Uemura lifts silver in World Cup

first_img IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 MADARAO, Nagano Pref. – Japan’s Aiko Uemura placed second in the women’s dual moguls at a World Cup freestyle skiing event on Saturday.Compatriot Tae Satoya failed to go beyond the second qualifying round. In the men’s field, Yugo Tsukita, who claimed the silver medal at the World Championships earlier this month for the best finish ever by a Japanese man at the worlds, was fourth. center_img GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMESlast_img

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Double for Yining at Japan Open

first_img GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 KOBE – China’s Zhang Yining, who won both the women’s singles and the doubles at the Athens Olympics, captured her first singles title of the Ogimura Cup Japan Open table tennis tournament on Sunday.The 22-year-old Zhang, ranked No. 1 in the world, brushed aside fellow Chinese Niu Jianfeng 4-0 in the final at Kobe City Central Gymnasium for her 16th singles title on the International Table Tennis Federation pro tour.last_img read more

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Tiger ready to roar again at Dunlop Phoenix

first_imgMIYAZAKI – Tiger Woods will be looking to reproduce the kind of performance that helped end his longest drought since turning professional when he begins his defense of the Dunlop Phoenix title on Thursday.Woods’ eight-shot victory at last year’s tournament, his first in Japan, halted a run of 20 straight stroke-play events without a win and put him back on track to return to the top of the world. GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5center_img The 29-year-old world No. 1 reclaimed top spot in the money rankings by beating Phil Mickelson at the Ford Championship at Doral in March and has captured six titles this year, including two majors — the Masters and the British Open.After second-place finishes in his last two events at the Tour Championship and last week’s HSBC Champions in Shanghai, Woods was confident he could win at Phoenix Country Club in the southern Japanese resort of Miyazaki.“It would be nice. I’m starting to play a little bit better. Some of the things I’ve been working on this fall are starting to come together, which is exciting,” Woods told reporters Wednesday.“Last week (in Shanghai) I hit the ball very well but just didn’t quite make enough putts. Hopefully with the greens being a little bit faster and smoother I can hit the ball the same as last week and make a few putts,” added the 10-time major winner.This year’s event has a stronger field with New Zealander Michael Campbell, who shattered Woods’ hopes of an annual grand slam with a two-stroke victory at the U.S. Open, European No. 1 Colin Montgomery and American Jim Furyk also appearing at the 200 million yen tournament.“Certainly we have got more major championship winners here and the field’s gotten stronger and I think this is going to be a wonderful tournament,” said Woods.“It’s a great tournament each and every year. When you look at the past champions list it’s a pretty impressive list. This year certainly with the field being this deep you would expect it to be tough defending the tournament.”The Dunlop Phoenix is the richest tournament in Japan and the winner will take home 40 million yen on Sunday. last_img read more

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Mitsuka holds on for first win

first_img IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES RIFU, Miyagi Pref. – Tour rookie Yuko Mitsuka hung on to her overnight lead by shooting a 71 to win her first career title with a one-shot victory at the Miyagi TV Dunlop Ladies Open on Sunday. Mitsuka, who stormed into the lead after a second-round 66, carded two birdies and a bogey while fighting off a late charge by Tomoko Kusakabe for a winning total of 8-under-par 208 on the Rifu Golf Club course. Mitsuka kept herself in front with birdies on both of the front-nine par-5s — at Nos. 2 and 8 — before dropping a shot at the ninth. “I have been too nervous to sleep and eat well since last night and I can’t even remember how I played all day,” Mitsuka said.last_img read more

