Wednesday, May 27

Asada books Olympics berth in comeback

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KADOMA, Japan: Former world champion Mao Asada booked a ticket to the Vancouver Winter Olympics as she won a fourth straight Japanese national championship yesterday in a comeback from poor form.With a slim, 0.22-point lead from the short programme, she scored her personal best 135.50 points in free skating to win with a total 204.62, in a warning to longtime rival and reigning world champion Kim Yu-Na of South Korea.

Asada’s total was also her personal best and closed up on the world record of 210.03 points Kim set in beating Asada into second place at the season-opening Grand Prix in Paris in October.

Akiko Suzuki, who finished third behind Kim and compatriot Miki Ando at the Grand Prix Final in Tokyo earlier this month, finished second overall with 195.90 points with Yukari Nakano third with 195.73.

Ando finished fourth, having secured one of three Olympic berths allotted to Japanese women by the virtue of her second-place finish at the elite final.

The remaining one berth was to be decided later Sunday by the Japan Skating Federation.

The 19-year-old Asada, the 2008 world champion, has struggled from the start of this season with her trademark triple axel.

She failed to qualify for the final despite being the defending champion. — AFP