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Sixteen-year-old Miki Ando picked up her first title at the National Figure Skating Championships when she came from behind to beat overnight leader Shizuka Arakawa and two-time world bronze medalist Fumie Suguri in the women’s free skate on Saturday.

News photoMiki Ando upset 2003 Grand Prix Final medalists Fumie Suguri and Shizuka Arakawa on
Saturday at Big Hat in Nagano to win her first national figure skating title.

National junior champion Ando received five first-place scores from nine of the judges at Big Hat ice arena to win the top honors while Suguri, who was gunning for her fourth straight title, settled for second and Arakawa, who led after the short program, took third.

“I’m really happy and also very surprised. To win a spot in the next worlds is like a dream come true,” said Ando, who landed a clean quad jump in the competition which used the 6.0 judging system.

In men’s action, Yamato Tamura of Nihon University showed his resolve with solid skating in the free skate to keep the overnight lead and claim his career second victory, with Kazumi Kishimoto taking second and Daisuke Takahashi third.

Tamura, who will retire at the end of the season, crashed twice on quadruple jumps but also drew applause for his fluid movements in a performance to the theme song from the animation “Uchu Senkan Yamato” (Space Battleship Yamato).

“I wanted to end my career as a champion,” Tamura said. “Until I saw the score, I didn’t feel I could stand it. It’s been six years since I won this competition as a third-year high school student,” he said.

Japan ace Takeshi Honda, who finished fourth at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, sat out the three-day meet nursing a sprained right ankle.

In ice dancing, Nozomi Watanabe and Akiyuki Kido claimed their first national crown after maintaining their lead from the opening day of the meet, which also served as a qualifier for the World Championships to be held in Dortmund, Germany, in March 2004.

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