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Mao wins NHK title

first_imgWorld champion Mao Asada came up short in her bid to make history again Saturday night, trying to land two triple axels in her free skate to become the first female ever to accomplish the feat in the same program in international competition, but was still good enough to lead a Japanese sweep in the ladies singles at the NHK Trophy.Skating before a full house at Yoyogi Gymnasium, Mao opened with a clean triple axel, then tried a triple axel/double toe loop combination jump that had the crowd roaring when it looked like she had hit it. However, the second triple axel was downgraded in scoring by the judges, because they felt it wasn’t fully rotated. IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 KEYWORDS Mao Asada Mao performed to “Masquerade Waltz” and had a consistent outing, faltering only at the very end when she wobbled her final element — a foot-changing combination spin — and briefly touched the ice to regain her balance.Mao laughed off the miscue and skated to center ice where she was greeted with a standing ovation from a raucous crowd.Mao became the first female to hit two triple axels in the same program on Christmas Day 2005, when she did it in the Japan national championships at the same venue. The achievement remains unequaled to this day.“I had a lot of confidence coming in,” said Mao, who won with a score of 191.13. “I decided before the event to try the two triple axels.“After France I practiced my jumps real hard,” Mao noted. “I got a lot of support from the fans here and that helped me. I will continue practicing my jumps for the next event.”The victory earned Mao a trip to next month’s Grand Prix Final, where she will be joined by 2007 world champion Miki Ando, Yukari Nakano, South Korea’s Kim Yu Na, Canada’s Joannie Rochette and Italy’s Carolina Kostner.Kim, who won both Skate America and the Cup of China this season, is the two-time defending GP Final champion and will be competing on home ice in Goyang, South Korea, when she tries for her third straight title next month.Akiko Suzuki, skating in her first Grand Prix event here, came in a surprising second at 167.64, and Yukari Nakano (166.87) was third.Nakano put on a much more spirited showing this night in her free skate to “Giselle” after coming in fifth in the short program. She changed her planned opening triple axel to a double, and was also downgraded on a triple flip, but mustered enough effort to make the podium.“I was feeling pressure this morning,” said Nakano. “But before I went on the ice tonight my coach (Nobuo Sato) told me, ‘You have worked so hard, so please reset your mind.’ This comment really motivated me.”By finishing third, Nakano knocked compatriot Fumie Suguri out of a spot in the GP Final.U.S. senior champion Mirai Nagasu had a calamitous outing which saw her fall twice and appear generally out of sorts on the way to finishing eighth.Nagasu, who was a disappointing fifth at Skate America, has struggled with a growth spurt of 7 cm since last year which has made it difficult to retain her balance on jumps.“I’m disappointed,” said a tearful and clearly shaken Nagasu afterward. “I had a bone bruise on my right ankle during the summer and took a lot of rest. As a result, I don’t have the stamina and strength on my jumps and it shows.”The 15-year-old dearly wants to skate at the worlds — which will be held in her hometown of Los Angeles — next March, and it was obvious that she is very concerned that her current level of fitness may deprive her of the opportunity.“It would be a dream come true for me to skate in the worlds at home,” she said. “I really want to be there, but I have a lot of work to do.”China’s Qing Pang and Jian Tong held on to their lead after the short program and won the pairs by a significant margin with a total of 186.06.The American team of Rena Inoue and John Baldwin finished second at 161.49 after Baldwin hit the ice on their opening triple toe loop.Inoue was a two-time Olympian (in singles and pairs) for Japan before becoming a U.S. citizen in 2005.The victory earned the Chinese pair a ticket to the GP Final.Italy’s Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali (176.67) prevailed in the ice dance, narrowly edging out France’s Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat (175.42).The Italians secured their spot in South Korea with the win.Japan’s Cathy and Chrs Reed (135.83) were eighth.Nobunari Oda, who won the men’s short program on Friday, will try for his first Grand Prix title since 2006 in Sunday’s free skate. Oda will try to hold off second-place American Johnny Weir and France’s Yannick Ponsero, who is third. Like a queen: Mao Asada skates during her free program during the NHK Trophy at Yoyogi National Gymnasium on Saturday. Asada won the tournament and clinched a spot in next month’s Grand Prix Final. | YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES RELATED PHOTOS Splendid performance: Japan’s Yukari Nakano spins during her free program in the NHK Trophy at Yoyogi National Gymnasium on Saturday. She finished third overall. | KYODO PHOTOlast_img read more

