So, Hirono Aoshima wrote a couple of very interesting commentaries after the Ladies' short and the free program at 2009 Worlds. But he's mostly thinking about what Mao needs to do going forward, so I thought I would start a new thread.
And I pretty much agree with what is said.
The articles are here:
(4th article and then 2nd article)After the ladies' short, Mao Asada 3rd -- Cold moonlight ---
Her jump condition was very good, but she kept her face so stiff - watching that Mao Asada at a public practice, I thought, this is not the expression that the heroine at the height of popularity would show.
That voice - no matter where Mao goes now - it comes. If it were the truth, then she should be able to show us an expression that is full of confidence like Yu-Na Kim and Rochette, or sunny like Kostner. It's a face of concentration, the good kind of nervousness - you could view it that way, but not only at the open practice, but during her performances, watching Mao look like she was trying to hold something down was definitely painful.
In the short program, which is graded heavily on the synchronicity of the music and body rhythm, and the music and physical expression - today it was a too peaceful, too cold, too sad "Clair de Lune".
"The second half was especially not my best performance...and I'm not satisfied. This season I've corrected my lutz so that I take off on the outside edge, so my desire to land it is very strong. But at the competitions, no matter what, I can't face it with strength - I wonder if that is the reason...."
The pressure of being defending champion, the anxiety over the jump that she suffered to correct, or something that isn't visible on the surface--the reasons why her moonlight was hidden by a dark cloud--there are probably several.
But in this season, there was only one time when I saw a "Mao-like" expression on the ice. The moment after she finished her Grand Prix Final free program, when she was happily hopping on the ice and waving at the audience - and her eyes were on Coach Machiko Yamada and Kanako Murakami.
Yes, that's it, that expression. The face that Mao Asada does not show us much anymore. Watching Mao's relaxed expression when she interacted with people she knew when she was young and innocent, I thought, when did she lose that 'Mao-ness' in the midst of this heavy pressure.
Of course, I don't want Mao to go back to that child-like 'Mao-chan' who knew nothing but pure things. There is such a thing as growing up, coming to understand the things around you, and from there developing and showing a new self. Isn't this what Mao Asada hasn't quite developed yet?
For example, Kostner gives off an air that pulls people in even if she just steps onto the ice. Yu-Na has a magnificent desire/will to express herself to the utmost limit. That kind of confidence in one's own skate, in one's own self appeal - I cannot feel that from Mao Asada now.
In terms of the level of technique, motivation towards skating, stoicness/seriousness as an athlete - Mao is not one step behind Yu-Na or Rochette. It's just that "The thing I want people to see is this; I want to show the audience this beautiful part of myself" - that brazen desire, which is lacking in Mao.
There is one year left until the Olympics. No matter what happens at Worlds, Mao and the people around her will decide what issues she needs to tackle in this year. Among those issues, I think Mao needs to find the things she herself wants to express, and she should definitely include them. What I hope she shows us next year is not an ultimately beautiful performance that she was directed to do, but even if it's average, a skate that Mao Asada wanted, that she herself wanted to show.
If it allows her to develop the environment to do this, if a big setback becomes an opportunity for Mao to find herself, then I don't care if this year's Worlds is called a crushing defeat.
**************After the ladies' competition, Mao Asada 4th
This kind of Mao-chan: who did this to her?!
Watching her free program, I felt something close to indignation. The big mistake was only the fall on the second triple axel. Compared to last year's performance, when she fell on the first triple axel and gave a no-miss performance after that--from a technical perspective, it was not inferior. Even so, the extreme excitement I felt last year, and the joy I felt watching Mao Asada skating--why didn't I feel that at all?
My fingertips were not tingling with excitement. Even a detailed program with no spot to rest--if there is no spirit in it-- it becomes just a boring program of repeating skate-jump-skate. Moving forward, going through the decided movements without rest, it was--I felt like I was watching not a figure skater, but a marathon runner. To feel that from Mao Asada's performance -- I was shocked.
Where did Mao leave her spirit?! Where did the 'Mao Asada skate' go?!
What I wanted to say was "This is not Mao-chan!" But, she who was hanging her head deeply in the kiss & cry - in truth it was Mao Asada.
The 15-year old Grand Prix Final Winner, the 17-year old World champion, the young star - she is also Mao Asada. The girl who had lost her confidence, pride, and sparkle and couldn't get a medal for the first time in her senior career - she is also Mao Asada. We who have been moved by 'Mao-chan's beauty, excited by her high jumps, and shed tears over her fighting spirit - we must also accept the current Mao Asada.
In reality, everything has been thanks to Mao Asada's hard work. She set her own goals and faced them stoically, and to the point that even if her coaches told her to stop, she would skate secretly, she is a practice addict. That part of her, from the time she was small until now, it has not changed at all.
No matter how much she was praised, she'd never become conceited, and no matter how much she achieved, she never changed the way she interacts with people. A top athlete like her, who in the street, in the competition, or even in the mixed zone, will interact happily with anyone - there are not many, I think.
She has talent, determination to work hard, and a good nature. For her to show a skate like today's free skate---it seemed like within herself, there was something that could not be helped, that wasn't going well.
Figure skating, no, Mao Asada, is in the middle of a big business maelstrom. The expectations of people around her, adult realities, the excessive pressure...I wonder if those things are stealing Mao Asada's shine. They were not meant with bad intentions at all, but these complicated things may have given the innocent Mao anxiety, and the business/interests, other people's desires for her - I wonder if they've brought down the gentle, sweet Mao.
The dilemma of a national heroine: we who have made her into a star, we who have enjoyed her performances to our hearts' content, this time we must support her. The things we can do for that purpose...one is to not get worked up over sensational news stories, the emotional slander amongst fans, and baseless rumors, and only look at Mao Asada with our own eyes.
And if you really love Mao Asada's skating, then then you must believe in Mao Asada, and in her skating, until the very end.
Amen to this!
And I agree - although I definitely want to see Mao win, most of all, I want to see her genuine smile!
These are my hopes for Mao:
1) I want Mao to be Mao
But I suspect she can't be happy Mao unless she does everything perfectly and wins. And I hesitate to say that she should change that mentality. But I would like her to know that putting on a performance that says something about herself, that tells a story she wants to tell, can be just as impressive to us fans than a performance that wins. 2) I want Mao to have fun
It's true, except for the exhibition, I never felt that Mao was having fun. She looked so focused and serious at practice. I think she should take a page out of Joannie's book and learn how to enjoy the competitions again. Even Yu-Na had a day off to sit in the stands, watch the men practice, and enjoy.
What I first fell in love with was the joy that Mao expressed when she was skating - you could really tell that she loved it (back in 2005).
While I don't think Mao can return to her child-like self and compete without any pressure/expectations ever again, I think she can show some of that love of skating that she demonstrates in her EX's!3) I want people to love Mao for who she is
I think if she accomplishes the two above things, people will love her. How can they not?!