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Ando heads to Japan to heal injured shoulder

World champion hurt shoulder last month

Miki Ando's secret weapon at worlds will be a quad-Salchow.
Miki Ando's secret weapon at worlds will be a quad-Salchow. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Jack Gallagher / icenetwork.com Japan correspondent
(11/03/2007) - YOKOHAMA, Japan -- World champion Miki Ando, who placed second to Kimmie Meissner in the Grand Prix season-opening Skate America last weekend, has cancelled plans for a training camp in France with coach Nikolai Morozov and will return to Japan soon to receive treatment on her injured right shoulder.

Ando originally injured the shoulder in a fall at the Shin-Yokohama Skate Center the night before last month's U.S.-Japan International Counter Match. She then fell on the same shoulder again during her performance the next day.

Despite winning the free program at Skate America, Ando told reporters afterward that she "wasn't feeling well and may need surgery on her shoulder." Ominous words from the world champion at any time, but especially this early in the season.

Fortuitous naming: Opportunity sometimes arises in the most unusual of places. In the case of skating sisters Mao and Mai Asada, it came in the name of their dog Aero. Mao, who signed a contract last year to endorse Nestle products in Japan, has been joined by her older sister to promote the recently released "Nestle Aero Twin Pack" chocolate bars.

At the news conference introducing the new product, Mao said, "I'm happy that we'll appear in the television commercials with our dog." Added Mai, "I love Aero chocolates, so I'm glad to promote this new product with Mao and Aero."

All in the family, indeed.

Comeback confirmed: Japan Skating Federation (JSF) officials have confirmed that Nobunari Oda, who was suspended for the Grand Prix season after being arrested for drunken driving back in July, will return to the ice for the Japan national championships next month.

The 20-year-old Oda, the second-ranked male skater in Japan behind world championship runner-up Daisuke Takahashi, will have a chance to earn a ticket to the world championships in Sweden next March when he competes in the event at Namihaya Dome in his native Osaka.

Oda, who won Skate America last season, but finished a disappointing 7th at the world championships in Tokyo, will be looking for redemption both on and off the ice.

Hope on the horizon: A JSF member who wished to remain anonymous has given some hope that Tokyo's longtime lack of a top-class arena for figure skating could be solved in the coming years. As part of the Japan Olympic Committee's bid to host the 2016 Summer Games, the member said Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara wants to construct a state-of-the art arena in the Ariake area of the city that could also be used for skating and ice hockey.

This is welcome news to the long-suffering skating fans in the Kanto area, many of whom were shut out of the world championships in March, which were held in the Tokyo Metropolitan Gym. Officials said then that that venue held just under 7,000, but many of those seats went to sponsors, officials and the various federations, leaving many of the average fans out in the cold.

A new, multipurpose arena in Tokyo could help the city attract major events in the future, including world championships and Grand Prix competitions.

Keeping busy: Shizuka Arakawa, the 2006 Olympic gold medalist, is keeping a hectic schedule these days, more than 18 months after making history as the first Asian female to win the gold.

After providing television commentary on the recent U.S.-Japan International Counter Match, Arakawa returned to Italy for the first time since that glorious night. She performed in the "Golden Skate Awards" shows in Milan and Turin. Arakawa then returned to Japan to commentate on Skate America.

Japan's golden girl is scheduled to skate in "Christmas on Ice 2007" next month in Yokohama, along with fellow Olympic champions Ilia Kulik (1998 - Nagano) and Yevgeny Plushenko (2006 - Turin).

So close: Now retired Takeshi Honda, the fourth-place finisher at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, is still a visible figure on the skating scene here. In addition to doing television work, Honda regularly skates in ice shows.

The Fukushima native, who was a four-time Japanese champion and also competed in the Nagano Games, was a gifted athlete who just missed out on true glory.

When asked recently about Honda, Nikolai Morozov, the coach of both Miki Ando and Daisuke Takahashi, shook his head and thought of what might have been.

"He was really a very talented skater," said Morozov. "It was too bad that he was always injured or had something else happen to him. He never had a long time to be focused and prepared for some goal. He could have won an Olympic medal."