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Okabe stretches win streak to four

first_img IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 SAPPORO (Kyodo) Takanobu Okabe captured his fourth straight domestic event of the season with another convincing win at the Sapporo Olympic Memorial international ski jumping meet on Friday.Okabe, individual gold medalist at the 1995 Nordic world championships and a member of Japan’s 1998 Nagano Olympic gold medal-winning team, had the day’s longest effort of 97.5 meters on both of his jumps on the K-90 Miyanomori hill to earn 262.0 points. GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMESlast_img read more

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Yokota ends drought at Canon Open

first_imgYOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Shinichi Yokota ended a 13-year wait for his second JGTO Tour victory on Sunday, winning the Canon Open by two strokes over Ryo Ishikawa.The 38-year-old Yokota highlighted his final-round 67 with an eagle on the par-4 third hole and finished at 14-under 274 at Totsuka Country Club. Ishikawa, who began the day tied for the lead with Yokota and Hideto Tanihara, birdied five of the last six holes in his fourth straight 69.“It was surprising that I was drawing some cheers from the gallery while playing in the same final group with Ryo-kun,” Yokota said. “I failed to keep my place on the tour once, and then I learned I had to work harder on my game. I feel like years of effort finally paid off.” IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5center_img GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMESlast_img read more

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Perske arrested on drug charges

first_imgJapanese media report that Australian professional golfer Wayne Perske has been arrested on suspicion of cocaine possession.Perske, 36, was found to have 1.25 grams of cocaine in his pocket at a bar in Chiba Prefecture on Friday evening, Kyodo News Saturday. He was quoted as telling investigators he intended to take the drug himself. GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5center_img Perske was in Japan for the Bridgestone Open but he failed to make the cut.A customer at the bar reported to police that a foreigner was in possession of a suspicious substance, leading officers to search and arrest him.Perske, 36, is from Brisbane, Queensland state and he turned pro in 2000. Japan Golf Tour chairman Tadashi Koizumi told reporters that Perske’s arrest is “embarassing” and that the association would also consider a “severe punishment” for him.Japan has a strict drug policy and has taken a tough line with famous figures in the past. last_img read more

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Mao needs victory at NHK Trophy to regain confidence

