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All-Japan Championships

 
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Mark at Japan Skates
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2009 10:26 pm    Post subject: All-Japan Championships Reply with quote

Hi everyone! I will be flying shortly to Osaka to attend the All-Japan Championships. I will be assisted by my two Japanese friends while there. We will bring you coverage of the event and hopefully snag an interview or two. Stay tuned!
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 24, 2009 10:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thursday evening 11:30 pm

Konban wa (Good evening) from Osaka! This was my first full day in Japan. Since there was only the men's press conference at the arena today (the practices were not open to media), I decided to go sightseeing while letting my Japanese partner attend the press conference (details will follow).

I had a great time visiting nearby Kyoto, seeing several beautiful temples. A truly lovely city!

My Japanese at this point consists of "Watashi wa nihongo-o hanasemasen"... meaning, "Sorry, I don't speak Japanese." )-: But I'll learn more and hope to have a short conversation in Japanese by the end!

Will be at the arena for 10:00 Friday morning to see the men practice, followed by the ladies. The ladies press conference will follow and we hope to talk to several of the skaters then.

Stay tuned!
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 25, 2009 12:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just watched the practice session for the ladies. It was the skater's choice as to whether to practice the short or free programs. In any case, they were only given 2:40 of music time, so the free programs were cut short. Seven of Japan Skates' featured skaters are here (Mao, Miki, Yukari, Fumie, Akiko, Nana and Aki) as well as Yuki Nishino whom we interviewed this summer.

Here is a synopsis of their practices today.

Aki Sawada

Aki was the first to skate. Choosing to practice her FS "Slow Dancing in the Big City", she seemed generally poised and relaxed, although struggling with many jumps. In the practice before her music played, she landed a 3T and turned a 3S into a 2S. When her music played, she threw a 3T, turned her 2A into a 1A, and did a successful 3S before going into her spiral sequence. She then popped a Lutz and an Axel before finishing with a 3T with a hand down (partially caused by traffic on the ice) as the music stopped early. As most of the skaters would, Aki skated full-out and did not "walk" through the program. She executed her program with sensitivity and hopefully her jumps will come along tomorrow.

Akiko Suzuki

Much is on the line for Akiko at this competition. With Miki already chosen for the Olympic team and Mao a virtual lock, Akiko needs a strong showing to qualify. She seemed very focused throughout the practice. Before her music, she performed a strong 3L and 3F/2T combination. Practicing her free skate to West Side Story, she opened with a 3F-2T-2T, then a successful 3T. She was tilted and fell out of her 3L. After spins and spirals, she went into a 3F, followed by 3Z. She later stepped out of a 3L . Overall very strong. After her music ended, she continued skating her program as she was last up in her flight, mainly working footwork and spins.

The next flight was the "big one" with Mao, Miki and Fumie.

Mao Asada

Mao was energetic throughout, and seemed to want to show the skating world she's ready for the competition. Choosing her Rachmaninoff free skate to practice, she successfully performed an easy 3A/2T combination, then a 3Z. She then worked her spins. Before the music stopped, she fell on a 3F. Later in the practice session, she performed another solid 3A. I liked her aggressiveness but found that the layoff made her execution rather sloppy.

Miki Ando

One thing is for sure... Miki is very fit these days! Early in the practice she did a successful 3F, then a 3Z/3L combination in which the Lutz was two-footed. Later on, she cleaned it up and it looked great. Unlike the others, she didn't really skate her program (the SP) all out. She popped her Axel and then rebounded for a 3S. With her Olympic spot locked up, she didn't really need to go all out. We'll see what she brings tomorrow.

Fumie Suguri

Where does Fumie fit into the scheme of things? Not many are giving her any chance at the third Olympic spot still up for grabs, seeing it as Akiko vs. Yukari. I don't have too much to report on her practice session as we were attending to technical issues during her music. I did observe strong, fluid skating despite a shaky landing on her 3Z. Perhaps I'm guilty of overlooking her too! Still, it is great to see her out there.

Yukari Nakano

She was the only one of our featured skaters in the next flight. She appeared nervous and cautious throughout, never really getting any momentum with her program. She surprised the crowd with a 3A attempt, which she fell on. In her "Firebird" FS rehearsal, she threw a 3Z, then doubled her 3T, adding a 2L for the combination. This was followed by 3F/2T. On to spins and spiral sequence, then she executed a 2A/2A sequence. After her music stopped, she continued skating into the next lady's program, doing a 3S and 2A along with footwork. Despite the overall success of the practice jumps, my team agreed she looked very cautious and shaky.

