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Heartbreaking skate for Japan's Miki Ando

Emotional and physical strain too much for defending champ

Miki Ando cries after a disastrous skate at world championships in Sweden.
Miki Ando cries after a disastrous skate at world championships in Sweden. (Getty Images)

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By Alexandra Stevenson, special to icenetwork.com
(03/20/2008) - Defending world champion Miki Ando just couldn't live up to the hype. Whether it was the physical or the emotional strain of competing, well, we'll never know -- but one thing was obvious, Ando's amateur skating day's may be over.

She took the the ice for her four minute Carmen routine, looking elegant and sexy in red and black. But, as a harbinger of things to come, you could just make out a bandage halfway down her left calf.

After two moves: a triple Lutz and triple Salchow, she knew it was over.

The three rotations on the Lutz were complete, but she could not check the landing, and did not try the planned second jump of the combination.

Then she splatted on the ice trying to land the Salchow.

She continued skating, but when she reached the entry to the triple flip, she did not perform the move. Then she went to technical controller, Sissy Krick, and tearfully attempted to explain the situation.

Ando skated to her coach, Nikolai Morosov, he told her to go and curtsy to the audience. As she did the near capacity crowd of 10,000 in the Gothenburg, gave her a huge round of applause.

"I had an injury on my muscle, before the morning practice," Ando explained. "I was warming up. I was pressing. I just can't feel my muscle, but I decided to continue with the competition because this is worlds, and it is important for me.

"Even if I don't win the gold, it is important for me to try. I wasn't thinking of [winning] the championship and things like that. Because I love skating, I just want to show my skating for every people, but this time [it wasn't possible].

"I prepared very well. The jumps were getting better and better. I had cramp on my leg, so the coach [Nikolai Morozov], said that I should withdraw, but I really wanted to be in the competition anyway."

It had been obvious from the warm-up that she had problems.

Rumors that she would withdraw had been circulating all day. She has been plagued all season by a right shoulder injury, and had put off surgery until after this season.

Hidehito Ito, Director of the Japanese Federation, said the 20-year-old, who has trained in the United States since mid 2006, had a strained left leg.

In Thursday's morning's practice, Ando stepped onto the ice, but came off almost immediately.

Ito said that Ando would warm-up for her free skate, and only then, after the allocated six minutes, make her decision whether to continue. She skated the full warm-up, doing two triple Lutzes and a triple flip in the last few seconds.

According to a medical bulletin issued to the press: she suffered from "an acute muscle strain and partial rupture."

Ando did well from an early age. She won bronze, silver and gold in the World Junior Championships, 2002-2004.

This was her fourth appearance at worlds.

Before winning gold last year in her home country's capital, Tokyo, she finished fourth in her debut in 2004, and was sixth in 2005. But after a disastrous performance in the Olympic Games in Torino, she was withdrawn from the 2006 worlds.

Ando was eighth after Wednesday's short program, where she presented a triple Lutz combined with a double toe loop, instead of the expected triple.

At that time she said, "I intended to do a triple-double in the combination, so it wasn't a mistake."

She also had a very uncharacteristic wobble on her flying sit spin. She explained that flaw with: "I was a bit tired in my leg."

She is best known for becoming the first, and only woman, to land a quad Salchow in international competition. But that was in 2002, and, as she grew, she was unable to repeat that feat in any ISU sanctioned competition.

Nikolai Morozov began training Ando in 2006. He had previously promised that Ando would try the quad Salchow in Gothenburg, in honor of Ulrich Salchow, a Swede, who invented the single version of this jump at the beginning of the 20th Century.

It was a pipe dream.

The question now is can she return? Does she even want to?

Ando gave an interview to icenetwork.com after the NHK Trophy where she questioned her future in competitive skating: "I was questioning myself during the summer on why I was doing all of these competitions and practice. It is not that I want to quit, but my body and mind are not in unison."