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Controversy hots up Asada-Kim rivalry.

Byline: AFP(AFP)

TOKYO: The teenage rivalry between Japan s Mao Asada and Kim Yu-Na of South Korea is hotting up with mind games underway ahead of next week s world figure skating championships.

Kim, who upstaged reigning world champion Asada at the Four Continents contest last month, made a stunning recent comment which was interpreted to mean Japanese rivals had obstructed her warm-ups before competitions.

The controversy adds spice to the world championships in Los Angeles, which the 18-year-olds are expected to turn into a preview of their gold medal showdown in their Olympic debut at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Kim, known for her bright and thoughtful manner, talked about the interrupted warm-ups in a television interview at the weekend.

"Particularly at this year s Four Continents championships, I felt it was a bit terrible ... too much," she told Korea s SBS network without naming names.

"I am trying to find a way to deal with it."

A voice-over said it was always Japanese skaters that crossed Kim s path.

Asada and teammates Fumie Suguri and Akiko Suzuki competed at the Four Continents at Vancouver s Pacific Coliseum, the Olympic figure skating venue.

Japanese media reacted this week with headlines declaring that Kim blamed Japan for obstructing her, with the Sports Hochi daily describing her remarks as " Japan-bashing without warning."

"It is true that several times she felt obstructed during her warm-ups," Kim Wonmin, an agent for Kim Yu-Na, told AFP. "But she never singled out any country in the interview with SBS. It s news media that mentioned Japan. If this situation continues, we may have to lodge a protest."

The Japan Skating Federation said it had yet to receive any protest.

"Skaters seriously practice for competitions and they can, in no manner, intentionally obstruct others," said Hidetoshi Ito, head of the federation s figure skating commission.

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2009

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Date:Mar 21, 2009
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