Asada leads Japan sweep at Four Continents

Former two-time world champion Mao Asada led Japan's medal sweep in the women's singles at the Four Continents championships, remaining unbeaten with five wins in the pre-Olympic season.

Cushioned by a comfortable lead from the short programme and skating to Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake", the 2012 Grand Prix Final winner topped the free skating table with 130.96 points for a two-day total of 205.45.

But Asada, who landed her trademark triple axel for the first time in two years in the short programme on Saturday, under-rotated the high-scoring 3.5-revolution jump as one of a few flaws in her long programme.

Akiko Suzuki, the 2012 world bronze medallist, marked the second best free-skate score of 124.43 points to finish second overall at 190.08.

Another Japanese national Kanako Murakami, the 2010 world junior champion, came in third overall as she did in the short programme with a total of 181.03.

Asada's winning total was the season's best in the world and close to her personal best of 205.50 scored at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics where the 2008 and 2010 world champion finished runner-up to South Korea's Kim Yu-Na.

"I performed superbly in the short programme but I skated the free programme just like I did in training. I should still aim higher," 22-year-old Asada said.

Just after opening her free skate with a clean triple loop, she under-rotated and two-footed on landing a triple axel to show that Asada, the only female skater who regularly attempts the jump, has work to do.

Her triple-triple attempt stopped short by under-rotating the second jump, and used the wrong edge in landing a triple lutz. But she hit a maximum level-four in three spins along the way to top the field in both technical and artistic elements.

Asada had refrained from attempting the triple axel this season until the Four Continents because she frequently bungled the high-scoring jump in the past two seasons after her duel with Kim in Vancouver.

"I want to jump the triple axel at the world championships. I will work hard so that I may be able to perform better still," she said.

She will clash with Kim at the worlds next month in London, Ontario. The South Korean, also 22, hailed at home as "Queen Yu-Na", made her comeback after a break of two seasons in a second-tier competition in December.

But she skipped this annual event which brings together talent from the non-European continents.

It was the third Four Continents title for Asada and the first in three years.

Asada has won two Grand Prix titles in China and Japan as well as the Grand Prix Final and the national championship so far this season.

Canada's national champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won the pairs title with a total score of 199.18 points.

Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, the runners-up to Duhamel and Radford at the Canadian nationals last month, topped the free skating table but finished second overall on 196.78 points.

The ice dance title went to the US duo of Meryl Davis and Charlie White as they came from behind to overtake the short-dance leaders -- Olympic and world ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.

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