/

Mao maintains confidence ahead of second Olympic appearance

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Mao Asada went through her paces Friday afternoon in her second practice session since arriving for the Sochi Games.

Skating at the small training rink next to the Iceberg Skating Palace, Mao landed several triple axels and also missed a few.

The media was out in force to watch Mao and Akiko Suzuki work on their routines. There were nearly 50 TV and still cameras on hand, as well as many print reporters.

It was the second practice of the day for Suzuki, who also trained at the main venue on Friday morning.

Even though the showdown with Kim Yu-na in singles is still nearly two weeks away, the anticipation is already building as Korean journalists attended Mao’s practice.

“In Vancouver, there was tension throughout my time there,” Mao said. “Now, because it’s my second time, it almost doesn’t feel like the Olympics.”

Mao is relishing a second shot at skating’s Holy Grail — the Olympic gold medal.

“I’m nervous, but feel secure about myself. So I’m looking forward to it,” Mao stated. “I love being back on this grand stage.”

Mao will skate in the short program in the team event on Saturday, while Suzuki will take over in the free skate on Sunday.

After the team event concludes, Mao is expected to leave Russia with coach Nobuo Sato for a training camp in nearby Armenia for several days.

Pensive: Tatsuki Machida, who will compete in the free skate of the team event on Sunday, said he was anxious as he saw his compatriots compete on Thursday night.

“I was nervous just watching my teammates perform,” he said. “But they did us proud, especially considering that they were all performing for the first time at the Olympics.”

When asked about Yuzuru Hanyu’s winning effort in the men’s short program, Machida tried to put their relationship in perspective.

“For the time being, he’s not my rival yet. We’re teammates now,” he stated. “But once the team event is over, then he will be my rival.”

Machida provided a humorous take on how he his spending his free time here.

“I’ve been doing a whole lot of reading. And did some laundry as well,” he said. “Typical life of a bachelor.”