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Mao gets to work in Sochi; expected to skate in team event

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Mao Asada completed her first practice at the Iceberg Skating Palace on Thursday morning ahead of the start of the team event this evening.

The two-time world champion and 2010 Olympic silver medalist was pleased following her workout.

“I was very happy to catch the feeling on the ice straight away,” Mao said. “I didn’t have to get used to it, and had a smooth and good practice.”

Mao indicated that she feels confident and less anxious heading into the Olympics for the second time.

“Vancouver was my first Olympics and it was so amazing,” Mao stated. “I was very excited and also nervous.

“Here in Sochi I am much more relaxed and also calmer, which makes it easier for me to focus on my performance. I try to take it like every other competition.”

Despite her recent troubles with her signature triple axel, she struck a confident tone when asked about it.

“When I was younger my triple axels were somewhat shaky,” she commented. “But as I got older they got more consistent and are good and consistent now.”

Mao is expected to represent Japan in the short program in the team event on Saturday night.

Lineup set: A source has confirmed to Ice Time that Japan’s lineup for the team event will be as follows in singles:

Men — Yuzuru Hanyu (short program), Tatsuki Machida (free skate).

Women — Mao Asada (short program), Akiko Suzuki (free skate).

Narumi Takahashi and Ryuichi Kihara will skate in pairs for Japan, while Cathy and Chris Reed will comprise the ice dance team.

Sound advice: Hanyu’s coach, Brian Orser, who was the silver medalist in singles at both the 1984 Sarajevo Games and 1988 Calgary Games, is trying to give his prize pupil some insight into what competing at the Olympics is like.

Orser, who also teaches Spain’s Javier Fernandez in Toronto, believes the pair can rely on each other for support as they train together every day.

“I guess they take comfort in having one another around,” Orser said. “I hope they draw the same warmup group for the short program, because they can be together.”

The Canadian also warned the pair that the veterans like Patrick Chan, Daisuke Takahashi and Evgeni Plushenko will be on top of their games here.

Orser, who led Kim Yu-na to the gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games, said was he was very impressed with the way Hanyu handled the pressure at the Japan nationals in December.

“Daisuke is the favorite in Japan and he earned it,” stated Orser. “So we were swimming in that pond and it was kind of hard for this young guy (Hanyu). When I saw the way he handled that, I thought, Olympics is going to be a breeze compared to that.”

Energy dilemma: With the Opening Ceremony occurring in the midst of the team skating competition, it means some skaters have made the difficult decision to bypass the occasion, which can be quite tiring to the participants.

But Japan pair Takahashi and Kihara believe it won’t be an issue for them.

“We are very young and we have lots of energy, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem for us,” Takahashi said.

Quote of the day: Carolina Kostner, the 2012 world champion, had a fairly accurate take on Sochi when asked about it Thursday.

“I must say, I feel overwhelmed,” she said. “There’s so much information, so many people, so many things to do. On one hand, I want to focus on my work, but then again, I want to see it all, do it all. I’m here only once.”