In 2005, a 15-year-old named Mao Asada made her Grand Prix series debut at Cup of China and finished second, ahead of countrywoman Shizuka Arakawa.
Arakawa would go on to win the Olympic title in Torino three months later. Asada was too young to be eligible for those Winter Games.
Asada, though, had started a career that has now become one of the most prolific in the sport’s history.
Now 25, she came back from a one-season break from competition to win Cup of China on Saturday — her 15th career Grand Prix series title (the most among active skaters, and she’s the only singles skater to win all of the current Grand Prix events) to go along with her three World titles and an Olympic silver medal.
World champion Javier Fernandez of Spain took the men’s title ahead of a Chinese teen who in his free skate attempted four quadruple jumps and two triple Axels in his senior Grand Prix debut (landing five of the six jumps, though not all clean).
NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have Cup of China coverage Sunday from 12-1:30 p.m. ET.
Asada led by 5.94 points after Friday’s short program but struggled to place third in the free skate, though it was still enough to edge countrywoman Rika Hongo by 1.72. Russian Yelena Radionova, the World bronze medalist, improved from sixth after the short to finish third.
Asada landed her trademark triple Axel for a second straight night but fell on the back half of a triple flip-triple loop combination among other jumping errors.
Her total score — 197.48 — would have placed third at Skate America two weeks ago (behind Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva and American Gracie Gold) and second at Skate Canada (behind Ashley Wagner).
“I didn’t feel satisfied with the long program today, but I will make myself to the Grand Prix Final,” said Asada, who is in strong shape to qualify for the six-skater Grand Prix Final in December, should she make the podium at NHK Trophy in Japan in three weeks. “We have something to improve in the future.”
On the men’s side, Fernandez landed two quads and fell on a third in his free skate but still had the highest score, as he did in the short program. Fernandez totaled 270.55 points, beating China’s Jin Boyang by 9.22.
Watch Fernandez’s free skate here.
“It’s a hard day a little bit,” Fernandez said. “I fought it through from beginning to end. … It’s still early in the season. There are a lot of things to improve.”
Jin, the 18-year-old World junior silver medalist in his Grand Prix debut, laid out an ambitious free skate after a technically strong short program Friday.
On Saturday, he landed a quadruple Lutz, toe quadruple toe loops (one in combination, stepping out of the landing of one), fell on a quadruple Salchow and landed two triple Axels. On Friday, he landed two quads, including one in combination (the highest-scoring element of all time, according to Icenetwork).
The Grand Prix season continues next weekend with the fourth of six events before the Grand Prix Final, Trophée Bompard in Bordeaux, France. It will feature World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, U.S. Olympian Gracie Gold and three-time World champion Patrick Chan.
MORE: Why Mao Asada returned to figure skating
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 206.01 (Skate America)
2. Gracie Gold (USA) — 202.80 (Skate America)
3. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 202.52 (Skate Canada)
4. Mao Asada (JPN) — 197.48 (Cup of China)
5. Rika Hongo (JPN) — 195.76 (Cup of China)
6. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 188.99 (Skate Canada)
7. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 188.07 (Skate America)
1. Patrick Chan (CAN) — 271.14 (Skate Canada)
2. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 270.55 (Cup of China)
3. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 261.23 (Cup of China)
4. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 259.54 (Skate Canada)
5. Max Aaron (USA) — 258.95 (Skate America)
6. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 257.43 (Skate America)
7. Daisuke Murakami (JPN) — 252.25 (Skate Canada)