This Japanese figure skater is one of the brightest young gold medal prospects for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.
Mao Asada was born in Nagoya, Japan, and was named after the Japanese actress Mao Daichi. She originally practised ballet, but was inspired to switch to skating in 1995 when her elder sister – who would also become an elite figure skater ¬¬– made the same transition.
In the 2004–2005 season, Asada competed in the ISU Junior Grand Prix, winning the final ahead of South Korea’s Kim Yu-Na, who is now one of her main rivals on the senior circuit.
Since joining the senior ranks, Asada has won the Japanese National title (2006, 2007 & 2008), and the World Figure Skating Championship (2008) amongst numerous other titles. She also pulled off the unique achievement of landing two triple axels in the same programme at an ISU competition.
Since 2007, Asada has trained under Russian coach Tatiana Tarasova. This move should give her the greatest possible chance of success, as Tarasova has coached more world and Olympic champions than any other coach, earning her the nickname “The Champion Maker”.