Japanese figure skating star Mao Asada signaled her return from a long slump by placing second in Japan's National Figure Skating Championships on Sunday. She scored 127.47 in the free skate on Sunday, which together with the 66.22 she earned in the short program brought her total gain to 193.69 points, just 8.65 points shy of winner Miki Ando.
This season has been near devastating for Asada. The 20-year-old Olympic silver medalist and World Champion came in eighth in the first ISU Grand Prix event of the season, the NHK Trophy, and fifth in the sixth event, the Trophée Eric Bompard. Her chances of making the national team for the 2011 ISU World Championships in March next year were unsure.
But with Sunday's finish she effectively clinched one of the three spots on the national team, and will face her archrival Kim Yu-na, the 2010 Olympic champion who is scheduled to return to competitive skating in the World Championships.
Asada, who was the leader in the short program on Saturday, delivered a solid extended program on Sunday and was hoping to be crowned the national champion for a fifth consecutive year. However, 23-year-old Ando, who was second after the short program with 64.76 points, landed six triple jumps and received 137.58 for the free skate. With a total score of 202.34 points, she toppled the long-reigning Asada and grabbed her first national identify since 2004.