Shizuka's amazing career path that ends in Olympic Gold
Does anybody else find Shizuka's path to the Olympic Gold fascinating?
1998-As a 16 year shocks most of Japan by beating the more highly fellow junior skater Fumie Suguri for the lone spot to the Olympics in home country of Japan and the Worlds in Minneapolis. Places outside the top 10 at the Olympics but shows promise with strong jumping potential, places outside top 20 at Worlds though.
1999-Has dissapointing GP season while arch rival Fumie soars and makes GP final. Shizuka beats Fumie to win Nationals, and Fumie has dissapointing showing at GP final. It seems like the Japanese has a dilemna on its hands, as it said before the GP final it was not sure who it would send to Worlds after Shizuka's Nationals win after Fumies GP season, and Fumie does not perform well at the GP final. Despite this it goes with Fumie for the lone spot to Worlds over Shizuka.
2000-Is eclipsed in Japan by not only contempary rival Fumie but young star Yoshie Onda. Both Fumie and Shizuka have dissapointing years and Yoshie wins Nationals and gets the ticket to Worlds.
2001-Another dissapointing season for the now faded former up and coming star of Japanese skating as Fumie garners the lone spot to Worlds. Fails to show much on GP circuit or any international event.
2002-Has some slight improvement as far as her international showings with a 4th at Skate America, and a 2nd at the Four Continents. Still is shut out of the World and Olympic team as both Fumie and Yoshie get the spots over him. This making it 4 straight years she has failed to make it to Worlds since her debut at the Olympics and Worlds as a 16 year old, and 4 years after that as a 20 year old has not been to another Worlds and misses out on the Olympics to boot. Clearly her star has dimmed greatly and retirement seems the most likely option.
2003-Has best season on international scene yet, he 5th at Cup of Russia, and bronze at the NHK trophy(first GP event medal)qualify her as a depth alternate for the GP finals but with multiple withdrawals she sneaks in there and comes a strong 4th. Wins silver behind Fumie at Four Continents, and has impressive string prior to the Four Continents, winning the University Games, National Sports Festival, and Asian Games golds. Comes a respectable 8th at Worlds, her first Worlds in 5 years.
2004-This season turns out even better then 2003 to start as she medals at all her GP events, winning silver or bronze behind Sasha Cohen at each. Comes a strong 3rd at the GP final, her first medal at this event. Then the shocker of all is yet to come, enters Worlds as a dark horse challenger for a medal, yet after a coaching change to Tarasova rides her triple-triples and improved on ice presence to a World title eclipsing American stars Cohen and Kwan.
2005-The season starts out on a good foot as she wins the NHK trophy easily-her first GP event win. Then she starts to show some jump consistency problems, loses by a whopping 20 points to Slutskaya at Cup of China. Loses badly again to Slutskaya at the GP final, finishing a distant 2nd after sloppy error-prone free skate. Misses Japanese Nationals. Then a disaesterous defence of her World title as she ends up 9th. Reportedly retires but then returns.
2006-Shows improved form and motivation over previous year but gets unlucky with GP assignments, and by far gets the toughest draws with Slutskaya and Asada in one event, and Cohen and Asada in the other. Hits most of her jumps, but tries no triple-triples, misses 1 jump in each free skate, and also loses crucial points in the short program where her cheated triple flip is ruled a double-costing her 2nd place in both events likely, as she ends up 3rd in each despite 2nd place in free skate(was behind after points lost with cheated 3 flip in short both times). Misses GP final. Comes only 3rd at Japanese Nationals behind Suguri and Asada. In Turin skates beautifuly to revamped short program, and actually fully rotates her previously cheated 3 flip, landing her in a virtual 3-way tie for 1st with favorites Cohen and Slutskaya going into free skate. Wins the Olympic gold with a beautiful if unspectacular performance where despite a doubled 3 loop and no attemp at the 3/3s she was displaying in practice, is a clear uncontested winner after both Irina and Sasha plant their rear ends on the ice at some point in their programs.
What an unusual career path. You have to feel so happy for her in a way to end her career as an Olympic Champion, and having won that World title 2 years before that. The perserverance of this women is hard to imagine, getting dropped from the Japanese World team and going through middling international results for 4 years, after bursting on the scene as an Olympian and World competitor as a 16 year before that. I honestly did not think she would even continue after 2002 and was surprised to see her at all in the 02-03. What an amazing career journey and amazing it did not get more storyline then it did after her Olympic Gold, or even her World title.
