Short update with Takahiko Kozuka


December 21, 2010
By Reut Golinsky
Photo © Absolute Skating by EMJO
Special thanks to Akiko Tamura and Yuka Ichikawa for the help with translation.

Paris, France: The men’s free skate at the 2010 Trophée Eric Bompard is about to wrap up. Japan’s Takahiko Kozuka is preparing to take the ice, as he was in first position after the short program. After Florent Amodio's bright and energetic performance the audience goes crazy, standing on their feet shouting. Takahiko hears all that. It's one of those moments when you understand that a sportsman can win using all his energy, followed by this wave of the crowd’s excitement. Or he can totally and absolutely fail if his nerves are allowed to take over...
Well, Takahiko won, improving his season's best by 15.32 points with a program which included a quadruple toeloop, two triple Axels (one in a 3-2-2 combination), a triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination and all the spins at level 4 (as opposed to all the current talk about men's skating turning "easy" and "girlish").
"I was able to overcome the nervousness, and that was a big win for me," - Takahiko commented later during the press conference.

After the Cup of China you said that you realized that you won only once you heard your national anthem. When did you realize that you had won here in Paris?
Right now I'm not sure if I'm feeling the win or not. I'm definitely feeling that I skated very well and that I received very high marks and I'm very satisfied with that. I think I'm going to get a lot of congratulations from friends, receive a lot of mails and I will probably realize then that I won. But this is not the last competition; I still have the Grand Prix Final to compete in and I want to train hard to prepare for it.

While you watched the competition there was a long line of fans wanting a picture with you or an autograph, and during this whole competition youÂ’ve been surrounded by Japanese media. Are you used to such popularity?
Am I used to it? Hmm... I'm not sure if I can say that I'm used to it, but it is great when my fans and the people supporting me come to me and say "Congratulations".

I noticed you had a special flag in the kiss and cry, was it from fans?
Yes! It had many comments [from them].

What do you think is your biggest strength in skating?
Skating skills. I also aim to maintain the flow of the programs, I try to skate the whole programs with flow, from beginning to end. I feel that is a strength as well.

And what are some things you think you need to improve on?
I am working on my facial expression. This season is the first time IÂ’ve really became aware of it. Sometimes I can do it at a competition, sometimes I can't. But I hope to eventually be able to do it exactly as I practise it in front of the mirror.

What is the worst thing in skating for you?
The worst thing? Hmm, what is the worst thing about skating... Well, the hardest thing used to be when I got exhausted but still had to practise. That was the hardest time, or used to be. But now I train at the same rink as Mao, and she is such a hard worker which motivates me. Watching Mao makes me feel that I need to work even harder. I now understand better that in order to get better results at competitions I have to work harder. So it's not a hard thing anymore.

You public image is that of a very calm and reserved person. Have you ever shown strong emotions, like laughed or cried really loudly? If yes, when?
(laughs) Yes, of course I have. I used to cry a lot especially in my junior days, but I still cry since I moved up to the senior ranks. It can happen when I donÂ’t skate well in competitions, donÂ’t make the team, or when I fail even though I was confident. And when I have a good time I laugh a lot; when I go to karaoke I scream.

In one of your exhibition programs you use music from "Glee". Have you watched this American TV-series?
Yes, I bought the DVDs in Canada.

How did you decide on this music?
I hadnÂ’t watched the TV-series before I chose this music. I was presented with a few different music selections and I liked the one from "Glee", that is why I picked it. And because I chose this music for my program, I decided to buy the DVDs and watch them.

Your thesis at the university is about comparing jumps on the floor to jumps on the ice. And IÂ’ve noticed that your quad has become more consistent. Is there a connection between these two?
I think not, there is another reason [for the improvement in the quad].
I will attend graduate school next year and there I want to do further research and study this subject (jumps) deeper. Right now [in my research] I was eliminating the things that didn't work. So hopefully I'll find the one that works in the future.

That works with quad jump or with jumps in general?
With all the jumps.

And when you find it, will you create you own system to teach to others?
My study is based on previous research I have done. For example surveys through questionnaires at skating camps. But if my results are good, I'd like to pass this research on to the next generation.

At the Grand Prix Final in China Takahiko's performance was less brilliant than in Paris. He finished second in the free and received 237.79 points which was good for bronze overall. During the press conference he admitted that he was still tired after the competition in Paris and was affected by jet lag, which he did not find an excuse so he will try to train even harder. His next competition, National championships, starts on December 24th in Nagano. The results will define which will be the three men to represent Japan at the World Championships, held this season in their home country. Good luck, Takahiko!



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