Yuki Nishino

Yuki was the opposite of Yukari during the practice... aggressive and confident. Practicing her "Corsaire" free skate, she managed a 3F, popped her 2A, two-footed a 3Z, then did a 2A/2A sequence in which she fell the second time. Her spirals were of very high quality with great positions. After her music ended, she finished with a 3T-2T-2L combo. Despite problems with some jumps, she impressed with effort and aggression.

Nana Takeda

The last flight saw Nana skate, along with up-and-comers Yukiko Fujisawa and Kanako Murakami. Nana was strong early, then faded a bit, performing a 3S, popped flip and 2A to start her free skate. She then did a successful 3Z/2A before falling hard on a 3T. She later did a 3T/2T combo. After her music, she executed a 2A-2T-2L combo. She did not skate her program all out, concentrating mainly on jumps.

I'll later post photos and comments from yesterday's men's press conference and today's upcoming ladies press conference and the competition draw. Busy times! Looking forward to the mens SP this evening.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 25, 2009 8:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A few tidbits from the press conferences today, as recorded by your Japan Skates team...

Mao

Did not make a lot of statements, but expressed how she wanted to do well after her layoff, and how she wanted to compete at each of the the Four Continents, Olympics and Worlds.

Miki

Plans to do a 3Z/3L combination in the SP and a 4S in the free. She says she does not feel a lot of pressure since her ticket to the Olympics is already booked!

Yukari

Said she was trying not to think of the pressure of making the Olympics this time around, and that she would not be trying a 3A at this competition (she had tried one in practice in the morning).

Much more to come, including some great photos of all 6 top members of Japan's team sitting together at the draw, and of the Mix Zone press conferences!

Ladies' free skate goes tomorrow.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 4:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Having a great day here in Osaka, doing good work and meeting lots of great people. Many journalists in Japan know of our website, which is nice to see.

Let's take a look at the Ladies SP.

Yukiko Fujisawa (2nd to skate)

A star of the near future, many Japanese are watching this young lady closely. She scored 55.82, executed her planned 3Z/2T combination, adding a 3F and a 2A. All strong, although her flying sit spin could have carried more momentum.

Fumie Suguri (5th to skate)

Fumie looked strong in warm-up, but fell on her opening 3Z/2T attempt. She was forward on it, and underrotated the Lutz. She landed her 3F, then performed a centred layback spin. Her 2A was tilted but landed fine. Her choreography suited her and her movements were more complete than in the past. At 29, she's certainly the most experienced here! She scored 58.70.

Mao Asada (9th to skate)

Mao seemed focused during the warm-up, thinking through everything. Her practice 3A seemed secure. I have never experienced such a dead silence to begin a program. The crowd hushed completely and the music took several seconds to start, creating a dramatic beginning. From my angle, her 3A/3T combination (changed to 3A/2T) looked fine, but the 3A was downgraded to 2A, as her marks would later reflect. Her 3F was excellent. Her layback spin moved a bit, but the positions and speed were excellent. After her spiral sequence she landed an easy 2A and began to smile and relax. She showed much energy the rest of the way through. The rather ponderous music didn't seem to affect the upbeat nature of the performance. The crowd responded strongly, but were taken aback by the 69.12 score, which reflected the downgrade.

In the Mix Zone afterwards, Mao said she thought the practice went well and tried to do in her performance what she had done in warm-up. She was pleased with today, and wants it to carry over into tomorrow. She felt as if she had cleared a hurdle, although it was not over yet.... she feels she has to claim her Olympic ticket via a good free skate here at Nationals. In the two months since she last competed, she's been working on jumps and spins. She also thanks her fans for their support and was thrilled to receive her first standing ovation in a very long time. (Thanks to James Armstrong of AP for the translation).

Yuki Nishino (11th to skate)

Yuki was determined! She could not master her 3Z/2T combo in the warm-up, attempting it several times. In the performance, though, she nailed it, along with the 3L. She singled her 2A later on, which (she told us in the Mix Zone) was due partially to ice conditions. Her program was strongly received, as was her score of 53.26. She did not make much of facial expressions in her program, but this is a young lady we all should watch for the future. We managed to secure a brief interview with her afterwards, which I'll soon post.