Rooting for the divas with Kwanford
You're absolutely right and thank you for putting it all down. What a struggle. That serene-looking young woman is strong in more ways than one. She may have been close to giving up more times than we know.
Unless the articles have not been reaching US fan boards, you have a good point about her story not being told more in the media. Maybe Japanese culture is not fond of underdogs. Here she would be beloved for that story.
From your account, I suspect there have also been some very hard times for Fumie.
PS: I hope Sasha takes heart!
The arc of Shizuka's career is so unusual. In 20+ years of watching figure skating, I've never seen a skater who had such ups and downs, yet ended as an Olympic and World champion. I would love to hear the story of her career some day in her own words.
I will miss watching her skate. She was the highlight of the last few years for me in the ladies' competition, and I was really rooting for her to win the Olympics. She's just a great skater.
I agree with all thats been said. Shizuka is quite a lady and an inspiration to young girls everywhere in and out of the skating world.
Yes, thanks for doing this entry.
Originally Posted by slutskayafan21
All the while, she worked fastfood, finished her degree, even considered the corporate world.
Yes, as a patriotic American, I wish I could be writing this about Kwan but no, things happen for a reason, and I am very appreciative of Arakawa for showing these young people "how it's done."
Maybe, it is simply impossible for a skater to have success at the international level while attending college, so Shizuka put her competitive success "on hold" while she pursued her degree, whereas Michelle delayed completing her education. However, MK seems back on the college track, so it looks like both skaters will end up with college degrees and competitive success -- a suitable happy ending for two remarkable people!
Before your put your stamp on this subject.
Originally Posted by attyfan
1. Arakawa got the gold. I don't think she consciously put her competitive success "on hold." That's something you'd have to ask her about.
2. I just don't see Michelle as much "college material" that Shizu was. Michelle really doesn't have anything else to do now that the gold has eluded her and she owns a rink with her dad.
I can go on and on but I'm done.
First, according to the original post, Arakawa didn't get much gold from 2000 to the 2004 GPF -- which (I believe) is bulk of the time that she was attending college -- I heard she was extremely close to graduation (or had already graduated) before Worlds. There may be other explanations for her lack of gold (Nats and Worlds) -- especially if my understanding of the dates are wrong -- but if they are correct, then it appears that Shizuka's college career coincided with a decline in her competitive results.
Originally Posted by lisadotdash
Second, whether Michelle is or is not as much "college material" as Shizuka depends on how you define "college material". Certainly, Michelle has been able to get accepted at good colleges (UCLA and DU), and, completing her degree seems to rank much higher than touring or going pro. That Kwan started college after Nagano indicates to me that her lack of Oly gold doesn't have too much to do with it.
Arakawa graduated from one of the most academically challenging and prestigious colleges in Japan.
This was the season she started to become great. The judges seriously screwed her over in 2001-2002 and 2002-2003. I've seen a bunch of 6 and 7 Triple programs from her that seriously were getting 5.4's on the technical merit mark.
Originally Posted by slutskayafan21
Her long program at the 2003 Worlds was excellent and the 8th place ranking they gave her was a total sham.
MY TVC 1 5
This was a really nice post, it inspires me. Prestige via Perseverance pays.
Shi-chan Trib vid (small file)
Last edited by SeaniBu; 10-03-2006 at 07:07 PM.
I agree with what are alot of you are saying that if she were an American her story would make her one of the most known and beloved figures in the country. I am glad to see that I am not the only one who finds her career path inspiring, it is one of the best case examples to keep believing in yourself and not to give up hope when things look bleak.
I also agree with Zuranthium that the judges did not give her anywhere near her due in 2001-2002 or 2002-2003 but I guess she had to convince judges she was a "name" skater, after years of diminished status in her own country since first breaking onto the scene.
I wonder if she had been an American whether she would have been let out of US Nationals, or would have been the pewter medallist, regardless of how she skated.
Originally Posted by slutskayafan21
get the VLC player and I think quicktime opens it too.
Originally Posted by Mathman
Shizuka has such an inspiring story. Once at the bottom of the pack, now Olympic champion. I can so imagine this on Lifetime.
Last edited by indicatoto101; 10-03-2006 at 09:47 PM.