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Asada has strong free skate, finishes 6th overall

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Mao Asada's music ended, and she burst into tears.

The two-time world champion did her free skate in an unfamiliar setting Thursday: the second of the four groups. Her short program fell apart after she tumbled on her trademark triple axel, but back on the ice a day later, she nailed this most difficult of jumps.

"With this performance, I could thank all the people who supported me all this time," she said through a translator. Asada was third in the free skate with 142.71 points but, mired in 16th place after Wednesday, she finished sixth overall.

She expected that she would eventually find joy from toughing out Thursday's performance. But it was hard to forget that her short program cost her a chance at the podium. "Today I still feel disappointed," she said. "Of course I'm thinking about the medal."

She won silver at the 2010 Olympics, a distant second behind Yuna Kim, when it was her other jumps, not the 3½-rotation triple axel, that caused her some problems. On Thursday, she landed everything. After Asada flopped in the short program, former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, the head of Tokyo's 2020 Olympic organizing committee, said she has a habit of "always falling at the most critical time." He blamed Asada's mistakes on her participation in the earlier team event in Sochi.

On Thursday, Asada spoke only of the support she had received from friends, fans, even former coaches. The 23-year-old Japanese skater said she plans to compete at the world championships in her home country in March but hasn't decided what to do after that.

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