Golden Skate

Interview with Naomi Nari Nam and Themistocles Leftheris

The 2007 U.S. Pairs bronze medalists Naomi Nari Nam and Themistocles Leftheris must withdraw from all events and shows until U.S. Nationals due to Nam's hip surgery.

After teaming up in 2006, Naomi Nari Nam and Themistocles “Themi” Leftheris placed third at Skate America – their first international event. They went on to place third at the 2007 U.S. Figure Skating National Championships – an improvement over their fifth placement in 2006.

“It felt amazing!” said Nari Nam, referring to the bronze medal they won at their first grand prix event. “We worked very hard to get ready for that competition and it paid off.”

The team was slated to compete at Skate America this month, but withdrew on Sep. 4th.

Nari Nam had surgery on her right hip on August 24th. The surgery was performed at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Vail, Colo., by Dr. Marc Phillipon. She is slated to begin training again on October 21 and the team hopes to be back on a full training regime in November.

“We were excited to get two grand prix events (Skate America and cup of China) this year,” said Nari Nam, “but now we won’t be able to do any events until U.S. Nationals.”

James (USA): Hey guys!!!! Just want to say that you are one amazing team and here’s hoping that you hit your peak around 2009 and 2010. What do you think separates you from the rest of the world?

Naomi: Speed, and our sbs (side-by-side) jumps. We have a couple years to still develop the rest of our skating.

Themi: An excitement and eagerness in our skating because we both really enjoy what we do everyday.

Patricia M. (USA): How long do you take off between seasons and for how many weeks? Have you begun work on a new program yet?

Naomi: Themi always goes home for a week after our season is finished and I like to spend that time just hanging out with friends and relaxing… and yes we have started and are already running through our new programs!

James (USA): Can you give us a hint at what new elements you plan on doing for the coming season? I wish you guys the best of luck for the coming season.

Naomi: This year we are really excited about our new programs. We really enjoy doing them and can’t wait to perform them for everyone to see. There are new no particularly new elements that we are doing… we just want to be consistent this year and skate well in all of our competitions.

Themi: I feel this year we are focusing on improving our skating quality. Having slower and more dramatic programs means we are going to need to stay smooth and have lots of flow throughout the program and being able to execute the difficult elements with the smallest amount of effort.

Amelia (FRA): Hi Themi! Do you have a girlfriend?

Themi: Hahahaha nope, no girlfriend.

Tony (Vietnam): Hi Naomi and Themistocles! Huge fan of you guys! Well first off, I’m quite excited about the programs you have chosen for next year, very pianoisque! However, many folks have dubbed you guys as having very natural artistic qualities with the potential to receive high points in the “PCS” scoring area. But some feel that Peter Oppegard’s choreography is what is holding you guys back. How do you guys feel about that? Would you like to branch out to a new choreographer?

Naomi: No… I think it’s great that Peter is our choreographer because he is our coach and he knows us best. We are a brand new team and we still need to figure out our style and we are still experimenting with that in our skating. Peter is a wonderful artist. His ideas that he has for our programs are amazing and definitely unique. I’m sure later in our careers we will work with different choreographers, but for now I think Peter is the best!

Themi: I think it takes some time to really find what works best for you, and considering we are a new team, every year is an improvement on the previous year while trying to grow as a skater and an artist. Our programs this year are very different than our programs last year, especially the long. We have the utmost faith in Peter and know that this is all a journey and with every year there is improvement.

Annie F. (USA): What skills have you been working on most this Summer for the upcoming season?

Naomi: Consistency and getting used to our new programs.

Themi: More difficult lifts, bigger twist, and overall greater quality throughout our skating.

Coy (USA): Naomi’s beautiful flexibility is well known. Do you plan to capitalize on that significantly with this season’s programs and are you working on any signature moves?

Naomi: I agree with Themi (below).

Themi: I think that is something that we will definitely be working towards. For this season we still have a lot on our plate trying to add another sbs triple and getting more difficulty and higher levels by adjusting lifts and spins we have done previously. Every year there are changes to the new system and we are trying our best to keep up with it!

John W. (USA): Is there a chance to see you on Champions on Ice some time again? I remember a few years ago you skated with them and I got to take a picture of your mother and you. I gave copies to Tom Collins and the next year they used it in the program. You skated great!

Naomi/Themi: Thanks John! Champions on Ice have not asked us to do any shows this year, but when they do we will be more than excited to do them!

Rasmus (SWE): Naomi, do you have any contact with your former coach John Nicks?

Naomi: Mr. Nicks is a big part of my life. I’ve been taking lessons from him since I was 8 years old. Him and my family are very close and yes we still do keep in contact.

Frossie (USA): I am wondering if Themi is of Greek descent?

Themi: It is! It’s short for Themistocles who was an Athenian general.

Helena (USA): Hi Naomi and Themi, and congratulations on your past season. Naomi, when you were younger, did you ever imagine you would be a pair skater?

