Ando captures gold

Kyodo

National champion Miki Ando held onto her overnight lead to win her first Four Continents title with a personal best score on Sunday.

Ando followed up a near flawless short program with a free skate that earned the top score of 134.76 points, finishing over five points ahead of rival and reigning world champion Mao Asada with 201.34.

Ando nailed a double axel-triple in a spellbinding performance en route to becoming only the fourth woman to top the 200 points mark, providing a major boost ahead of next month’s world championships in Tokyo.

“I have been able to skate well despite not being 100 percent physically, and I think that shows I have grown,” said Ando.

“I was able to control myself emotionally today. I can head into the world championships with a medal on my mind.”

Victory for the 2007 world gold medalist also completed a double triumph in the singles competition for Japan after Daisuke Takahashi took the men’s crown on Saturday.

Defending champion Mao, who also placed second behind Ando at the nationals in December, completed a triple axel and had 196.30 points. She was followed in third place by American Mirai Nagasu, who had 189.46.

“It was a good triple axel and has set me up well for the world championships. I can give myself 100 points,” said Mao, who struggled badly during the Grand Prix season before her runnerup finish at the national championships secured a berth at the worlds.

“I want to remind myself of this feeling going into the world championships. If I stay focused I will be OK.”

Rachael Flatt (180.31) placed fourth ahead of fellow American and Grand Prix Final winner Alissa Czisny (168.81).

Akiko Suzuki had to settle for seventh place.

On Saturday, Takahashi, who had a nearly perfect short program, also came first in the free to collect a total of 244.00 points in claiming his second Four Continents title. Sixteen-year-old countryman Yuzuru Hanyu rallied out of third with a career-best performance to finish runnerup, 15.99 behind.

“I knew all I had to do was go out there and give it everything,” said Takahashi about his final routine before he tries to defend the title at the world championships.

American Jeremy Abbott placed third with 225.71.