Golden Skate

Satoko Miyahara: ‘I Still Have A Long Way To Go’

Satoko Miyahara

Japan’s Satoko Miyahara captured silver at the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships.

This past year has proven to be a breakthrough season for Japan’s Satoko Miyahara. The 17-year-old began her second year competing on the senior circuit by winning the Lombardia Trophy in September and followed up with two bronze medals on the Grand Prix circuit at Skate Canada and NHK Trophy.

Despite missing the Grand Prix Final by a tie-breaker, the skater capped off the first half of the season winning the national title in December.

In past 30 years, nearly all Japanese champions in the Ladies’ event eventually went on to win a world medal—and in most cases, the title. As a result, it’s not surprising that the Japanese media and skating community would set high expectations on the skater from Kyoto.

Two months later, Miyahara competed at the 2015 Four Continents where she took her second consecutive silver medal. The following month, she made her debut at the World Championships where she refreshed her personal best in both the short and long program, and captured the silver medal.

This result came as a surprise to many people, including the silver medalist herself.

“I knew before the event that it would be very, very difficult to make it to the podium,” said the skater. She went on to explain her facial expression in the Kiss & Cry, which didn’t change when the results were shown. “The feeling was so unreal that I couldn’t show any emotion, but I was really happy inside.”

Despite her success, Miyahara admits that she still has a lot to do and is far from the finish line.

“It has not been long since I moved up to the senior level and I think this is just a new start for me,” said the skater who is coached by Mie Hamada, Yamato Tamura, and Yoko Niino. “I still have a long way ahead of me, and I want to continue improving myself through working and training hard.”

Given the dominance of the Russian ladies this season, the Japanese champion felt that she gained confidence in competing at the top level through her results.

“I haven’t beaten any top skater from Russia before, but this time I was able to beat two of them,” she said. “It really gives me more confidence in the future.”

In fact, “confidence” has been the keyword which Miyahara kept mentioning in the interviews throughout the season. In April, the world silver medalist was selected to represent her country at the World Team Trophy for the first time. Prior to the event, she again stated her goal was “to give my best performance with confidence.”

Despite making a few mistakes in the short program in Tokyo, Miyahara again refreshed her personal best in the free skate with a nearly flawless performance except for an under-rotated triple flip.

“Before my performance I told myself, ‘you can do it, no problem, keep calm,'” she recalled. “I am happy with the result.”

After the performance, and to everyone’s surprise, Miyahara made a fist pump and the excitement was written all over her face.

“When I went back to the Kiss & Cry, every teammate told me that it is so rare to see such excitement from me,” she shared. “My free skate went very well, but above all, I was so excited when I saw my teammates all standing up and applauding for me. I knew I had made my contribution to my team, so I couldn’t help but do a fist pump.”

Being called “the shyest and quietest girl you can imagine” by Team Japan’s captain Takahito Mura, Miyahara admitted that showing her emotion and connecting with the audience has been a big challenge for her. In fact, one of the two biggest goals she aims to achieve next season is to show more facial expressions in the programs.

“When I look at the skaters from other countries, they can always get right into the character the second the music starts and show sophisticated emotions in front of the audience,” she observed. “I hope I can also do that.”

To improve the artistry aspect, the will be working with Tom Dickson again on the short program and Lori Nichol for the long.

“I want to skate to a totally different music from this past season,” said Miyahara. “I want to be more polished in my presentation, especially the facial expressions.”

Another goal is to be more consistent on the triple-triple combination jump, which she faces not only the challenge to land, but to also fully rotate. At the beginning of the season, she opened her long program with a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, however, later she took the triple toe out and loaded it in the second half after a double Axel. This created two double Axel-triple toe jumps in the same program.

“It is not the ideal situation,” Miyahara admitted, “but my coach and I thought this layout could generate more points and I could become more consistent. I want to do triple-triple, and to do it well.”

The skater realizes the key to solve the problem is speed with no hesitation, and is currently practicing the jump on a daily basis in order to have it prepared for the long program when needed.

This is not the only difficult jump that Miyahara is practicing. Coming from a country which produced three ladies who have successfully landed the triple Axel in official competitions, the skater looks forward to continuing the tradition once the jump is ready.

Looking ahead at the upcoming season, the two-time Japanese junior champion plans to carry the confidence she gained this season onward.

“My biggest gain this season is that now I know I can do my best in any competition, even under pressure and in the biggest arena,” she said.