Reigning Olympic silver medalist and figure skating superstar Mao Asada currently sits in 16th place following Wednesday's ladies' short program at the Iceberg Skating Palace in Sochi.
Asada fell during her routine, as Christine Brennan of USA Today notes, which impacted her score, forcing her to make up ground. Action will pick back up with the free skate on Thursday at 7 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET).
And now, Mao Asada...and the 3 axel? Up she goes. And down. A fall.— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 19, 2014
Asada's routine puts her way off of the top, as Yuna Kim of South Korea, Adelina Sotnikova of Russia, Carolina Kostner of Italy and Gracie Gold of the United States top the leaderboard after the short program.
|1||Yuna Kim||South Korea||74.92|
|4||Gracie Gold||United States||68.63|
|6||Ashley Wagner||United States||65.21|
|7||Polina Edmunds||United States||61.04|
|9||Mae Berenice Meite||France||58.63|
The 23-year-old Japanese skater was one of the favorites to medal in ladies' singles and had high hopes for the podium since opting to mix up her routine. According to Associated Press sports reporter Rachel Cohen via ABCNews.com, Asada has placed an added emphasis on variety as opposed to difficulty: "At this Olympics, I want to show all my jumps."
Mao Asada practice: I saw 4 good triple Axels, two 2A 3T combos, 1 nice 3Salchow (another one was 2 foot) two 2 3Flip3loop combos #Sochi2014— Lynn Rutherford (@LynnRutherford) February 17, 2014
But while Asada hopes to showcase her wide array of jumps in Sochi this February, she's gained immense confidence in her triple axel, which she'll continue to utilize moving forward, per Cohen:
"I don't think it's a big burden for me. I want to stay strong, because I want to do the jump. I really want to do the jump this time."
Mao Asada said today she will do only one triple axel in free so she will have time to show her mastery of all other jumps.— Philip Hersh (@olyphil) February 17, 2014
Asada's strong performance in the ladies' short program in the team competition during the first week in Sochi had also contributed to rising expectations.
There's no doubt that Asada possesses the ideal combination of experience and skill to finish strong in the free program on Thursday. However, she'll have a massive battle, and will continue to compete against stiff competition, headlined by reigning Olympic gold medalist Yuna Kim of Korea, Gracie Gold of the United States and Russian prodigy Julia Lipnitskaia, among others.
Why is everyone talking about a showdown exclusively between Julia Lipniskaya and Yuna Kim? Do they think Mao Asada just dropped out?— Ellen Brayer (@sunnyskatesells) February 18, 2014
And despite the fact that Asada is only 23 and skating in her second Winter Games, it's obvious that Thursday's performance will go a long way in shaping her legacy after Wednesday's shocking result.
Another medal would have certainly added to Asada's impressive resume, which features two World Championships and a wealth of first-time accomplishments in the sport, including becoming the first woman to land two triple axel jumps in the same program.
At the same time, a disappointing performance could spell the end of Asada's Olympic journey. Unlike Grand Prix events and World Championships, the Games don't come around very often, and depending on how she responds on Thursday, 2014 could potentially be her last appearance on the sport's grandest stage or the continuation of a magical run.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.