Japan's Asada resumes training after year off

Mao Asada of Japan performs during the gala exhibition at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama, north of Tokyo March 30, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese figure skater Mao Asada says she cannot live without skating and has resumed training after a one-year break with the aim of returning to competition.

The 24-year-old silver medallist from the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver said last May she was taking a year off after the Sochi Games to consider her future, adding that she was exhausted and retirement was a 50-50 possibility.

Asada, known by the affectionate nickname "Mao-chan," said on her website on Monday that as time went on she felt her motivation return and had began training again with coach Nobuo Sato earlier this month.

"During my break, I gradually began to yearn for the feeling of pleasure and achievement I got after performing well in competition," the three-time world champion told a news conference later in the day.

"I had meant for Sochi and the world championships to mark my last year, and after that was over felt I'd done everything I could and didn't want to skate again.

"But as the days passed and my time away from skating grew longer, I started to feel that yes, skating is essential for me."

Asada, who used the hiatus to return to university and graduate, appeared to downplay expectations by saying it was far too early to know if she would be able to reach a level required to compete at the highest level again.

"I've just begun practicing again and don't know what will happen," she added. "I don't know if I'll be able to compete or not, so it's still much too early to think about the Olympics."

Asada, the only woman to land the complicated triple Axel jump three times in competition, was tipped as a leading medal contender at Sochi but had a disastrous short programme, although she rebounded with a strong free skate to finish sixth overall.

She won her third world championship a month later, setting a world record with the same short programme but soon announced that she was taking a break, adding that even if she did return to competition the 2018 Winter Olympics were not a target.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford/John O'Brien)

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