By successfully landing the quadruple Salchow jump, Ando Miki electrified the crowd at the Junior Grand Prix Final figure skating competition. That was in December 2002 in The Hague, Netherlands. The quad is something only a handful of male skaters can do, and no female competitor in the world had ever succeeded before her. News of her record-breaking jump spread quickly around the globe.
She says candidly with a bright smile, "I'm not sure the quad is such a big deal. But I have to thank God for helping me succeed at such an important world competition. And of course my coach, family and supporters played a big role, too."
At 15, Ando still has a girlish air. This first-year senior high school student lands the quadruple Salchow about 80% of the time during training sessions. So for her it was hardly unusual to do it during a major official competition. "For the quad, I'm only in the air for 0.7 seconds. There's no time to think or take a look around. I don't even hear the crowd. While I'm jumping my mind is a blank."
On the ice, Ando seems to have been born with skates on her feet. She started skating when she was in grade 3, and fell in love with it right away. By the next year, she was already doing the double axel (two and a half turns) in competitions. "In grade 5, I decided I would train to become a figure skater and participate in major competitions. That was after I saw Tara Lipinski of the U.S. at the Nagano Olympics I thought to myself, 'I want to perform like her.'"
Ando grins, "Of course I'm nervous when competing, but it's fun being on the ice. Practice is fun, too. I practice at the rink from 4 to 6, every day after school. On weekends I travel to Yokohama from Nagoya, for training.
"During the training sessions, we concentrate on skating more than jumping. If you can skate really well, gliding and balance are easy and you can get your speed up. I have to put more expression into my performance. I find that's harder than jumping. So I am taking ballet and modern dance lessons, too."
Being able to do four turns in the air is a tremendous achievement, but that alone does not make her the best figure skater in the world. "I'm aiming for the Olympics. I want people around the world to see what I can do." Right now, she has her sights on the Winter Games to take place in 2006 in Torino, Italy.