The Japan National Championships 2013
January 13, 2014
By Atsuko Kuryu
Photos © Keiko Kasai
Cathy Reed and Chris Reed won their fifth title but the margin between them and the second ranked team, Emi Hirai and Marien De La Asuncion was much narrower: 23.62 last year to 7.89 this year. This is mainly because of Emi and Marien’s improvement.
Cathy and Chris looked a little slower in their short dance and got negative grade of execution (-GOE) for both of their finnsteps and diagonal step sequence. But in the free dance, to the music of Shogun, they did all the elements flawlessly which included four level 4 lifts, two level 3 step sequences and a level 4 spin. Their performance was powerful and expressed Japanese taste very well. They got 87.36 points for their free dance and 142.87 overall. Emi and Marien had good speed in both their short dance and free dance. They seem to be more and more attractive in every competition, especially Emi who is moving more naturally and smoothly than last year.
Throughout the competition, they got only one –GOE for their elements: level 3 twizzles in the short program. They received level 4s for all of their lifts and earned 134.98 overall. Their performance was so dramatic and the audience gave them generous applause. The new faces of Shizuru Agata and Kentaro Suzuki did quite well. They moved a little cautiously, but still they couldn’t keep their synchronicity. They looked like they are a good match so time will help them in this point. Their overall score was 92.29, to be ranked third. Chinatsu Nakazawa and Kokoro Mizutani got level 3 for their rotational lift in the free skate and earned 76.47 overall.
Narumi Takahashi and Ryuichi Kihara had good harmony during their performance. They seemed to have improved in every element except jumps; the throw twist was higher; the lifts were done more smoothly; the death spiral looked more and more beautiful. Their performance was lyrical and graceful and the audience really appreciated them. One thing they need urgently is consistent jumps. Most of jumps were not landed cleanly. Ryuichi who was a good jumper as a single skater, sometimes landed awkwardly. Maybe building his physique to suit fit pair skating has detracted him from jump practice. Hopefully it will produce fruit in the next big event. Anyway they got 149.48 overall and won the title.
We have two new junior pair team here. Both of the male partners are from foreign countries. Sumire Sudo and Konstantin Chizhikov led in both the short program and the free program by a small margin and won the first title of junior pairs. They skated in good harmony and had an enjoyable atmosphere, gaining 113.35 points. Ami Koga and Francis Boudreau-Audet did good lifts and a beautiful death spiral, receiving a total score of 107.32.
The competition was so exciting and it will be talked about for a long time. The skaters who just finished such a thrilling competition got together for some fun. There was laughter and a relaxed atmosphere and even some tears.
In the opening, after all the skaters appeared, a Japanese pop singer Ayaka sang one of the Japanese theme songs for the Sochi Olympics to set the mood for the exhibition.
Firstly Yura Matsuda appeared on the ice with a lovely pink dotted dress. Along to the lifting music, she spread a festive spirit very well. Ryuju Hino showed his ability as a wonderful jumper in his Robin Hood, while Mai Mihara attracted the crowds with her cuteness in her Disney Princess Medley. Shoma Uno’s Tanguera was really cool. He made every use of his expressiveness in this performance. Rika Hongo skated to a Japanese ballad and strangely enough, it suited her skating style. Why strangely? Because this type of song is called “Enka”, which is supposed to be only for older people.
Keiji Tanaka’s Afro Freak was a danceable number and he danced through the program. Satoko Miyahara seemed to be a little tired because she fell during her performance. Still her Solace was graceful as always. Emi Hirai and Marien De La Asuncion enchanted the audience with their mature adult appeal in their program Birdy.
Nobunari Oda’s performance of The Last Samurai was something you shouldn’t miss. Speed, great technique, musicality, expression from heart, everything was there. He cried after his performance during the applause from the audience; only he knew why at that moment. Haruka Imai looked like a fairy in her pink dress. She skated vividly to her Something Good. Takahiko Kozuka’s stylish and swanky program Bang Bang very much enchanted the audience. His wonderful skating skills made this program much more attractive.
Then, there was a big star on the ice. Stéphane Lambiel skated to Carmen and grabbed Japanese women’s hearts immediately. His movement, his smile, his spins, everything was fantastic.
ACT II started with Narumi Takahashi and Ryuichi Kihara’s performance. Their vivid and youthful performance to game music Fire Flies sparked up the venue’s atmosphere. Cathy Reed and Chris Reed skated to Onmyoji, an ancient Japanese fortune-teller’s story. They expressed the compromise between Japan and the West very well.
Who expected Daisuke Takahashi to skate this quiet and inspirational program to The Crisis? His smile, tenderness and soft gestures stroked the audience’s heart as if he said farewell to something very important.
When Kanako Murakami appeared on the ice she changed the atmosphere all at once. She was so cheerful, energetic and cute in her King of Anything. Tatsuki Machida declared this was his last performance of this program, Byakuyako because the story ended on Christmas Eve. His performance ended so sadly as well as the story itself. Mao Asada chose an enjoyable program for the exhibition in her last season. She was so sweet in this program, Smile/What a Wonderful World and seemed to enjoy herself as well as the audience.
Yuzuru Hanyu skated to Japanese pop music. He is usually really energetic and has tremendous impact in his skating, but tonight he showed a different aspect in this program. He performed tenderly and lyrically. Still, something eminently strong beaconed from his whole body. Akiko Suzuki expressed her pleasure through her performance to Love Dance. She finally seemed to distinguish herself among the top female skaters when it comes to expressiveness. You can’t take your eyes off her for a moment during her performance. She showed how she deserved the title of national champion.
In ACT II, all the skaters did encores and showed part of their competitive programs.
During the finale, the famous violinist, Taro Hakase played his original music and the exhibition ended when all the skaters appeared on the ice and said good bye to the fans.
After the cheerful grand finale was over, the retirement of Nobunari Oda was announced. He had been selected for the Four Continent Championships, but he said he bowed out of the competition to “make room for younger skaters”. He was the silver medalist of the Grand Prix Final and won two other medals there. He won 5 gold medals in the Grand Prix Series and he was his country’s national champion once.
Unfortunately he couldn’t medal in big events like the world championships or Olympics, but no one can deny he was one of the great skaters of this era. The crowds praised him for his achievement and were very sorry for losing this lovable skater. One could say this was a happy retirement.
In this competition another big star left the competitive ice. As mentioned before, Miki Ando announced her retirement right after her 7th place finish in the ladies’ competition. She was two time World champion and three time Japan National champion. She hadn’t competed in the last two seasons but came back for the Olympics after giving birth to her baby girl. She recovered surprisingly quickly with her strong will-power and hard training. All credit to her for continuing to skate since becoming a mother.
Both of them announced they will be coaching in the future so you can see them in the kiss & cry in the near future.