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Oct. 23 2009 - 7:25 pm | 975 views | 0 recommendations | 9 comments

Is Mao Asada looking at a coaching change?

Japan's world figure skating champion Mao Asad...

Tatiana Tarasova & Mao Asada

Mao Asada’s troubles in Paris have followed her to Moscow.

After skating to a disappointing second place at last weekend’s Trophee Bompard, Asada came to Moscow looking for redemption. So far, she hasn’t found it.

Asada’s biggest hurdle to overcome today was the popped triple axel that marred her performance seven days ago. Unfortunately, today’s short program played out almost identically to last week’s. Asada, this time in a new dress, opened her program by once again popping out of her triple axel. While she was able to rebound and complete her remaining elements with polish and ease, Asada’s mistake on her axel proved costly. The 2008 world champion is currently sitting in 6th place.

Although Asada has never been an extremely consistent competitor, her performances at recent events have fallen below average for her. Part of the reason behind this may be because her coach, Tatiana Tarasova, has decided that Asada’s golden ticket this season is her triple axel and has added the axel to Asada’s short program. The truth is, Asada’s axel is no where near the level of consistency needed for success in a short program.

Tarasova is an extremely accomplished coach and appears to be a strong motivator who truly cares about her students. But, Tarasova is best known as a dance coach, not a technical coach, and at times her star can overpower her student’s. While watching Tarasova on warmup, it seems as if she’s resorted to willing Asada to land her axel, which obviously isn’t going to work, and having Asada attempt the axel in her short amounts to sacrificing the gold at every event she tries it in.

Asada’s recent troubles are incredibly disheartening because she is one of the most talented skaters in history. Her spins, stroking, spirals, and footwork are well above the field in Moscow. Because of these strengths, Asada is only six points out of the lead, keeping her in contention for tomorrow‘s long program. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that her confidence may be shot after today‘s skate, and tomorrow won‘t yield the results she and Tarasova are hoping for.

Once this event is over, Asada needs to seriously reassess her coaching situation. While I wouldn’t normally recommend a skater switch coaches mid-season–especially during an Olympic season–Asada has proven that she does more than okay after a coaching change and even without a coach by her side. When Asada won her world title, she did what Michelle Kwan tried in 2002: She coached herself to victory. This season, however, I don’t see the self-coaching method working for her, and if Asada chooses to leave Tarasova, she will need a technically-sound coach to help her through the remaining months.

As it stands now, it appears there’s a major problem, and having Asada try the axel today was a bad coaching decision. Tarasova may have had the winning formula for many past champions, but that formula isn’t working for Asada.


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  1. collapse expand

    Mao’s performance is just completely dissapointing, and I really do hope that the Japanese Skating Federation steps in and suggests a change. I do not think that Tarasova is a great match for Mao, and I really want her to get her skating back on track so that she can be at her best at the Olympics. I’m wishing her luck, and hope that she’s able to regroup after this Grand Prix season.

  2. collapse expand

    It’s such a pity to see her go downhill like this. I agree a coaching change, Tarasova is focusing too much on her triple axel. Even changing her SP to Caprice, it contains a 3axel combination, if I remember correctly. Tarasova is turning Mao into a different skater from who she actually is and apparently it isn’t working well.

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    I saw this coming last year at TEB to be frank with Mao. While I think Tarasova’s packaging of Mao’s suck. I think that Mao’s issues here are a lot deeper than that, and I’m not so sure Tarasova should get all the blame here.

    Tarasova is only with Mao part time, to be quite frank. It was Mao’s decision that she only neede a part time coach, I’m sure partly feuled by her 2008 win. (Although she hadn’t been coachless very long in that area and that was a poorly skated worlds)

    I was hoping that the results of last season where Asada finished off the worlds podium would be the wake up call Mao needed. But it wasn’t.

    It seems that Mao not only decided in 2008 to fix her lutz but she also changed the technique on her 3flip which makes it harder to do 3/3s and that’s tenatitive. So right now she’s very much reliant on the 3axel. Sigh.

    This being said Tarasova should have seen how things were going and should have informed the ASada team that Mao needed a fulltime coach.

