Winter Games Athletes
A two-time world champion and the reigning Olympic silver medalist, Asada is a true icon in Japan and one of the favorites to win gold in Sochi. Asada is the fifth woman in history to land a triple axel in an international competition, and the risk associated with that rare move has made her a figure skating legend and one of her country’s most popular athletes. She’s finished off the podium just six times in 38 international tournaments, winning gold in 19 of those - including seven in eight events over the last two seasons. Asada has dominated the Japanese championships, winning six golds and three silvers from 2004-12. Her lone misstep of the past few years, though, came at nationals in December. Asada finished third behind fellow Olympians Akiko Suzuki and Kanako Murakami, and there’s a belief that her signature triple axel is no longer the benefit that it used to be. Lately, she’s either fallen, put her hands on the ice too soon or not completed the required 3 ½ rotations, hurting her overall score. She was landing the triple with regularity at the 2010 Vancouver Games - Asada nailed three overall, including two during her long program - but still couldn’t come close to South Korean rival Kim Yu-na, who set a world record in cruising to the gold. That second-place finish has stuck with Asada for the past four years, and she has come back strong despite contemplating retirement after her mother’s death in 2011. But improving on her silver from four years ago won’t be easy with Yu-na again the favorite going in. Asada may have to land the triple axel multiple times to stand a chance at unseating Yu-na, but she’ll absolutely be expected to finish on the podium again in what will be her last major competition before hanging up her skates for good.