Mao Asada's bid to give Japan a second figure skating gold at the Sochi Olympics fell foul to her trademark triple axel jump on Wednesday.
Yuzuru Hanyu won Japan's first men's gold a week ago but Asada's bid for the first Olympic double by a nation in 54 years is over as she sits in 16th position.
The Olympic silver medalist 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 program 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 night.
It threw the two-time world champion and she also doubled a planned triple loop and had no combination jump during her 2-minute, 40-second routine.
The Grand Prix winner looked on in shock as she scored just 55.51 points -- over 20 below her personal best -- to place 16th with the top 24 advancing to Thursday's free skate final.
"The moment after the axel, I knew something wasn't right. I couldn't do what I visualised," said Asada.
"My timing was off. I couldn't move the way I wanted to out there," explained the 23-year-old, whose duel with arch-rival Kim Yu-na headlined the Vancouver Games four years ago.
South Korea's Kim remained on course to defend her Olympic women's figure skating crown, but leads Russia's Adelina Sotnikova and Italy's Carolina Kostner by less than a point.
"I didn't skate anywhere near as well as I could," said Asada. "I don't know what to make of this now. All I can do is give it everything I have tomorrow.
"I couldn't do any of the things I've been working on in training. Once I started the program, I couldn't control my emotions and my body. My only option is to skate the free to the best of my ability."
Her countrywomen didn't fare much better with national champion Akiko Suzuki sitting eighth (60.97) and 19-year-old Kanako Murakami just ahead of Asada (55.60) in 15th.
It is the final Olympics for Asada, who had said she was inspired by countrywoman Midori Ito, the 1992 Olympic silver medalist, and the first woman to land the triple axel in competition.
"Midori Ito has been my idol since childhood," she said. "I wanted to do the same jumps, the triple Axel."
Asada became the first woman to land the triple axel three times at one event in Vancouver.
"There is some risk involved with the axel but I want to do it.I don't consider the triple axel to be a burden at all. It actually gives me something to shoot for and it defines me."
Suzuki, the oldest woman competing at 28 years, popped her opening triple jump combination in her skate to "Hymne a l'amour".
"I did what I could on the ice today. Considering I messed up my opening jump, I thought I made the most of it. I feel so bad about my performance," said Suzuki. "I was having trouble with my jumps in practice and it spilled over into the competition. I was trying too hard."
Murakami was also ruing her missed chances in Ikuko Kawai's "Violin Muse" for which she scored nine points below her season's best.
"I made one mistake which is just gnawing at me. I've been skating clean in the short program but now this. It really annoys me," she said.© (c) 2014 AFP