Mao departs for Winter Olympics

Kyodo News

Figure skating medal hopeful Mao Asada left for Vancouver, British Columbia, on Saturday, determined to battle for gold against longtime rival Kim Yu Na.

“I want to turn in my best performance of the season and win the gold medal,” Asada said before her departure at Narita airport. “I’ve been training to have one triple axel in the short program and two in the free skate, so I’m ready to do the same at the Olympics.”

The 19-year-old has been training in Japan, instead of touching down in Vancouver early, following her victory at the Four Continents Championships in South Korea in late January in the absence of Kim.

Kim skipped the event on home soil in favor of training for the Olympics.

“I’m in better form than I was at the national championships or the Four Continents event,” said Asada.

She believes her triple axel is the key in her gold medal quest against Kim, who has won all of the five international events she has entered since last season.

Asada, meanwhile, was moved by Daisuke Takahashi’s bronze-winning performance in the men’s event Thursday.

“That was really impressive. It made me want an Olympic medal even more,” she said.

Joining Asada in the women’s figure skating from Japan are Miki Ando and Akiko Suzuki, who also have a chance to make the medals podium.

The short program is scheduled for Tuesday, followed by the free skate two days later.