Feb 23, 2014

UPDATED: Redemption

Will Leitch on Mao Asada:
One of the favorites coming into the Games, Asada had a disastrous short program yesterday and is all the way down at 16th place, essentially eliminating any chance at a medal. She had little reason other than pride to keep going.
And then there is a moment that it clicks.
Asada is the one person in this whole field who does the triple axel -- the most difficult move in the sport; only five women have ever done it international competition, including Asada -- and when she takes off and nails it 10 seconds in, suddenly, this unseasoned observer no longer finds anything funny or unusual about this sport: It is simply beautiful. For the next four minutes, Asada glides about a foot above the ice, flying around the arena, rising into the rafters, lifting out of the arena and into the sky. You will not convince me this did not happen.
The best part about watching an event like this in person is that you do not have the artificial viewpoint of the closeup. You are watching, from beginning to end, a choreographed routine, something that has been fussed over and altered and honed to perfection by people who have devoted their lives to this work. It is, more than anything, a story. When it clicks -- and if you are here, it will click for you -- figure skating seems to represent the most logical, natural movements a body can make. You stop counting falls and making snide observations about the atmosphere. You stop doing much of anything but watch.
Asada's routine, which earned the third-highest free skate score of the day (behind only the gold and silver Medalists), made everything fall into place. This is why they're all cheering. I stood at attention and found myself profoundly grateful to be there.
Her choice of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto 2 is an inspired one given her recent struggles. (Rachmaninoff is said to have composed this piece during a period of severe depression and writer's block.)
Mao Asada's long program, which I saw at around 12:30 AM, was beautiful, gutsy and emotional.  The biggest injustice of Sochi 2014 was not Adelina Sotnikova beating (Queen) Kim Yuna to win the Olympic gold in women's figure skating. It was the judges not giving Empress Mao the highest score of the night for her free skate. It was, in my humble and amateur figure skating expert opinion, the best performance of the competition. It was simply phenomenal. 
Mao's Olympic 2014 experience teaches us a lot of life lessons. We all have tough times. It's about coming through that. A few mistakes does not tarnish an impressive body of work. The triple axel, as many say, is both her strength and weakness. She was stubborn and lived and died with it. While it ruined her short program, landing the triple axel in her long program made her a legend. Mao may not have won a medal and defeated her long-time rival, Yuna, but she came out as a winner in her own right.  

I'll end this article with the following quote from Joe Posnanski:
In many ways this was my favorite moment of the Olympics. If I could bring back one thing from Sochi for our girls it is this lesson. Always try, even when it seems pointless. You never know when you might do something beautiful.

Mao just skated to Smile and What A Wonderful World in the Gala. Her music choices are just the best, you guys. 

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