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Figure skating: Asada leads Japan sweep at Four Continents

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Former world champion Mao Asada led Japan's medal sweep in the women's singles at the Four Continents championships, remaining unbeaten with five wins in the pre-Olympic season.

Cushioned by a comfortable lead from the short programme and skating to Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake", the 2012 Grand Prix Final winner topped the free skating table with 130.96 points for a two-day total of 205.45.

Akiko Suzuki, the 2012 world bronze medallist, marked the second best free-skate score of 124.43 points to finish second overall with 190.08.

Another Japanese national Kanako Murakami, the 2010 world junior champion, came in third overall as she did in the short programme with a total of 181.03.

Asada's winning total was the season's best in the world and close to her personal best of 205.50 scored at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics where the 2008 and 2010 world champion finished runner-up to South Korea's Kim Yu-Na.

"I performed superbly in the short programme but I skated the free programme just like I did in training. I should still aim higher," 22-year-old Asada said.

Just after opening her long programme with a triple loop, she under-rotated her trademark triple axel, which she had landed in the short programme on Saturday for the first time in two years.

Her triple-triple attempt stopped short by under-rotating the second jump, and used the wrong edge in landing a triple lutz. But she hit a maximum level-four in three spins along the way to top the field in both technical and artistic elements.

Asada had refrained from attempting the triple axel this season until the Four Continents because she frequently bungled the high-scoring jump in the past two seasons after her duel with Kim in Vancouver.

"I want to jump the triple axel at the world championships. I will work hard so that I may be able to perform better still," she said.

Asada will clash with Kim at the worlds next month in London, Ontario. Kim, also 22, made her comeback in a second-tier competition in December but skipped this event which has brought together talent from the non-European continents.

It was the third Four Continents title for Asada and the first in three years.

Asada has won two Grand Prix titles in China and Japan as well as the Grand Prix Final and the national championship so far this season.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130210/figure-skating-asada-leads-japan-sweep-at-four-continents-0