first_img RELATED PHOTOS IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES KEYWORDS Mao Asada center_img Instead, Mao went on to endure the worst season of her competitive career. For the first time since the 2002-03 season, she failed to win an event.Last year’s NHK Trophy foreshadowed the trouble that loomed ahead. Mao placed eighth, her lowest finish in an event since the Japan nationals during the 2003-04 season when she was just 13 years old.The disastrous result assured she would not make the Grand Prix Final for the second straight year. The following month, Mao came in fifth at the Trophee Bompard in Paris.There was a slight uptick midseason at the Japan nationals and Four Continents, where Mao was second behind Ando in both events. But any hopes of salvaging the campaign came to a crashing halt at the delayed world championships in Moscow in April, where Mao took sixth as Ando claimed her second world crown.Mao begins this season at a crossroads. With Kim and Ando both electing not to compete in 2011-12, Mao would seem to have a clear path to her third world title. But as history has taught us, the road to glory can be filled with many obstacles, especially in the form of younger competitors.So which Mao will fans see in Sapporo?Will it be the confident two-time world champion?Or the inconsistent performer of last season?Mao’s primary competition at the NHK Trophy will come from Olympic teammate Akiko Suzuki, who was second at Skate Canada two weeks ago, American Ashley Wagner, third at Skate Canada, Russia’s Alena Leonova and Finland’s Kiira Korpi.In years past, Mao would have been the prohibitive favorite going up against this field, but at 21 she is now faced with the prospect of having to prove herself all over again. The 2014 Sochi Games are more than two years away, which is an absolute eternity in skating.Mao would go a long way to silencing the doubters with a decisive victory. The nation will be tuned in again to see if this is the beginning of the end for its favorite female athlete, or the start of the journey to greater glory in Russia 27 months from now.Here’s hoping it’s the Mao of old, who helped propel skating to incredible heights with her talent and charisma. No matter the sport, people everywhere love a comeback. There is nothing like seeing great athletes do it like they used to.The men’s field in Sapporo is strong, with the likes of 2010 world champion and Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi and compatriot Takahiko Kozuka, the silver medalist at last season’s worlds, going up against Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic and American Brandon Mroz.Takahashi finished third at Skate Canada, while Kozuka took third at Skate America.Germany’s Robin Szolkowy and Aliona Savchenko, the reigning world champions, will face off with Russia’s Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov in the pairs, where Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran will represent Japan.Maia and Alex Shibutani of the United States, who came in second at the Cup of China, will take on Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje in the ice dance. Cathy and Chris Reed are entered for Japan.Wise decision: Ando’s announcement last week that she was going to sit out the entire season to recharge her batteries for Sochi was the right move.After skating competitively nonstop for nearly 12 years, and coming off an absolutely incredible season, Ando consulted with coach Nikolai Morozov and arrived at the decision.She will not skate in the Japan nationals in Osaka next month, and therefore won’t be able to represent Japan at the world championships in Nice, France, next March.Ando’s success last season was a testament to her fortitude and the genius of Morozov, who made all the right moves. With many feeling Ando’s best days were behind her, she summed up a season for the ages. Her victory over Kim at the worlds was both fitting and poignant.The big picture: The city of Fukuoka has stated its interest in hosting the 2013 Grand Prix Final, the last major event of the next Olympic season. The Japan Skating Federation was cool to the proposal, saying it would have to take into consideration the feasibility of holding the event outside of Tokyo.It is time for the JSF to stop having such a narrow view and taking the easy route. Last season’s world championships, which were to have been in Tokyo before the March 11 disaster hit, were originally slated for Nagano, but swapped with last season’s nationals without explanation.Whether the excuse is cost or convenience, it doesn’t fly. For the benefit of raising interest in the sport and supporting the economy, the JSF should take a broader view and get away from always trying to stage the major events in the nation’s capital.There are a lot of fans in other parts of the country who should have the opportunity to see the elite skaters in person, while there are many in the international skating community who would welcome the chance to see other parts of Japan. Just over one year ago, Mao Asada entered the NHK Trophy coming off her second world title and a silver medal at the Vancouver Olympics. The stage was set for a triumphant return at the Grand Prix event in her hometown of Nagoya.With archrival Kim Yu Na having announced she would sit out the 2010-11 season, and Miki Ando three years removed from winning the world championship, it looked like Mao was poised to dominate her fellow skaters. But it didn’t quite work out that way. Long drought: Mao Asada enters this week’s NHK Trophy looking for her first victory since winning the 2010 world title. | APlast_img read more

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Expert says Nishikori’s rise to elite due to self-belief

