I have always been very interested in the working of human minds, particularly those of successful people, aka winners. I certainly consider elite figure skaters highly successful and, well, elite. The winningest of them of course are the creme de la creme, excelling in an extremely demanding, unforgiving, and often cruel sport. I discussed the mental espects of competing in this sport in the Peak At Right Time thread and was stirred by the plight of Swedish Men Skaters, Adrain Schultheiss in particular.
In the current What do you want to see at Worlds for the Men? thread, I posed a question to our new, insightful, and articulate member mot regarding Takahashi and her, as well as others', reaponses are interesting and intriguing. I therefore decided to continue the discussion on this new thread so as not to derail the original thread. I will "move", well copy, the original posts on topic here to begin. I'm not too sure when I myself will continue the discussion as I may be quite occupied today. Please contribute.
My initial quesion:
mot, can you explain for me something about Takahashi from a cultural perspective?
As you can see from the Quads Of The Season list I've compliled, Dai has a very poor record in his quad attempts this season. He has had just one success and the rest cost him so much directly and indirectly. He is much better off doing triples and even doubles than trying for quads. I know he has problems with 4T due to his knee injury so he's trying 4F, which is very smart because the GOE penalty is lighter relative to that for a 4T. Still, with the miserable success rate he's had, it's just not worth it and it hurts his overall scores and medal chances substantially.
Why does he insist on doing it? I feel the Japanese skaters, male and female, are pressured to do the hardest jumps, whether or not it's a good strategy. Could it be because of the tradition initiated by the great successful Japanese skating pioneers like Midori Ito, or other aspect of Japanese culture that place such importance on quad attempts?
eta I am especially interested in whether there is more pressure on someone with a hero status like Daisuke or if the same demand is made on all capable skaters? Unlike some earlier Japanese great jumpers, Daisuke is all round and the PCS king, so why is doing a quad in competition imperative?
mot kindly replied:
genki:SkateFiguring, let me try...
Yes, Japanese media do focus on so-called harder jumps, meaning rotation wise - I mean I do not think they know much about the difference between let's say lutz and sal. But I do not think there is pressure put on the skaters by them. The federation, coaches and teams are also not silly enough to take the media too seriously. Having said that, it is only quite recently that Japanese skaters become highly regarded for their artistic sides not only for their jumps, it is possible that in the training there has traditionally been stronger emphasis on mastering jumps when skaters are young. (The same way, there seems to be stronger focus on basic skating skills in the North America and more balletic training in Russia in general.)
I can also add something from Daisuke's personal view to answer your query. He explained the reason why he continues to try on quads regardless of rather poor success rate for the last couple of seasons as follows;
- He started competing in the senior rank when it was considered not possible to win Men's competition without putting in quads - not only one but multiple of them if poss. The idea has stuck with him, he said - the true Men's champion for him was the one with the quad.
- He used to be able to include two quads in a programme (07-08 season in which he landed them successfully at Japan Nats and the 4CC). According to his own words, for him to say he has truly returned to his former self after the injury, it is necessary to get back to that level technically.
- He believes the only way to nail the quad in the competition is to keep on trying it in competitions regardless of the success rate. (This attitude seems to be shared by Kozuka - I think he has included the quad in his long programmes before he landed one for the first time - though two-footed - at the Olys for two seasons without a single success?)
- Funnily enough, he said he does not like the quad as a jump and he would not therefore try it in the exhibitions and shows. He goes for the quad because it is in the spirit of competitive sport that one always trys the best they can. Ah, allegedly someone - perhaps from the federation? - suggested he should NOT include the quad in the free at the Vancouver Olys to secure a podium finish - a suggestion he ignored.
So it seems all personal.
You may still call it Japanese cultural aspect of his quest for the quad - that it is all about personal attitude. Culturally speaking, we do regard one's path to and/or quest for success as highly as success itself.
Hope this gives you some insight.
SkateFiguring:Hi Mot. Haqjimemashite:I have a suspicion that his true love maybe Ice Dance
I am Japanese too, living in US.
I guess your suspicion is right. He said somewhere long time ago, that if he has a choice between dance/pair, he said he would choose dance.
He also said in a variety show that if he is not a skater, he would probably be a dancer.
