Asada's legacy of grace and grit will last forever.

Asada's legacy of grace and grit will last forever.

Whenever I saw Mao Asada skate well, which she did often, I was reminded of the second line in one of the most famous arias in the operatic canon, "La Donna è Mobile," from Verdi's Rigoletto.

When you get past the trope of the aria's title and opening verse, which scoffs at women for being flighty, you come to the nature of the flight: "qual piuma al vento" -- like a feather in the wind.

That is the best description for the way Asada moved on the ice, even in the later years of her career, when she added the mature elegance of a woman in her mid-20s to the jump that had separated her from nearly every other woman in the sport over the length of that career.

She became lighter than air.

That is how I will remember Asada, who announced her retirement Monday at the age of 26. The timing was a surprise, even if her struggling performances and knee problems over the past two seasons made it clear the time had come.

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Ten observations from the 2016-17 figure skating season

Ten observations from the 2016-17 figure skating season

Here are 10 random observations about the figure skating season following its biggest event, the 2017 World Championships in Helsinki:

1. Yuzuru Hanyu can look erratic, both painfully and delightfully so.

Even with that, the Japanese star is exceptional enough to have achieved consistently brilliant results in the past four seasons.

Olympic gold. Two world titles. Two world silvers. An unmatched four straight Grand Prix Final victories by a singles skater. Highest scores ever in the short program and free skate, and over a competition. A fan base in his own country and across the world that, thanks to social media, may be the largest in the sport's history.

And imagine what his record would be had he not lost leads after the short program at the 2015 and 2016 World Championships.

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My Five takeaways from 2017 World Championships

My Five takeaways from 2017 World Championships

HELSINKI, Finland -- With the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships in the rearview mirror, here are my five takeaways from an eventful week in Helsinki, Finland.

1. This time around, Ashley Wagner should have no margin for error based on past performance when it comes to the Olympic selection process: She either finishes in the top three at next year's U.S. championships or stays home.

In 2014, the procedure provided ample justification for U.S. Figure Skating to pick Wagner, even though she finished fourth in Boston -- including a fifth-place showing in the free skate.

The uproar over third-place Mirai Nagasu being overlooked was emotional rather than rational because few were aware of the criteria then in place.

Wagner, a three-time U.S. champion, understood the situation was different after her poor free skate Friday jeopardized the United States' chances of getting three ladies spots in South Korea next February.

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Battered skates give Nathan Chen the boot at World Championships

Battered skates give Nathan Chen the boot at World Championships

HELSINKI, Finland -- Everyone has a favorite pair of shoes, the ones so comfortable you will have them repaired over and over again and then wear them even after no repair will really hold them securely together.

For figure skaters, that situation is compounded by the stresses from torque and impact they put on their most important shoes: the boots with blades they wear in competition.

There frequently comes a time when a skater must decide between the risk in wearing battered boots and the risk in wearing a pair that is barely broken in -- or not broken in at all.

Such a moment occurred for Nathan Chen early in the week leading up to the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships, when the boots he had been wearing for three and a half weeks began to fall apart.

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As world meet veteran Wagner choked, rookie Chen bailed her out

As world meet veteran Wagner choked, rookie Chen bailed her out

HELSINKI, Finland – As much as Karen Chen tried not to think of anything but the World Championships free skate ahead of her Friday night, she could not avoid getting distracted.

While waiting to take the ice for the warmup in the final group of skaters at Hartwall Arena, Chen looked up at the video board and saw the overall standings of the 18 previous competitors. They showed her teammate, Ashley Wagner, significantly lower than expected.

At that moment, Chen realized there was extra pressure on her if the United States was to keep three women's spots for the 2018 Olympics.

"I admit it," Chen said with a smile, almost abashed to confess having let her mind settle on the three-spot issue for a few seconds.

"I did know I needed to skate really well," Chen continued. "I knew if I kept thinking about it, obsessing over the thoughts, I would not skate very well.

"I just had to play some mind games, block out the other thoughts and focus on myself."

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