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Figure skating: Asada to sit out competitions next year

Japanese figure skating world champion Mao Asada will sit out competitive figure skating next season but will take part in potentially lucrative commercial ice shows in the coming months, a report said Monday.

TOKYO: Japanese figure skating world champion Mao Asada will sit out competitive figure skating next season but will take part in potentially lucrative commercial ice shows in the coming months, a report said Monday.

Asada won her third women's world figure skating title in March before a roaring home crowd, springing back from a disappointing result at the Sochi Olympics in February.

The day after her victory, Asada said she needed more time to decide when to retire from competition.

"What I feel is that I need some rest now," the 23-year-old told reporters during an exhibition after the season-closing world figure skating championships in Saitama near Tokyo.

Asada, the runner-up to South Korean star Kim Yuna at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, has kept her fans and skating officials in suspense by saying she had a "50-50 chance" of continuing to compete after this season.

She will announce Monday that she will not take part in competitive figure skating next season, Japanese sports daily Nikkan Sports said, opting instead to front a series of ice shows.

The young skater will take a break after performing in ice shows in Kazakhstan later this month, creating a new exhibition programme next month in Canada and performing in three Japanese cities in July, the report said.

Asada has been a poster girl for Japanese figure skating since winning her first Grand Prix Final title in 2005 to begin a longtime rivalry with Kim, a fellow 23-year-old.

She is the only woman to regularly attempt the difficult but high-scoring triple axel in top competitions.

But the 3.5-rotation jump has often ruined her performances in recent years, although she won the US and Japanese Grand Prix events and the Grand Prix final this season without clean triple-axel jumps.

Kim retired from competition after finishing runner-up in Sochi to Russia's 17-year-old Adelina Sotnikova amid a judging controversy.

If Asada retires, it would leave Japan without a top female skater after producing five world champions and one Olympic gold medallist. Shizuka Arakawa became the first woman from Asia to win the Olympic title at Turin in 2006.

In Sochi in February, Asada botched her trademark triple axel and other jumps to stand a lowly 16th after the short programme. But she came back brilliantly in the free skate to finish sixth overall.

She improved further at the world championships before her home fans.

Asada broke Kim's short programme world record and topped the free skate section to win her third women's title following her triumphs in 2008 and 2010.

She has said her free skating in Sochi and her overall performance in Saitama was the level she had been seeking to produce ever since Vancouver.

"I am finally beginning to really get a grip of how I can perform," she said in March.

"But you need to set a goal and have a lot of determination to stay on. If such things don't come out naturally, I don't think I can do it," she added at the time.

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