Press conference with the Japanese Ladies' World team

March 25, 2014
By Atsuko Kuryu
Photos © Keiko Kasai (taken at Japanese Nationals)

With the 2014 World Figure Skating Championships starting in Saitama, Japan, the expectations on the strong Japanese ladies' team are high. The three talented ladies, Mao Asada, Akiko Suzuki and Kanako Murakami, also represented their country at the recent Sochi Olympics, and were of course asked about that, as well as about preparing for this current competition. For Akiko it was a special moment as this is her last competition before retiring from competitive skating.

What are your goals for this event?
Mao: This is the last event of the season so I want to execute two flawless programs, which I didn't at the Olympic Games. I want to redeem myself before I finish the season.
Akiko: This is my last competition, so I want to show who I am by making use of all my experience as a skater and perform from my heart to the very end.
Kanako: I was so frustrated that I couldn't perform well in Sochi because of my nerves, so I have a strong feeling that I will redeem myself at these Worlds. I want to have two good performances and end the season on a high note.

How did you prepare for this event after the Olympics were over?
Mao: During the week after the Olympics I was tired and had a hard time. But then I bounced back from those blues and figured I'd better get ready for Worlds. After that I could prepare the same way I have done all other years.
Akiko: I was injured and had to go and see the doctor right after I returned to Japan. I had to rest for at least a week then, so I think I had enough of a break. I talked with the doctor about what my options were if I planned on competing here. If I had surgery, it would take too much time to heal, the doctor said at least two weeks. I decided against surgery and to rest instead. If I could rest physically and mentally I'd be able to make a fresh start for Worlds. I failed to refresh my motivation after the Vancouver Olympics four years ago, but this time I could. However, resting didn't leave me with a lot of time to practice.
Kanako: In Sochi, I had lots of time to rest after the competition was over, so I was ready to start practicing for Worlds when I got back to Japan. I have concentrated on practicing that which I lacked in Sochi, and suddenly I realized Worlds would start the day after tomorrow!

Mao and Kanako, both of you had less successful short programs in Sochi. Please tell us how you feel about performing the short program now.
Mao: I think this event is really important for me because I made a catastrophic mistake at the Olympics. Now I want to push myself while making use all of my experience.
Kanako: I always get nervous for the short program, more than for the free skate. However, this time I will try not to be as hyped as I was in Sochi. I want to relax and skate well.

Tell us about the most impressive thing your coach told you after the Olympics.
Akiko: During the Olympics, my coach (Hiroshi Nagakubo) pushed me hard and didn't say much nice at all, I felt like he didn't understand my pain. But when we came back to Japan, he told other people good things about me, such as "Akiko did very well during bad conditions like that”, "I felt terrible because she was in such pain. I would have traded places with her". When I heard those kind words, I knew the harsh attitudes he gave me was of concern for me. It was very impressive.
Mao: Me and my coach Nobuo Sato couldn't talk by ourselves in Sochi and even after coming back to Japan, we didn't have time to talk much about the Olympics. What I remember the most about what he said in Sochi is that we should reset everything and restart for Worlds.
Kanako: When I expressed my gratitude to my coaches (Machiko Yamada, Mihoko Higuchi) they said: "Even if the result was not satisfactory, you made it to the Olympics. That is amazing! You did something big." Those were heartfelt words for me.

Do you have a special plan for this event?
Mao: I actually don't right now. I was satisfied with my free skate in Sochi where I felt I did all I could for the first time in years. So I want to show those kinds of performances both in the short program and in the free.
Akiko: I want to execute everything I have now in my programs.
Kanako: Like I said before I want to redeem myself from what I did at the Olympics.

How do you control your nerves?
Mao: I'm not feeling nervous right now, but when I do I will tell myself to be calm. But I guess being too calm isn't good either, same as being too nervous. So I will try to stay my usual self.
Akiko: I've competed 22 years, and I have been nervous at every competition. Now I felt like nerves are not such a bad thing. I think it helps me to perform well even during bad circumstances as my coach told me before. I take it in a positive way now.
Kanako: I can't be as positive as Akiko, so I ask my coach for a hug to reduce tension. I try to stay calm but I think it's impossible. When I had bad performances, I always felt a lot of tension.

Akiko, you are going to retire after this event. Have you had any special feelings or reflections during practice at your home rink or here in this venue?
Akiko: Yes, I actually did on the last day in my home rink. I thought about that it was the last practice and took a ceremonial photograph. I felt like every moment is really important and it will never come back again. So now I will savor every moment and enjoy the time that is left.



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