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Asada, Takahashi clean up in Osaka

Mao Asada won her second straight national title at the Japan championships in Osaka.
Mao Asada won her second straight national title at the Japan championships in Osaka. (Getty Images)

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By Jack Gallagher
(12/29/2007) - Mao Asada won her second straight national title and Daisuke Takahashi captured his third consecutive crown at the recently concluded Japan championships in Osaka.

Asada, the silver medalist at last year's world championships, used a big lead she built up in the short program on Thursday to hold off resurgent world champion Miki Ando at Namihaya Dome on Friday night.

Yukari Nakano came in third to make the results of the top three finishers exactly the same as they were in 2006.

Five-time national champion Fumie Suguri was fourth, with Nana Takeda placing sixth.

Asada led Ando by 4.24 points after the short program and needed every bit of it to emerge victorious after singling her opening triple axel and stumbling on the landing of her first combination jump.

Asada won with a total score of 205.33 to Ando's 204.18. Nakano's total was 184.31. All three secured trips to the world championships in Goteborg, Sweden, with their results.

"I'm very happy that I won back-to-back titles in a major competition like this for the first time," Asada said. "I knew I needed to get back on my feet when I couldn't get the triple axel done earlier in my program. That's the jump I really want to perform without a mistake at the world championships."

Ando was the last of 24 skaters to take the ice and bounced back from her calamitous outing at the NHK Trophy earlier this month with an inspired performance that included six triple jumps and resulted in a standing ovation.

Despite not winning, two-time national champion Ando was the story of the event. Just three short weeks after questioning her future in skating after the fiasco in Sendai, she put her outstanding jumping and excellent presentation skills on display for all to see.

It was exactly that kind of showing that keeps her legion of fans constantly perplexed.

"I'm totally happy with this result, which enabled me to skate in the world championships," Ando said. "I just tried to do my best after failing to make it to the Grand Prix Final and I guess I was able to give nearly 100 percent tonight."

Nakano was fourth after the short program, but used her strong free skate to vault over Suguri and earn a ticket to the worlds.

Takahashi, the silver medalist at last year's worlds in Tokyo, nailed two quadruple jumps in his free skate Thursday on the way to racking up a huge victory over 2006 world junior champion Takahiko Kozuka. Takahashi's winning total was 254.54, while Kozuka scored 219.34; Yasuharu Nanri finished third with 199.81.

Takahashi became the first Japanese man in 15 years to win three titles in a row, equaling the feat of Masakazu Kagiyama.

"I got two quads done in one program for the first time in my life and I'm very happy with it," Takahashi said. "The success in the quads at the national meet is a huge plus for the future of my career. But it made me tired and affected my steps and spins."

Takahashi's longtime rival Nobunari Oda, who was suspended for the Grand Prix Season by the Japan Skating Federation for a drunk-driving arrest, was scheduled to make his return to competition at the nationals, but withdrew.

He issued a statement saying, "I want to be fair to those who have competed all season."

Japanese-Americans Cathy and Chris Reed, skating for Japan via their dual nationality, were the lone entrants in the ice dance competition and recorded a score of 166.41.