  4. collapse expand

    Hi Jennifer,
    Mao was touted as the next greatest skater back in 2006. People were upset that she didn’t make the age limitation back then. I often wondered how she would have done if she had been able to compete. I was hoping for great things from her, but she hasn’t been doing all that well, with technical and consistency problems. Obviously Tatiana is not a good match with her, because she seems to be getting worse. And trying to throw in a 3X in order to beat Yu-Na….reminds me of Tonya Harding trying to do the same thing with her 3X. After 1991, Tonya’s 3X was never consistent and I don’t believe she ever landed a clean one in competition again. Mao is doing the same mistake relying on a jump that has not been consistent for her. Too risky for an Olympic year. I don’t know if the Japanese Skating Federation would keep Mao off their team since she was the 2008 World Champion. She might not be their top-ranked skater, but I feel she still might make the Olympic team.
    Jenny, why do you think Johnny Weir is having so much trouble? Do you think he should go back to his old coach? Or does it have something to do with a lack of desire?

    • collapse expand

      I think Weir is struggling with his focus and confidence. He also needs to rework the technique on his triple axel and forget about last year’s mistakes. I think he can rebound. NHK will be telling.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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        I hope he can rework his 3X. He used to have such a beautiful one with gorgeous run-out. I would love for him to medal in Vancouver, but he’s not off to a good start this season. He is so engaging to watch, yet I feel he hasn’t had that ultimate performance that he’s capable of. I would love to see him skate a beautiful program like Boitano did back in the ‘88 Calgary Olympics.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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        Hello Jennifer,

        I love Weir’s skating. I love Sasha Cohen’s skating. Balletic.. But nothing more. When’s the last time you saw either of them with a stand out performance because their skating moved you as if you were watching an actual ballet or opera with a story line. I have few full programs I like from either skater. But I must say.. They are in desperate need branch out beyond into new waters with music, choreography, and costuming.
        I’m not a Michelle Kwan fan but I do admit she’s had the full package when it comes to making great music choices actually work. I loved how she attacked the Red Violin, Salome, Lyra Angelica, and Song of the Black Swan.
        Cohen and Weir shouldn’t be an acception. But Weir shows he is at all times. So much so he puts himself also as a Russian great. In which he’s not. Just because you skate to Russian music or you’ve used music a Russian ballet dancer/skater would perform to doesn’t make you a Russian great.
        Weir needs something he’s totally afraid of. Domination over his blades. Domination over his music. Passion and agressive belief in performing a character which suits music that isn’t being played on a Russian elevator.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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    I give Tarasova credit with adding a dramatic flair to Mao’s skating. I loved her Clair de Lune short program from last year. Not many can pull off the delicate music. Matter of fact I thought Mao actually looked strong last year with having two opposite classical style programs. But this year?? Drama overload?? Mao left Artunian close if not by the 2008 Worlds and she won. Sadly I’m not a fan of Yu Na Kim. Mao actually knows how to carress the ice and point her toes while doing so. She understands the meaning of unforced detail which makes her skating so fantastic.

    I love Sasha Cohen. But what Sasha and any skater has lacked to Mao Asada with over the past years of her skating is that Mao would bring the whole package to competition. The explosive jumps, the beautiful choreography, the suitable costuming.. Now.. Gone. I think the code of points pushed away certain jumps in which she should of just kept them in and faced the point deductions. She still could of won even with wrong edge take off deductions.

    For me.. I think Mao’s old coach Machiko Yamada who also coached jumping bean Midori Ito could be of help. And a the help of using Lori Nichol or perhaps Sandra Bezic could bring back the youthful joy to Asada’s skating.

    I only speak out because I agree she’s one of the most talented skaters in skating’s history. Normally a skater’s technically great and suffers with bad artistry or visa versa. And Mao naturally has the whole package.

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    About Me

    I’m originally from Boston, living in LA, with a passion for the world of figure skating. During my career on the ice, I was a world junior champion, a five-time U.S. national medalist, and a three-time world team member. Since retiring from the sport, I have dedicated myself to attaining my college degree with a major in broadcast journalism. I’m looking forward to sharing my views on the ins and outs of the skating world, along with my opinions and thoughts on various issues coming from the ice. I welcome you to my blog!

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