Skating star Asada boosted by personal best result
Mao Asada of Japan performs in the women's free skating at the Japan Open figure skating competition at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama on October 5, 2013
Asada earned 135.16 points at the Japan Open, an invitational team competition in free skating, with Joannie Rochette of Canada second at 123.99 and US national champion Ashley Wagner third at 119.77 in the women's section.
European champion Javier Fernandez of Spain nailed three quadruple jumps to top the men's table at 176.91 points, followed by Japan's Takahiko Kozuka at 158.42 and American Jeremy Abbott at 157.70.
Japan won the event with a total of 544.85 with North America second at 528.89 and Europe third at 477.84.
The annual Japan Open, which adopted its current form in 2006, has brought together active and former top singles skaters representing Japan and the two continents. It has served as a ground for many to test their free programmes at the start of a season.
Skating to Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto number two in C minor, Asada opened her routine by landing her trademark 3.5-revolution triple axel jump, followed by a triple-double combination.
The 2008 and 2010 world champion, who finished runner-up to South Korea's Kim Yu-Na at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, dazzled with four more triples, one in a combination with two doubles, and hit a maximum level-four in four spins and one step sequence.
Her score shaved 0.79 off her former free-skate personal best of 134.37 points, set when she finished third behind Kim and Italy's Carolina Kostner at the world championships in March this year.
However, the result will be denoted by an asterisk as the Japan Open is not recognised as a full event by the International Skating Union.
Asada, now 23, has been the only female skater who has regularly attempted triple axels at the top level of competition over the years, landing three at the Vancouver Games.
But she has often shunned the demanding but high-scoring move after making too many mistakes for two seasons after Vancouver.
"I was worried about whether I could do the new programme well," said Asada, who turned 23 last month as did Kim, ahead of what they said would be their last season as competitive skaters.
Asada, who has set her sights on beating Kim at the Sochi Olympics in February, is due to compete in two Grand Prix events, starting with the season-opening Skate America in Detroit from October 18-20. Kim has pulled out of the Grand Prix series due to a foot injury.
"I still have a lot of room to grow and I want to work hard and improve," Asada said.
Team standings: 1. Japan 544.85, 2. North America 528.89, 3. Europe 477.84
Women's free skate:
1. Mao Asada (JPN) 135.16, 2. Joannie Rochette (CAN) 123.99, 3. Ashley Wagner (USA) 119.77, 4. Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) 105.95, 5. Kanako Murakami (JPN) 102.15, 6. Irina Slutskaya (RUS) 69.24
Men's free skate:
1. Javier Fernandez (ESP) 176.91, 2. Takahiko Kozuka (JPN) 158.42, 3. Jeremy Abbott (USA) 157.70, 4. Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) 149.12, 5. Jeffrey Buttle (CAN) 127.43, 6. Michal Brezina (CZE) 125.74
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