Unfortunately, interviewing Yuki immediately after her skate made us miss Nana, who skated 12th!

Kanako Murakami skated 13th and was very strong with a 60.28 score. (We were back for her skate!)

Akiko Suzuki (16th to skate)

Akiko has much on the line in this competition and did not disappoint. She had no trouble with her opening 3F/2T combo. She was tilted on her 3L but landed it. Her spins were strong and got applause from the audience. The rest of the program was skated with energy and seemed effortless. This skater knows how to use facial expressions to her benefit. Her excellent season continues! An enthusiastic standing ovation greeted her at the end of her "Andalucia" program.

Yukari Nakano (18th to skate).

Yukari would be in the lead right now were it not for her opening combination. She turned her 3Z/2T into a 2Z/2T, but the rest was completed, if a little cautious. The spins were centred and very fast, and she interpreted "Masquerade" from "Phantom" very well. Lovely costume. Her frown at the end quickly turned to a smile when she saw her makr of 68.90 afterward. In the Mix Zone, both she and Akiko expressed satisifaction with their programs today.

Aki Sawada (21st to skate)

Aki was very strong and peppy the whole way through, and had terrific crowd response. Her big smile was on display the whole time. The only problem was the difficulty level of her jumps, which has not changed for several seasons. Her 3S/2T combination and her ensuing 3T were strong, but very easy for this level of skating. Her jumps were her first elements and were over after 50 seconds. She knows how to please the crowd with her energy and sweet smile... she received a strong ovation. Her score was 51.48.

Miki Ando (28th "Ni-ju hachi-ban" to skate)

Miki was dramatic and intense... and this seemed to work against her program's reception. "Requiem" is very austere music. Her 3Z/2L combination and her 3F and 2A were all over after 43 seconds, and could glide the rest of the way. Her step sequence near the end was intense and was dead on with the music, but after her jumps she received virtually no reaction from the audience. The ovation at the end was very muted. Amazing costume though, and strong performance, good enough for 68.68.

Mao first, Yukari second, Miki third, Akiko fourth. The battle for the coveted third Olympic ticket will be intense tomorrow.

In addition to the Yuki interview, we chatted with Miki's mother Akemi and one of her aunts. We're having a blast here and plan to bring you eyewitness accounts tomorrow!
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2009 6:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's great that so many are reading my reports. I hope that you are getting something out of them.

The skating has just finished and Mao has repeated yet again as national champion and should be off to the Olympics. In about 25 minutes they are going to announce the Olympic, World and 4CC teams. I expect that Akiko will be going to Vancouver as she placed 2nd with a brilliant performance, barely edging out Yukari who was 3rd. Given her stronger season and higher ranking, I think she's off to the Olympics.

An amazing evening of skating that I'll never forget. Seeing Mao, Miki, Yukari, Fumie and Akiko warm up on the same sheet of ice was very powerful, and will never happen again. Time will change for Japanese ladies skating next season.

Here is a quick synopsis of the free skate... I'll have to run soon to the announcement ceremony!

Yuki Nishino (7th to skate)

Fell after completing 3Z, unable to do combo, popped 3F, solid on 3L. Good spin combos getting crowd reaction. 2A 2A sequence complete, great speed with spiral sequence. 3T-2T-2L, then 3S. Great music, strong skater, needs more facial expression. 84.96, 2nd at the time. Congratulated her after performance.

Aki Sawada (9th to skate)

Two-footed 3F, then did 3T with a big smile. 2A-2T (dropped the 2L at end), spin combo, 3S good. Spiral sequence mediocre, wild on landing of 3S so could not do 2T. 2A was solid, then 3T-2T-2T (last was 2 footed). Overall score of 134.99, 4th at time. Solid skate with energy as always.

Nana Takeda (18th to skate)

Was strong in warm-up. Big 3L, popped 3F, strong 2A. Spiral fairly well controlled this time around, big 3L+2A sequence. 3T/2T landed, maybe underroated 3T. 2A/2T/2L solid. Step sequence had expression, especially with hands. Speed could have been better for flying and layback spin. She looked a little wistful at the end. Middle section of program fizzled... end was stronger. 158.81 overall, 3rd at time, 9th overall.

