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Talented Young Figure Skaters Have a Bright Future (April 3, 2003)

Miki Ando
Miki Ando performs a jump at the All-Japan Championships. (Jiji)
Several rising young stars are taking Japanese women's figure skating by storm. At the World Junior Figure Skating Championships held in early March, Yukina Ota of Kyoto Daigo Club was crowned World Junior Champion for the first time. The silver medal at the championships, meanwhile, was captured by Miki Ando of Orion Club, and coming in fourth was Mai Asada of Grand Prix Tokai Club. The outstanding performances of these young skaters have raised hopes about Japan's prospects in the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, in 2006.

Young Skaters Master Difficult Techniques
The 2003 World Junior Figure Skating Championships were held in Ostrava, Czech Republic, and the competition became a stage for Japanese skaters to show off their talents. Ota, a 16-year-old high school student, took top honors thanks to her rich artistic expression and superior technique. She is the third Japanese to take the gold medal and the first for 10 years. Ota also won the Junior Grand Prix Final of Figure Skating in the Hague in December 2002, meaning that she presently holds two of the major international junior titles. Ando, a 15-year-old junior high school student, also made her presence known at the Grand Prix Final, where she displayed her amazing jumping skills by becoming the first woman ever to perform a quadruple jump in competition. This was an historic feat, considering that very few girls can successfully accomplish even a triple axel. Yet Ando performed one difficult jump after another. Asada, a 14-year-old junior high school student, also did well in her first appearance at a world junior event, successfully pulling off a triple axel.

While she did not take part in the World Junior Figure Skating Championships, Asada's younger sister Mao, a 12-year-old elementary school student, is also regarded as a bright prospect in figure-skating circles. At the All-Japan Figure Skating Championships in Kyoto, Mao became the first female in the world to perform a combination of three consecutive triple jumps and finished in a highly creditable seventh place. Both of the Asada sisters are trained by Machiko Yamada, who coached Midori Ito to the silver medal in the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. Under Yamada's guidance, the triple axel and other difficult techniques are being passed on to the next generation of figure skaters. Another skater from the Grand Prix Tokai Club, high school student Yukari Nakano, who took the bronze medal at the fifth Asian Games held in Aomori in Februay, is also able to perform the triple axel.

Older Skaters Also Excelling
Ranking above the junior figure skaters in terms of age are the women who participate in the senior division, and they have been busy as well. After winning the All-Japan Championships, Waseda University student Fumie Suguri, the bronze medalist at the World Championships in 2002, also won the Four Continents Championships held in Beijing, China for the second time in three years. The runner-up there was another Waseda University student, Shizuka Arakawa, and Nakano came in third, giving Japan a clean sweep of the medals. Meanwhile, Tokai Gakuen University student Yoshie Onda, who can also perform the triple axel, has already won two events in the grand prix series this season, including the NHK Trophy held last November. At the 2003 World Figure Skating Championships in March 2003, Suguri took the bronze medal, Arakawa took seventh place, and Onda finished eleventh.

Junior skater Miki Ando speaks highly of the older skaters, saying, "My skating can't compare with theirs yet." Suguri, meanwhile, says that the rise of these young skaters is "motivating." The competition between generations has had a synergistic effect, and the ranks of Japanese women figure skaters continue to grow stronger.

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Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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