Naomi: I grew up skating in a rink with a lot of pair teams. So yes, the thought of skating pairs always crossed my mind, but at that time I was just focusing on my singles career.

Cathy (USA): Naomi, What made you decide to change from singles to pairs and how has the transition been?

Naomi: Well I got injured and didn’t skate for 3 years. I missed being on the ice way too much and I thought ‘Hey why not start skating with a new discipline?’.

Larry (USA): Naomi, IIRC after the 1999 season not only did you win the “Cute” award by acclamation, but they decided to rename it the “Itty Bitty Pretty One” trophy and retire it. 😉 Eight years later, you are still pretty darn cute. Is this an image that you would like to put behind you as you compete as a mature artist? Or are you OK with it?

Naomi: Hahah thank you! I’m gonna let Themi answer that for me cause that was way too many compliments for one question.

Themi: I think Naomi will always be Naomi and a distinctive characteristic about her is that she (hahaha) is “cute”. Although if you knew her like I did you would not always think that, lol …just kidding!!

Danielle (USA): Naomi, I remember you from when you skated in singles. Best wishes to you both for a great 2007-08 season! What is a normal training day like for you?

Naomi: We usually skate four sessions a day – one of which is singles. We stretch and warm up before our session and cool down afterwards. We then have our off ice workouts which consists of ballet, off-ice strength training, plyometric exercises, and yoga. We usually have the off-ice strength conditioning three days a week, do ballet once a week, and yoga once or twice a week – depending on how much we have left in us at that point lol. We also do off-ice lifting everyday.

Larry (USA): Naomi, it seems like it would be the hardest thing in the world to go from singles skating to pairs. In singles skating, you are the captain of your own ship. It pairs, you literally put life and limb in the hands of your partner. How difficult was it to train you muscle memory to go completely against all its survival instincts to be hurled through the air hoping someone would catch you?

Naomi: I trust Themi 1000%!!! training to be a pair skater was not easy. Going from singles to pairs is definitely a lot harder than I had anticipated, but I was more than willing to put in the hard work and hours at the rink. The hard work that was put into the transition was so worth it to me and to share the challenge and rewards with someone is definitely a lot more fun. But I try to steal the spotlight from Themi all the time… can you tell?… hahah …..just kidding!!!

VC (USA): Naomi, what was the hardest element to learn in pairs skating for you?

Naomi: Lifts!!! I had to build a lot of strength for them. You have to be really strong and firm so that it makes it easier for the guy to lift the girl.

Larry (USA): U.S. pairs looks like a big free-for-all this year. Inoue and Baldwin can’t last forever, Castile and Okolski will have to show that last year wasn’t a fluke, and McLaughlin and Brubaker are coming on like gang busters. How do you assess your chances of winning your first U.S. Championship this season?

Naomi: That is one of our main and high priority goals of this year. I know that if we put in the hard work and dedicate ourselves to our training we will accomplish this goal.

Themi: I feel that every year we go into the season having our goal to always be skate our best. As a competitor you always have an awareness of your competition, but I try not to focus on that and let that be the deciding factor on setting my goals. I always just want to skate my best, and I will always feel good about that. In our first year, we skated our personal best and dropped two spots, but I couldn’t of been happier!!!

Larry (USA): Themi, how did you get involved in the Pathways program? Can you tell us a little about it?

Themi: I learned about the Pathways program from a classmate back in 2005. It’s a mentoring program geared towards children who have a parent, usually their father, who is incarcerated. Unfortunately, I am no longer part of it due to lack of time and scheduling, but I really enjoyed being part of the program. it was an amazing experience!

Larry (USA): I see that both of you coach at the East-West Ice Palace. Do you have much time for coaching during the competitive season? Do you enjoy it? Do you have any promising young students? Any young pairs teams yet?

Naomi: Yes I enjoy teaching very much because I love kids!! It’s nice to see myself in a lot of my students when I was that age.

Themi: Coaching works out very well for me because I practically live at the rink. Plus we have a wonderful group of coaches at the rink that I can trust to put my kids on the ice in case I am away competing. I would say all my students that I work with have talent and promise, and are all headed in the right direction.

Larry (USA): Themi, I Googled your name and found out that your namesake was a great naval hero for Athens in the Persian wars. Do you like it when fans show respect for your heritage by using your full name? Are you OK when people call you nicknames like “Thermos?”

Themi: Absolutely! I mean, it’s not an easy name to pronounce in the first place, and Themistocles had a very big role in winning the war for Greece, so I feel very honored to be named after a hero of his time. As far as being called ‘Thermos’, it is a nickname my sisters call me, so no, it doesn’t bother me at all. If anything its very sentimental to me.

Paula: Thank you very much for taking out the time to answer questions! What advice would you give to young skaters who are considering ‘competitive skating’?

Naomi: Work hard and have fun and enjoy what you do!!

Themi: To always have fun with it, and don’t lose track of why we all began skating in the first place!