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 "Mao Asada needs to find Mao Asada"

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PostSubject: "Mao Asada needs to find Mao Asada"   Tue Mar 31, 2009 8:15 pm

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. Wink

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.

"Mao-chan, ganbare-!"

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! Love Hearts

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. Thumbs up!

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). Many Hearts 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?! Hell, no!
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PostSubject: Re: "Mao Asada needs to find Mao Asada"   Tue Mar 31, 2009 8:29 pm

Uumm, it's really interesting... Do you guys think that she misses Yamada coach? Maybe she was more happy when she was with her? I do not say that she doesn't like TAT, but she cannot communicate with her as well as with Yamada.. what do you guys think?
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PostSubject: Re: "Mao Asada needs to find Mao Asada"   Tue Mar 31, 2009 8:42 pm

bibi wrote:
Uumm, it's really interesting... Do you guys think that she misses Yamada coach? Maybe she was more happy when she was with her? I do not say that she doesn't like TAT, but she cannot communicate with her as well as with Yamada.. what do you guys think?

Hmm, well I don't think the author means that she misses Yamada-coach. I think it's more like Mao was excited, like the same way if you saw your grandma after a long time or something. flower

But I do wonder about that from time to time - what if Mao went back to Coach Yamada?

But I don't think that would necessarily be better. I think TAT/Mao get along very well and that TAT is good for Mao. And although Mao was her happiest/most relaxed with Coach Yamada, that was because she had no pressure, and a lot of things have changed since then. And even then, being with Coach Yamada didn't prevent Mao from having a bad competition like she did at 2006 Junior Worlds. So I don't know. The only benefit I can see is that Coach Yamada might be able to see/work with Mao everyday. And she has been the most vocal about wanting Mao to give a 'Mao-like' skate.
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PostSubject: Re: "Mao Asada needs to find Mao Asada"   Tue Mar 31, 2009 11:12 pm

These are wonderful articles. Thank you for taking the time and translating them, Batsuchan! Great translation btw. cheers

I agree with what he said basically. I couldn't have said it better. This is the kind of press that athletes should read more. Boldly he expressed his feedback on Mao's performance, pointed out her deficiencies, but not without genuine care and support. This is what the sport needs to prosper and new skaters to emerge.

A canadian article was released recently, discussing the importance of "believing" in figure skating. It talks about how important it is for coaches/people in general to believe in their athletes and the athletes to believe in their talent, training and hard work. The article displays the same kind of sentiments. Believing in Mao Asada. I appreciate that. Daisies for you

If Japan is to share in Mao's happiness and success in the coming Olympics, they must step up to support her. Allow her the space she needs to find herself in her performances again. I hope the ice shows she's participating, the meeting of new friends at university, a new environment may help her through this difficult time of life and career.

I am with Batsuchan on wanting to see Mao's genuine smile more than anything. Being 18 is sometimes difficult because you are growing into an adult (i think in Japan, it's 21?) and you begin to understand that with glory and success comes with responsibilities and pressure. At the same time, even though you begin pushing yourself to shoulder up the responsibilities, you are still relatively inexperienced and it's easy to lose yourself along the way of meeting people's expectations - Mao is barely starting university, she's still in school learning. In essence, she's still a high school student. So, it's a difficult time but being in a freer and less suffocating environment like the uni will hopefully help.

Take your time, Mao. We will be supporting you all the way!

Cheering Cheering
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PostSubject: Re: "Mao Asada needs to find Mao Asada"   Wed Apr 01, 2009 1:07 am

Reading that article that Batsuchan included in her post, I finally admitted to myself that there was something not quite "Mao-like" about this season's performance.

I had a quick scan through some of the still-shots taken of Mao during her FP at 2009 Worlds. In every single one of them, Mao is either grimacing, has her eyes closed, frowning (in concentration) or looking quite distressed. At first I thought it was just typical of Mao but then I looked at some still-shots of Mao's Exhibition, and her smile lit up every single one of THOSE shots.

Perhaps it is because of the technical difficulty of the FP, or because of the pressure to beat Yu-na by 10 points. But I don't think Mao enjoyed performing that FP one bit and it showed on her face. Her positions were perfect and beautiful as always, nevertheless.

Like Batsuchan, I just want to see Mao enjoy herself. Perhaps the judges (and I'm stretching it a bit here) intuitively felt that some part of Mao wasn't in her program and that is why they gave the victory to Yu-na by such a ridiculous margin. I still think it was favouritism, but had Mao smiled and displayed her obvious enjoyment in what she was doing on her face, would the result perhaps have been different?

About TAT and Yamada: From what I've seen, Mao and TAT have an extremely close relationship. TAT seems to always be patting Mao on the shoulder during interviews and I remember this clip of Mao's practice where TAT declares to the journalists and camera people present to "show the world Mao's perfect lutz!" She sounded so proud Smile
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