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Tokyo 2020 chairman critical of Mao Asada

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TOKYO (AP) — The head of Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic organizing committee has criticized Japanese figure skater Mao Asada’s performance in the women’s short program at the Sochi Olympics.

The two-time world champion finished 16th in Wednesday’s short program after falling on her opening triple axel. Asada was a silver medalist at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, where she finished second to South Korea’s Yuna Kim.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who became the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee’s chairman last month, said Asada has a habit of “always falling at the most critical time” of a competition. He blamed Asada’s short program shortcomings on her participation in the earlier team event at Sochi.

Asada performed sensationally in the free skate on Thursday night, however. She landed her trademark triple axel and wound up with a season’s best of 142.71. That gave her a total of 198.22.

“I thought I could do it,” Asada said through a translator. “I tried my best, and everything went according to practice.’

While in office, Mori had a reputation for making contentious comments. And his appointment to the Tokyo 2020 committee was criticized by some analysts who believe the 76-year-old former PM is too old to hold such a position.

Asada was selected for the inaugural team competition in the hope Japan would win a medal, but she also fell on the triple axel and Japan placed fifth.

“We shouldn’t have taken part in the team competition,” Mori said. “The psychological damage (Asada) incurred must have remained,” for the short program.

Mori was also critical of Japanese ice dancers Chris and Cathy Reed, who were born in the United States but compete for Japan.

“They live in America,” Mori said. “Although they are not good enough for the U.S. team in the Olympics, we included these naturalized citizens on the team.”