In a practice rink with windows all around, the sun finally streaming in to ease the chill, skates Mao Asada, forgotten by too many.
Asada hasn’t stormed the place in her last few efforts. But look at her schedule: after sitting out a season (and Patrick Chan knows how hard that is to do), Asada looked like her old self in the first Grand Prix event, the Cup of China last fall.
Then she had to compete in three events where first, she faced the intense scrutiny of Japanese fans at the NHK Trophy. Then she suffered gastroenteritis at the Grand Prix Final, when she finished sixth of six. Japanese nationals? Another toughie, at home. She was third to the sprite, Satoko Miyahara. Exhaustion from all of this? Who would be surprised?
Asada, admitting her motivation was slipping, skipped the Four Continents championship in Taiwan to focus on this world championship in Boston this week.
So here she was in Boston, floating through the icy air in practice tights and a simple pink top. Hair up in a ponytail. No adornment. No fur. No frippery. She took her opening pose and held it, blinked those eyes, and thought and blinked, staring softly at something nobody else could see. There was something magical about that, somehow. Then the music started.
She was Queen of all she surveyed. I lost myself in her routine, carried by her grace. Time went by in a flash. Words barely measure up. Yes, yes, she was doing triple Axels and they looked good today. But it was more than that. It was the stretch of an arm, of her body, of a pure glance, unfettered by -just about anything glances can be fettered by. She softly whirs through a jump. That’s what it feels like to watch. You can feel what it looks like.
She says she’s going to 2018, that is, she humbly admits “if I make the team.” Yes, she knows she’s the elder now at age 25, what with all of these precocious youngsters raising the dust around her.
She’s very happy to be here, she says. She just wants to perform her best, she adds. Where she finishes is not important to her.
But what she does and how she does it so very, very important.