first_img RELATED PHOTOS KEYWORDS Kei Nishikori, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Barry Flatman Cool confidence: Kei Nishikori’s improvement over the last two years is due in large part to an increased comfort level with himself, says a longtime observer of the ATP Tour. | AP Madrid, where Nishikori had to retire with a back injury last year while seemingly on the way to victory over Rafael Nadal, will provide a tougher test with Djokovic the only player in the world’s top 10 missing from the field.The tournament in the Spanish capital may well be a defining moment for Nadal this time around. He got lucky last year when Nishikori came up lame, but his poor showing in Barcelona, where he lost in the third round to Italy’s Fabio in straight sets, has many wondering whether he still has the game to win a 10th French Open.After missing several weeks last season due to injury, analysts now are identifying a lack of power in Nadal’s forehand as a key concern ahead of the year’s second Grand Slam. Despite ultimately winning Roland Garros last season after his uneven play on clay, his recent form make the questions about his game legitimate.Meanwhile, with each passing week it seems that Nishikori is garnering greater recognition around the globe for his play. Match Point asked Barry Flatman of the London Sunday Times, one of the most prominent tennis writers in the world, for his thoughts on Nishikori’s climb up the ladder in rankings and respect.“Patience has been necessary but I think we are now entering the period where Nishikori can truly legitimize all the potential he has unquestionably possessed since he first emerged on the world scene,” stated Flatman, who has covered the ATP Tour since 1992.“He is now stronger, both mentally and physically, and the boost in self-belief he gained from reaching the U.S. Open final last year is now there for all to see,” Flatman said. “A lot of people thought he could be a very good player, now were are seeing confirmation of those claims.”Flatman, never one to pull a punch, breaks down Nishikori’s game succinctly.“Nishikori’s strengths are his ball striking, very hard and accurate, his technical expertise and his ability to wear down the opposition,” Flatman noted. “His weaknesses are still a question mark over his physical durability (resilience against injury) and the fact his concentration can still wander at times.”Flatman, who was the inaugural president of the International Tennis Writers Association, puts a great deal of the 25-year-old Nishikori’s development to his personal growth.“The great improvement over the last two years is basically down to maturity and the fact he is now more comfortable in his own skin,” commented Flatman. “Before he was something of a novelty and seemed to be very much aware of all the hype centered around him. Now he seems to have accepted all the interest and is no longer distracted by it. Plus, of course, the presence of Michael Chang in his support team has been a massive positive influence.”Flatman claims that Nishikori, currently ranked No. 5 in the world, has earned the respect of his fellow members in the top 10 with his play.“The top players are not really saying too much about him and there is good reason for that; they now see him as a massive rival,” Flatman said. “There is of course utterances of respect and acknowledgement that Nishikori, by virtue of defending his Barcelona title, must now be viewed as a contender on clay.”There was skepticism about Nishikori’s game up until last summer’s U.S. Open, according to Flatman.“The world’s media were not really sure about Nishikori until New York last year, but he built on that reputation, did well at the ATP Finals in London, and now for the first time is being viewed as a contender for the French, although of course it is still largely perceived as a two-horse race between Djokovic and Nadal,” Flatman stated.With clay courts almost tailor-made for Nishikori’s combination of skill and athleticism, Flatman has him contending for the title at Roland Garros starting later this month.“I see Nishikori as somebody who can go a long way at Roland Garros,” Flatman said. “His draw will obviously be a massive factor but I see him as a potential semifinalist. However do I see him winning? No.“Why? Because I am convinced this is Djokovic’s year to win the one Grand Slam title that has always evaded him.”Book giveaway contest: The Japan Times is offering several readers the chance to win a copy of the recently released Japanese book “The Road to Top” about Kei Nishikori and his rise to become one of the best tennis players in the world.The autobiography traces Nishikori’s life from his days as a youngster playing in Shimane Prefecture to his appearance in last year’s U.S. Open final.The book covers the many challenges the superstar encountered along the way, including the surgery on his right elbow that sidelined him for most of the 2009 season.The 370-page tome, which quickly became a best seller, was written with veteran tennis writer Hidehiro Akiyama and published by Bungeishunju.Several pages of color photos are included showing Nishikori at various stages of his career.To enter the drawing for the books, please send an email with your name and address to: sports@japantimes.co.jp with “The Road to Top” entered in the subject line.The contest is open to both domestic and overseas readers.Making progress: Taro Daniel won the first Challenger title of his career last month on clay in Vercelli, Italy. The Japanese-American beat Italian Filippo Volandri 6-3, 1-6, 6-4.Daniel, whose father is American and mother is Japanese, was born in New York but lived in Nagoya as a youngster. He now resides in Valencia, Spain, where he is coached by Jose Altur.The 22-year-old Daniel, who stands 190 cm, is currently ranked 169th in the world. He was on Japan’s Davis Cup team for last year’s World Group quarterfinal tie with the Czech Republic. Latest feat: Kei Nishikori lifts the winner’s trophy after claiming the Barcelona Open singles title on April 26. | AP Kei Nishikori’s impressive performance in winning the Barcelona Open for the second straight year and the withdrawal of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic have made the Shimane native the favorite at this week’s Madrid Open.Nishikori tore up the field in Barcelona last month, losing just one set in five matches on the way to the title. Despite not playing his best against Spain’s Pablo Andujar in the final, Nishikori still prevailed in straight sets 6-4, 6-4. GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5last_img read more

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