By Mark S., (c) JapanSkates
More photos and
videos made at the interview are at
I arrived at the
Granite Club in Toronto in time for the 12:30 appointment.
Yoshie’s coach, Josée Chouinard, had mentioned that Yoshie trains in
one-hour segments with a rest period in between, and would break for
lunch at 1:30. I could take some photos during the practice session
and then have a 12 - 15 minute interview with Yoshie during her
lunch hour. As it turned out, Josée and Yoshie were delayed at a
costume fitting for Skate America so the plans changed a little. I
was able to sit down with Yoshie between 1:05 and 1:30. This allowed
me to fit in more questions and have a fun autograph session
afterwards. Yoshie then ate and rested until 2:15, at which point I
took some photos at her practice.
The Granite Club is a private country and sports club. It was
established in the 1870s in what was then the northern part of
Toronto. It quickly became a base for successful hockey, curling and
cricket teams. The 1924 Olympic ice hockey champions, representing
Canada, were the Toronto Granites. It added figure skating to its
resume not long after and has been home to many champions, most
recently Yoshie Onda.
The interview began with Josée leading Yoshie and me to quiet
table in the gallery overlooking the ice surface. I mentioned what a
nice place the Granite Club was, and that even though I am a native
Torontonian I had never been there. Yoshie said that she enjoyed it
there and lived close enough that she could come by bicycle. I asked
how she was enjoying Toronto and we agreed that it was interesting
to live in a such a cosmopolitan city.
I then tested my tape recorder, put the earpiece in, set the
microphone between us and said, “Test”. Yoshie playfully grabbed the
mic and yelled “HELLO!” into it…almost popping my eardrum. I smiled
(more liked ‘winced’ without letting on) and removed the earpiece.
(I was told Yoshie likes to joke around…now I know it’s true!!!). Then the interview formally began. I had e-mailed
questions and she had Yoshie look them over before we started. Josée
then said she would return in 25 minutes.
JS: OK, hello Yoshie!
JS: Thank you for doing the interview today
JS: Congratulations on your excellent performance at the
Japan International Challenge last week. How do you feel about your
performance there? Were you happy with it?
Yeah, I was happy because I could compete at the Japan
International Challenge. I was so happy, but I was so nervous
because the Open was in Japan. I was a little bit nervous because it
was the first competition, but I think it was a great competition.
It was a good competition for me.
JS: Was it your new free skate for this season?
JS: Was it difficult to prepare for that competition on
short notice? I know they just called you about a week before the
competition and asked you to compete because of the injury. They
only gave you one week.
Yeah…so when I first heard “Yoshie, can you compete”
from the (Japan) Federation because Fumie got injured, I was
surprised…“WHAT?” But I thought, “OK, I’ll try” because I was
thinking it is a good chance for me. It was the first time, so I was
thinking too much because I had to come back to Japan and compete
there, and less than three weeks later I had Skate America. I think
it is so difficult for me, but still I tried to compete in the Japan
JS: The scores that you received, were they what you
No no, I didn’t expect, but I thought
after the competition that for my performance, I needed to keep
going with the program, and if I keep going with my training, I
think (it) should be better after a few months. So I thought that
(this) year’s program is better now, better than last year's.
JS: What do you feel you need to work on for
Skate America? That is in two-and-a-half weeks and I know that
you’re going to be a strong medal contender.
JS: I’m sure you are! What will you need to work on?
I don’t think of anything between the (Japan)
International and Skate America, just to keep going with the
training so I keep giving a good performance at the Japan
International Challenge and Skate America. And yes, I think (if I)
keep going, I’ll be able to (give a) good performance of Skate
America, I think.
JS: Have you ever been to Atlantic City?
No, I’ve never competed at Skate America, (or) Cup or
Russia, though I’ve competed Senior (Grand Prix) for four years. So
now I’m going to compete at Skate America and at the Cup of Russia.
JS: So they are new competitions for you.
JS: This question is about the new Code of Points judging
system. How do you feel your style is suited to the new judging
system? Have you had to make any adjustments or changes to be
successful in the new system?
