament,” she said.
Mao received a deduction for an under-rotated triple axel and has 63.41 points.
“I had finally gained some steadiness with the triple axel I had worked on during the offseason, but there are still some hurdles left,” Mao said.
“It is hard to pull off a big jump right off the bat. Everything aside from the jump was fine, so I’m disappointed.”
Rachael Flatt of the United States was third with 62.23, while American Mirai Nagasu, whose parents are Japanese, came fourth with 59.78.
Akiko Suzuki followed in sixth with 57.64.
Reigning world champion Daisuke Takahashi won the men’s title, completing the free program in style and scoring 244.00 points in the competition. Yuzuru Hanyu, a 16-year-old making his first podium finish at the senior level, took second with 228.01. American Jeremy Abbott placed third with 225.71 points.
In other action, Meryl Davis and Charlie White took the latest round in ice dance’s big rivalry.
The Americans won the title here Friday, but the big showdown with Olympic champions and training partners Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir fizzled after the Canadians cut short their free dance because Virtue felt tightness in her left quadriceps.
“They have gone through a lot this season,” Davis said. “I’m not exactly sure what happened, but we don’t really think about it too much. When we come into competitions, we worry about skating our best.
Davis added: “When we leave a competition, we’re thinking about how we can improve. I’m sure they are disappointed but we are excited and happy with how we skated.”
Virtue and Moir won the Olympic and world titles last year, with White and Davis the runnerup both times. Virtue and Moir missed the Grand Prix series while she recovered from October surgery to relieve pressure in her legs.
Davis and White dominated the competition in their absence, winning every event they entered.
With Virtue and Moir returning to competition in Taiwan, the renewal of the rivalry was eagerly anticipated.
The Canadians barely won the short dance to set up a high-stakes finale, but Virtue and Moir couldn’t finish it off. Virtue had strained her quad in training before Four Continents, and the demands of their free dance aggravated the tightness, said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada’s high performance director. They withdrew about 30 seconds into the program.
“It’s nothing major. Nothing linked to the surgery she just had,” Slipchuk said. “In no way are they looking at this changing their plans going into worlds.”
Davis and White finished with 172.03 points after an impressive free skate, easily outclassing fellow Americans Maia and Alex Shibutani. Canadians Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier of Canada were third.
Davis and White now turn their attention to next month’s world championships in Tokyo, where they will try to become the first Americans to win a world or Olympic title in ice dance.
“Coming into this season, we were looking to improve our skating after such a successful year last year,” White said.
“We wanted to try to take things in a little bit of a different direction with our free dance being a tango this year. It started off a little bit rough, but we’re pleased with the progress we’ve made,” White added.
“We are still really looking to the worlds, that’s what we’ve been building toward. That’s the one that counts the most in our books.”
The Four Continents, which features skaters from the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania, concludes Sunday.