Yukari Nakano (19th to skate, first in final flight)

Fell out of landing of 3Z so could not do 2T/2L at end. Lots of speed and energy into 3F/2T, then 3L to which she added 2T/2T. Spiral somewhat shaky. 3F looked OK. 3S+2A in sequence. 3S, then 2A. Strong ending. Went for an extended skate afterwards, taking it all in. "Firebird" one of my favourite Yukari programs. Will it be enough? 126.83 in FS, 195.73 overall (1st at time).

Ooops! Gotta go see who's going to the Olympics! Be right back!
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2009 7:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK here it is...

4CC: Mao, Akiko, Yukari
Alternates: Haruka Imai, Fumie, Ayami Goto

Olympics: Ladies: Mao, Miki, Akiko
Alternates: Yukari, Haruka

Men: Daisuke, Nobunari, Takahiko Kozuka

Worlds: Mao, Miki, Yukari
Alternates: Akiko, Haruka , Fumie

Final Results:

1 Mao
2 Akiko
3 Yukari
4 Miki
5 Kanako Murakami
6 Haruka
7 Fumie
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2009 8:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Continuing ladies free skate synopsis...

Miki Ando (20th to skate)

Executed 3Z/2L combo, strong on 3S+2A sequence, then 3L. Some movement occured during spin combo, same for spiral sequence. Big 3S, then perhaps an underrotated 3Z, but successful. Flying sit spin, then fell out of 3T and could not complete combo. 2A was followed a truly catlike step sequence, ending with flying spin combo. Was in a tiger-striped outfit... isn't next year the Year of the Tiger? Anyway... not much choreography to speak of until the 3:00 mark when most major elements were done, and I found the program a little slow. Still, the army of sweepers required to pick up her flowers meant the crowd liked it!

116.76 for program, 185.44 overall.

Mao Asada (21st to skate)

Big 3A to begin, looked legal, but no combo. Did combo with second 3A attempt, but threw a 2A/2T instead. Sit spin, dramatic spiral sequence, 3L, strong 3F/2L/2L (last loop maybe not rotated), then 3T. A 2A brought a smile, then a flying spin combo worked well with the music. Program music ponderous, but it could have an Olympic upside. She cast a relieved smile in the Kiss n Cry afterwards. 135.50 for FS and 204.62 overall for the lead.

Fumie Suguri (22nd to skate)

Was 6th after short. Two-footed and maybe underrotated the Lutz on the 3Z/2T combo, fell out of the 3F, then did the 2A. Good speed despite problems. Flying spin combo, spiral sequence, then 3S and an underrotated 3Z. 3F/2T/2L, then a 2A+2A sequence, but singled the second Axel. Strong ending. 102.69 for FS and 161.29 overall.

Akiko Suzuki (23rd to skate)

Akiko had much riding on this, and she didn't disappoint. 3F/2T/2L to begin, then 3T and 2A in sequence. Tight on most jumps, but landed them all. 3L was landed, but she tripped while skating out of it... deduction but not on element. Spin combo, strong spiral sequence, 3F, 3Z a little weak, but 3L 2A sequence strong. 3S was a 2:50 and the rest was cake. Great expression during step sequence, with a strong sense of the choreography of West Side Story. 126.06 for free skate, 195.90 overall for second place. Very emotional at end, and during Olympic announcement when she spoke for a moment. Good on her!

The Olympic, 4CC and Worlds announcement was done publicly at 9:00 pm, with over half of the crowd staying for it. The Olympic team was introduced in person and the sweepers presented them flowers. Then they all addressed the crowd, Akiko very emotional. Crowd went crazy when her name was announced. We're e-mailing our best wishes to Yukari right now... hopefully she'll be fine.

What an amazing experience! It's 10:00 now and we're waiting for the official media room press conference to begin. We'll get transcript and photos for you!
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valley girl



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PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2009 2:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a great experience that must have been - to have witnessed JPN nationals live! Thank you so much for your interesting and extensive report, Mark!

Asada winning (and going clean) makes me a very happy fan. Very Happy

I also got my wish of sending both Nakano and Suzuki to a big competition each!

Now I just sincerely hope that Asada changes her FS costume until the Olympics... (And I actually prefer Ando's latest to the blue catastrophes she's been wearing recently).

My only concern is that the jump layout Asada displayed at this competition will not be enough to beat Yu-na Kim when she's on.

