• Kyodo

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Japanese world junior champion Mao Asada earned a spot on the podium on her senior international debut Saturday when she finished runnerup to world champion Irina Slutskaya at the Cup of China.

The 15-year-old Asada, who won four junior international titles in as many appearances last season, came third in the free skate and finished second with a total of 176.60 points in the third event of the Grand Prix series this season.

Slutskaya overwhelmed the field in the free skate to claim the title on 196.12 as the Russian preserved the lead she took after Friday’s short program. Japan’s Shizuka Arakawa, dethroned by Slutskaya at the world championships in March, took third on 173.60.

“This is a result that I’d never expected to produce before coming onto the ice here,” said Asada, who put her hand on the ice in a triple axel attempt for her only major mistake in the long program.

“I’m disappointed with the triple axel but it’s good that I performed all other jumps very well,” she said.

Skating to “The Nutcracker,” Asada successfully landed a triple-double-double loop and capped her program with a Beilman spin to an ovation from the crowd at the Capital Gymnasium.

The result exceeded a third-place finish at Skate America by former world junior champion and two-time Japanese national title holder Miki Ando on her senior Grand Prix debut a year ago.

Despite her Olympic-caliber showing, Asada will have to wait until 2010 for her Olympic debut due to the age regulation set by the International Skating Union.

Arakawa, third after the short program behind Slutskaya and Asada, was second in the free skate but her performance lacked the impact needed for her to leapfrog the top two skaters.

“I didn’t want to make a mistake and it might have made my skating look subdued,” Arakawa said. “I could’ve skated the way I do in practice but it’s tough to do it in the Grand Prix series this season because an Olympic berth is at stake.”

Asada and Arakawa became the third and fourth Japanese women to pull off a podium finish at this year’s Grand Prix series. Yoshie Onda took third at Skate America two weeks ago and Yukari Nakano matched her result at Skate Canada last week.

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