Hmmm…sometimes a good thing, sometimes
a bad thing. I’m thinking it’s a good thing, so now I can do a lot
of the things. Before, it was just…you know, just a performance. But
now, I can do a little bit more difficult steps or difficult spins,
and I do difficult training. But before, (it was) always same
skating. It is difficult for me now, but I want to learn difficult
skating. So, yeah, it’s a good thing. But we have five components
and different levels, and every rotation…everybody checks rotation,
and spirals (laughs), and I don’t like it because skaters are
thinking to count; but at the competition (we) can’t count the spins
and spirals, because everybody’s feeling so nervous. But we have to
count every time in competition, practice and every time. I don’t
like that part of it.
JS: Last season many fans thought it was a
very successful season for you. Why, then, did you decide to move to
Toronto and train here at the Granite Club with Josée?
Because, (for) one thing….she was such a good skater!
(laughs). And I said, “OK I want to try training with her”. It was
so difficult to decide to come to Canada, because you know the U.S.,
it is so famous for figure skating, so it’s so difficult to decide
to move from U.S. to Canada. But you now, I want to try…I could get
more points. I think that she is thinking Code of Points, the
levels, everything…so I changed coaches.
JS: So it was your decision? Or was the club recommended to
Oh, I decided. And so I first told the Japan Skating
Federation, and (the) Federation helped me and (contacted) her, and
so I moved here.
JS: What are your choices of music this year? Short program,
free skate and exhibition?
Ah, she (Josée) decided them. She knows.
Note: According to our friends at
yoshieonda.com, Yoshie’s music selections for this year are:
SP: "Madame Bovary" Soundtrack
FS: "La Strada" Soundtrack
I saw Yoshie debut the free skate at the Skate Canada Central
Ontario Summer Skate back in August.
JS: I have a question from my partner on the website, Gregg…
If you could have any gift thrown onto the ice---
Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!
JS: - what would you like the gift be to be?
Well, three years ago, I got socks! It was in Japan, and
I was surprised. I thought it was a gift, and I opened it and
said…”Oh, it’s socks!” (laughter) And I was so happy. And the last
few years I’ve got T-shirts, and I was so happy. I never get
T-shirts. Every time it’s flowers. I like flowers, but I can’t bring
the flowers home.
JS: Do you usually keep the gifts?
Yep. But I can’t keep the flowers, so I put the flowers
in the hotel. So I can bring (back) T-shirts, letters, and
everything. But I can’t take the flowers.
JS: The website that we run is about you and the other
Japanese skaters. We feature eight of the top skaters in Japan. Is
it easy to be friends with the other top Japanese ladies because
you’re competitors at the same time?
Ahhh….I think so…everybody is friends. Just a bit
different….to compete. After (we) compete we change to friends. So
in Nationals, every time (laughs), before practice we are talking
just as friends, but there is competition so it’s a little bit
different, you know we are just skaters. And we don’t talk anymore.
JS: So you are friends outside of competition?
At this point, I had completed the
questions I had planned to ask in the 12 minutes I had allotted. I
then went on to some supplemental questions I had prepared in case
we had time. I had Yoshie look them over and then we began. The tone
now was more relaxed and conversational in nature and we had fun
covering these topics.
JS: I have a special message for you from a friend of mine,
HAI! HAI! HAI!
I know! I know! I know!
JS: And he has one word for you…he said “SMILE!”
(I asked this because Dave, one of
Canada’s top skating photographers and a major contributor to our
site, had told me how hard Yoshie had worked to develop her smile
during her programs over the last few years).
Yeah every time he says, exactly, so I know.
You know, after some skating I was not smiling, and he said ‘you
have to keep smiling”. But I’m so focused on skating, I can’t smile
(laugh). He says every time “You have to smile”!
JS: We’ve become good friends with Dave; he is such a nice
YO: (Torrents of laughter)
It’s true! Please tell him, it’s
JS: This is an important season with the Olympic games.
JS: Is this going to be your last competitive season?
YO: I think a
little bit different in my mind (nowadays). The first time…I want to
do good for Skate America, then next time for Cup of Russia, to do
good performances. And I want to go to the Grand Prix Final. Every
year I can do that, but it is difficult for me in (Japanese)
Nationals… But now in the Japan Federation, it’s not (as) important
at Nationals, it’s the total of the difficult year. But I want to
keep going…to be better, better, better; and I want to go to the
Olympic Games. But I am thinking first time Skate America. I don’t
think ‘Olympic Games’ yet.
