Japanese figure skating star Mao Asada came up short in her second bid for Olympic hardware at the 2014 Winter Games on Thursday, finishing sixth and striking out on the podium in the ladies' singles free skate in Sochi. Asada scored 142.71 in her free skate, a stellar score, but a poor short program score doomed her from getting a medal.
Adelina Sotnikova of Russia took home the gold, while Yuna Kim of South Korea took the silver and Italy's Carolina Kostner won the bronze.
Liz Clarke of the Washington Post summed things up beautifully:
Mao Asada wept after technically dazzling free skate (142.71 pts). A poor short Wed puts her out of medal-range, but a brilliant bounceback!— Liz Clarke (@lizclarketweet) February 20, 2014
The result comes as a surprise considering the 23-year-old entered the 2014 Games as a favorite in the event after taking home silver in Vancouver.
While there's no taking anything away from the stellar competition, Asada's missed opportunities at the Iceberg Skating Palace throughout the ladies' singles competition on Wednesday and Thursday can be attributed to several factors.
One notable factor is her increased emphasis on variety.
Prior to the start of her short program on Wednesday, Asada made it known that she was looking to showcase her versatility in this year's event rather than moving forward with her traditional routine that often featured multiple triple Axel jumps, per Associated Press sports reporter Rachel Cohen via ABCNews.com: "At this Olympics, I want to show all my jumps."
However, confidence wasn't an issue for the two-time Olympian when it came to performing her most challenging jump, 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."
After missing out on the podium in the first-ever team competition during the first weekend of the Sochi Winter Olympics—Asada would fall on her triple Axel attempt in the short program en route to Japan's fifth-place finish—the two-time world champion in ladies' singles appeared more motivated than ever to secure a piece of hardware for her country. Unfortunately, Asada was unable to build on her silver-medal-winning performance in Vancouver.
Asada's departure from the sport is a sad one, as she had high hopes heading into Sochi. The 23-year-old will leave a lasting legacy, and delivered the kind of performance we knew she was capable of when she arrived at these games. While she could still return to the sport, her performance was a fitting departure from the Olympic stage.
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