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.