Triple Axel Makes Nakano a Contender
A new generation of Japanese ladies skaters is aiming to unseat World bronze medalist Fumie Suguri and rise to the top at Japanese Nationals. Yukari Nakano, the 2001 Japanese junior ladies champion who was fifth in seniors in 2002, is a strong contender, especially now that she is consistently landing the triple Axel. Nakano has fared well in international competitions, winning medals in several Junior Grand Prix Series events and making the Junior Grand Prix Final and Junior Worlds for three straight years. Nakano finished second at the 2002 Junior Worlds after placing seventh and fourth in the two preceding years.
Now she has set her sights on the senior Grand Prix, starting out with Skate America, where she finished seventh overall after missing her combination in the short program and finishing in eighth. “I learned that when you make a miss, that’s the end,” she said. “It’s very rare that I have a big mistake in the short, but now I will train harder.” “Seniors is very different from juniors,” she continued. “I can’t believe I’m competing against people I’ve seen on television. But my biggest rival is pressure, not other skaters.” Nakano has studied the other skaters on television from Worlds and Olympics and named Irina Slutskaya as her favorite skater. “I like her high jumps. All of her moves look very big,” she stated.
Nakano began skating when she was six, when she followed her older sister to the rink. Her sister quit, but Nakano developed a love for skating. She trains every day for about two hours after school and never takes a holiday in her pursuit of her Olympic dream. “My ultimate goal is to make it to the Olympics,” she said. “I think every day that I will be there someday.” For this season, her goals are only “to have a solid triple Axel and do my best.” She believes she will need the triple Axel to reach the top rank in Japan and said she lands the jump about 70 percent of the time. “I first tried the triple Axel when I was 14, but I quit practicing it for a year at 15. Then when I looked at the videos, I saw I was very close so I began practicing it again.” She has included the jump in her long program, landing it about two-thirds of the time in practice before becoming the third woman in history and the first in ten years to land one when she completed the jump in her long program.
Nakano actually landed her first triple jump, a triple salchow, when she was eleven, and soon mastered the remaining triples. She has also experimented with quadruple jumps, including the quad salchow, but indicated that the triple Axel is easier for her. “My weak point is the triple lutz,” she noted, adding that she is working on a triple lutz-triple loop combination for the long program.
Machiko Yamada, who also coached Midori Ito, has been Nakano’s only coach. “Midori was one of my heroes,” Nakano said. Although she talks to Ito about other things than skating, Nakano says that Ito hasn’t given her any tips on the triple Axel. Choreographer David Wilson and Yamada select the music for her programs, which include “Prayer for Taylor” by Michael W. Smith for the short and “Ah Pur Ce Soir” from Mignor for the long. “I really like the programs he does,” she said. “I want to skate to a tango,” Nakano said, “but my coach doesn’t think it suits me.”
Off ice, Nakano listens to Japanese popular music and likes ballet, jazz dancing, and shopping. She also practices knitting and collects stuffed animals. Winnie the Pooh is her favorite. Although she doesn’t take any holidays from skating, Nakano enjoys traveling. “My favorite trip was to Canada,” she said. “The people ere very friendly there. I always wanted to go to the United States and now I have been there. Everything is very different from Japan, so big.” She also enjoyed her visit to Norway for Junior Worlds in 2002.
Nakano is in her sophomore year of high school, but has no plans for after her skating days are over. But one of her goals is to study English and be able to speak it well. She uses a computer for schoolwork, but said she’s not very good at it.