Could you tell me something about Haruka Imai? What kind of impression did you get from her? She was last year's junior National Champion and narrowly missed out on getting a second jgp spot this year. Unfortunately Japan will only get to send one girl to Junior Worlds.. Sad
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 28, 2009 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So good to hear from you again Valley Girl! And I agree about Mao's costume. She's stunning in blue, perhaps that's an idea for her.

My impressions of Haruka Imai stem largely from today's Medalist On Ice exhibition (complete with live orchestra and singers... very impressive!).

I must admit I was so focused on the Big Six (plus Aki and Yuki) that Haruka's performance in the competition was almost ignored as I was busy making notes on other programs.

But her exhibition today was very well done... she finishes her moves well and shows generalship of the ice, even at this stage. I was "comfortable" watching her... a very secure and technically proficient skater, which likely led to her inclusion on the Olympic team in addition to her placement overall. I will be watching YouTube and other resources for video of her performance in the competition. Again... a reporter's day is a busy one at a competition, as this fan-turned-journalist is learning.

Kanako Murakami was impressive indeed... aside from her opening popped Lutz, she served notice she belonged with the big girls in the final flight. And let's watch junior star Yukiko Fujisawa as well.... all of Japan is holding its breath for her progress. Ayami Goto impressed me too... energy and confidence to spare.

What a weekend this has been! To see so many of Japan's top skaters together in such a well-organized event was a life experience. If Fumie, Yukari, Akiko and others move on next season, Japan Skates will look very different. I hope that you and the other readers felt a part of this event. Today I met a Japan Skates reader from Hong Kong, and had dinner with another reader from nearby Kobe. I hope you'll all keep journeying with us.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2010 4:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I had a funny ending to my amazing trip to Japan.

My wife had told me to ask the airport officials in Osaka about rule changes in the Detroit airport (where I was transferring to Toronto) since the terrorist incident on Christmas Day. She had heard that a person could only carry 13 items or something like that in the carry-ons (I was flying Northwest too). So I asked the girl behind the ticket counter.

Big mistake.

Her eyes got wide at mention of "Detroit" and "terrorist incident" and then said she'd be right back. Then some officials came and asked me to come to a room, where they checked my stuff, my passport, the visas I had in it, etc. They didn't tell me this, but I'm pretty sure I was put on a security watch list for my trip home, as the same thing happened to me again in Osaka, in Tokyo and Detroit.

But the funny thing came when the guy asked me why I had been in Osaka. I told him that I'd been there for the Japan Skating Championships. There was a young female official standing nearby, eyes almost closed, looking half asleep. She perked up at the mention of the skating. The guy then asked me why I'd attended it. I said that I was a reporter. He asked "Trainer?" And I said, "no, reporter." At this, the lady started yelling "Figure skating reporter?" and asked if I knew the skaters. When I confirmed that I was and that I did, she started scolding the man in Japanese for holding me up. She then asked if I had a card, which I did, and gave it to her. She then noticed the skating books I had bought and was very excited when I showed them to her. The guy kind of scratched his head and said "Hmmm... I didn't expect this." Then he let me go.

When I was about to get on the plane, they put me through a similar check, and the lady again showed up and asked "Remember me?" and then talked to me about skating for another few minutes. I invited her to visit the site, and she said she would.

Interesting, eh? The wife got me into trouble with security, and skating saved me!
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yukisnowflake



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 05, 2010 8:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu!
(means Happy New Year in Japanese)
Mark:

Janet (yukisnowflake) here.
I was glad to read some of your reports from your trip to Japan & the Japanese Nationals. Especially your incident posted above.

I laughed in particular at this statement:

Quote:
Interesting, eh? The wife got me into trouble with security, and skating saved me!


I so glad you & your wife & entourage could go on such a fantastic trip & @ Christmas time no less.

This post is short but I'll be returning to post again soon.

P.S.: It was a great to chat with you @ the recent SK. Can. in Kitchener & a pleasure meeting your wife also.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 10:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Janet! Thanks for writing (Arigato gozaimasu!)

Actually, the wife wasn't there in Japan! I went solo because I'd be so busy. Her less-than-helpful advice was sent via e-mail!

But she and I (and Japan Skates photog Gigi) will be at Nationals in your hometown on the Sunday for mens and the gala. Hope to see you there!

Mark.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 6:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Mark for your reply post.

I am happy & excited to see you & Gigi again.
(Oh yeah & all our Can skaters too).

My seat info is: Sect. 117 /Row P/ Seat 5.

See you there.

Janet
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