JS: So you might continue to skate competitively next year?
Oh yeah! In March, after the season, every year I’m
talking to keep going to skate, or to stop. So I’m talking with my
family, and we will decide to keep going or to stop, I can’t decide
it by myself.
JS: Yoshie, what do you think your best-ever performance
was? Or maybe your best competition? Some people have told me that
it was last year in Korea at the Four Continents.
Hah! I don’t think so!
JS: What do you think it was?
Oh, so I never…every time I need a good performance.
Just everybody says, “Yoshie you did your best performance at Four
Continents.” But…I don’t think so.
JS: You don’t really have a favorite performance?
Favorite performance…um…three, almost three years ago
after the Olympic Games I got first at NHK. I was thinking that was
my best performance.
JS: Who were some of your favorite skaters when you were
I don’t know! I don’t look around at another skaters.
I’m thinking just me….I’m not thinking another skater.
JS: How do you deal with being so far away from your close
friends and family in Japan? You were in the States last year and
Canada this year.
Yes, it was difficult to me so I need my family, and I
need my friends. But…I’ve come to train; I came here just for the
training. I am a figure skater. Sometimes I need my family and my
friends, but I have to keep going (to be a) good skater. Now, I
don’t need to miss my family or my friends. After skating, I can
come back to Japan (to) my family and my friends. So for now, I
don’t need them.
JS: The last one is about your spare time. Do you have any
favorite hobbies? What sports do you like to watch or do other than
Hmmmm…I don’t have a hobby.
JS: Someone told me racing, driving?
Ah, last year I did driving! But now, I don’t drive. And
then…oh….it’s difficult. I don’t watch just skating…but right now
I’m just skating. That’s it.
JS: Do you read a little bit?
No, I don’t like it…but I’m studying English now. It’s
difficult to me sometimes, but I need it, so I’m studying English.
JS: I have heard that you don’t really like practicing
Ah…but now, in my mind I need it so I have to go to
ballet, so I go twice a week, but before I don’t like it and so I
didn’t go to ballet. But now I change (my) mind, and I’m going to
JS: Just one more. We have a lot of visitors to our website
who are very interested in this interview. Do you have a message for
them, or to say hello to your fans at the website?
Ah, just one thing. I wanna do my best.
Do your best!. So that is my message.
(pause while I checked how much tape
So, did you understand my English?
JS: Everything. They (Josée and some Granite Club officials)
told me it was very good.
JS: Are you confident speaking English? Last year (in
Washington) you stayed with a family and you only spoke Japanese
most of the time. But you now have to speak English most of the time
It’s true. Yeah. But sometimes, I’m talking to my mom by
Internet, so I forgot to speak English!
At this point, Josée arrived at our
table. We had a fun autograph session at which Josée laughed at the picture I had chosen for her to sign, as it was
several years old! She has promised to send along a few signed press
photos of both Yoshie and herself, which I will post when I receive
them in the mail. I also gave Yoshie and Josée my JapanSkates card.
I mentioned that Gregg and I would be at Skate America and asked if
we could have a brief post-competition interview with Yoshie on the
Sunday, and Josée was open to the idea if it could be conveniently
arranged. Stay tuned!
After lunch, I was invited into the rink area to take a few
pictures of Yoshie training with Josée, along with a few candids.
These are posted at the JapanSkates website. I then stayed for about
half an hour and watched Yoshie slowly warm up into a few spins and
jumps. Both Yoshie and Josée are very fun to talk to, and they get
along great together, joking and laughing with each other. As soon
as the practice begins, though, the game faces go on and both are
most serious about what they’re doing. You can’t help but root for
Yoshie this season and a possible return to the Olympics and Worlds.
Interviewing Yoshie was a very fun experience. I would like to
thank Yoshie for taking the time out of her busy training schedule,
and to Josée Chouinard and Barb Sisson at the Granite Club for
accommodating me so professionally. This was good experience for my
next interview with Miki Ando and Carol Heiss-Jenkins in the near
future, which Gregg will be attending as well. Stay tuned!
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