Sochi (Russia) (AFP) - Japan's Mao Asada bowed out of Olympic competition with her head held high, buoyed by a surge of support following a fall in her short programme that left her medal chances in tatters.
Asada's bid to give Japan a second figure skating gold at the Sochi Games fell foul to her trademark triple Axel jump on Wednesday -- leaving her in 16th position after the first night of the competition.
But she recovered strongly on Thursday to post the third highest score in the free skate behind only winner Adelina Sotnikova of Russia and South Korean silver medallist Kim Yu-Na -- lifting her to sixth place overall.
Asada, who won the silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games, scored 142.71 points in the free skate for a personal best.
"I was determined to carry out what I've been working on all long. I wasn't that sharp in practice this morning and yesterday was a massive disappointment," Asada said on Thursday.
"I owed a lot to those who supported me over the years and I wanted to pay them back with a great long programme. I wasn't worried about the score. I had to fight the inner fear in me."
"I may not be able to bring back an Olympic medal to Japan but I feel like I had the best performance I possibly could.
"I'm obviously disappointed with myself from yesterday but everything I've been practising for the past four years bore fruit today. I like to think I've matured since Vancouver in my own distinct way."
The Japanese skater said after her performance on Wednesday she received support from former coaches, friends and fans telling her not to give up.
"I felt really bad. I really wanted to do my best for all the people who supported me," she said. "I really wanted to do well for all of them but I felt a lot of pressure."
The 23-year-old, who will compete at next month's world championships in Japan, said she had not made up her mind about the future.
"After the worlds I haven't made up my mind. I will do some shows and then see," she added.
Asada put her free skate on Thursday in the top five of her performances.
"I'm still disappointed from yesterday (Wednesday). I'm still thinking about the medals. But later I will feel the happiness from today's performance. After some rest I will start to feel really great about today's performance."
Asada had been hoping to match Yuzuru Hanyu, who won Japan's first men's gold a week ago.
The two-time world champion is the only woman to attempt the difficult 3.5 revolution jump in competition, but it is also her Achilles heal.
It backfired on her in the team event short programme in Sochi when she fell, and despite persevering she once again fell on the jump at the start of her routine to Chopin's "Nocturne in E flat major" on Wednesday.