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Asada aims to add to success at NHK Trophy

November 7, 2013

TOKYO (AP) — Mao Asada has won the NHK Trophy three times, so she knows how important it is in qualifying for the Grand Prix Final.

The two-time world champion is aiming to add to her win at Skate America when she takes to the ice at the NHK Trophy this weekend, the fourth of six events in the International Skating Union’s GP series.

The 2010 Olympic silver medalist could secure a place at the GP Final in Fukuoka next month with a podium finish. And that’s all critical in her overall preparations for the Sochi Olympics next February.

As in previous competitions, the triple axel will be vital to Asada’s success.

“The triple axel will be important,” Asada said. “Hopefully, my performance here will get me going for the rest of the season.”

Asada’s main Olympic rival, defending world and Olympic champion Kim Yu-na of South Korea, injured her right foot in August and decided to sit out the GP season.

So Asada’s main competition is expected to come from compatriot Akiko Suzuki, who was second at Skate Canada last month, and Mirai Nagasu and Gracie Gold of the United States. Suzuki is also aiming to wrap up a spot in the GP Final and selection for Japan’s Olympic team.

Nagasu had a fourth-place finish at the Vancouver Olympics but has struggled with injuries and inconsistent results since then. She was third at last year’s NHK Trophy. Gracie Gold., meanwhile, is hoping looking to build on a third-place finish at Skate Canada.

In the men’s competition, 2010 world champion and Vancouver bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi will be desperate to bounce back from a disappointing fourth place at Skate America. Spain’s Javier Fernandez, the European champion, will be competing in his first Grand Prix event of the season, while Adam Rippon, Max Aaron and Jeremy Abbott will represent the United States.

Two-time world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States will start as overwhelming favorites in the ice dance. World and European champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia, who won Skate America, headline the pairs event.