Hope he would do latin dance or something after he retires. I dance ballrroom, so it is my dream to see sexy Latin dance on the floor from Dai !!
Layfan:Well, Dai can always do ice shows with emphasis on his fabulous dance steps and hot performances when he retires from competitions. He will be so loved and in demand.
I have felt that there is a value placed on trying those quads higher than scores and winning. It is a compelling honour worth the price or sacrifice if the goal is not achieved. It may be personal, but personal values are generally influenced and nurtured by society. What is interesting is that though it may be manly or macho for Dai to hold such belief, the top female skater, Mao, also seems compelled to do her 3A. That's why I thought there may be a more broad based value system that makes trying to achieve the most respected element in the sport extremely important, reflecting the skater's character, especially as a role model.
I remember how cute Dai was meeting, and being star struck by, Kumakawa. He said he almost fell in love! Maybe now he knows how his fans feel about him!
mot:Daisuke usually seems to be able to get himself together even after falling on the quad and deliver the rest of the program well. He gets the audience going and makes them forget about the fall. So from the perspective, I've always thought, yeah, go for it. It seems to give him confidence just to try it.
I am also an ex-pat, living on the other side of the Atlantic from you. I am always very envious that figure skating receives much more media coverage over on your side than here in the UK, which is a real pity considering the long successful history of figure skating in this country, and also a big contribution it had on the sport - well, up until a few decades ago. My love affair with figure skating started with T&D.
I would love Daisuke to try something like Bachelorette again - it was the programme which took my fascination with him to another level, as a skater who has something terribly unique. Never seen anything like it performed by a male single skater before or since.
SkateFiguring, perhaps I am going off the topic too much, but I thought I'd better clarify further...
I suspect Daisuke and Mao could somehow get away with their not-always-successful pursuit for the quad and the triple axel, as they still managed to get the results. Miki on the other hand suffered a massive media bashing when her failed attempt on the quad sal costed her higher placement at the Torino Olympics. (Poor soul - the media still wants to know the season after the season whether she would try the quad sal again though. Here goes again, the country's fascination with rotations!) At the same Olympics, Shizuka did not put in her triple-triple combination, which she was capable of, in her gold-medal-winning performance and was never really criticised for it - everyone was congratulatory on her beautiful, flawless performance and the GOLD MEDAL! (I must add here that it was very wise of her not to attempt it just for the sake of it, because it was clear in her own mind that her goal was to win the gold so that she could be on the advantageous starting point for her career as a pro skater, which she much preferred to be than a competitive one. And I LOVE and praise her to bits for it.)
Sad to admit, but if Daisuke had sunk again down in the 8th because of his failed quad attempt in 2010, like he did in 2006, I cannot tell whether his 'personal' attitude would have been equally praised or not. (Yes, 'he was the MAN!' was the sentiment widely shared by the Japanese population after the Vancouver Olys - because he won the bronze despite the failed quad, I believe.) I mean his decision to pursue the quad was, I presume, culturally-based / influenced as I have written previously, but whether it was socially accepted / praised or not could have been depending on the result. As a fan, I am glad he delivered the result.
I'm not Japanese so there would be no way I know about Japan more than you. But if the concern about quad is personal thing or media thing, could you pleae kindly explain why it seems that many top Japan skates put the difficult jump as their priority. For example, beside Dai, I remember Miki wanted to do do 3-3 at world 2009 but Morozov doesn't her to do it and told her to focus on performance instead. After she got bronze I remember Miki said something about how she use to only concern on jump or something like that.
This case seems to be the same with Yuzuru as it seems that he put quad as his priority and when the media did a documentary about him, they seems to choose the theme "quad"(but this may be just the work of media right?). Anyway, from his interview this season it seems that he focus a lot on quad. Also, top five men from Japan now attemp Quad.
mot:I think there are individuals in every culture who go for broke and others who take a more calculated path to their goals.
I totally agree with you, Mathman.
Treeloving:,I am afraid I cannot talk on behalf of Japanese skaters and summarise why they prioritise difficult jumps (rotation-wise, let me emphasise again ... as flutzing seems to be common amongst Japanese skaters and if the focus is on 'difficulty', then they should have sorted it out long time ago!)
I also do not think it is an exclusively Japanese trait either - perhaps it is because there are so many of them in GPS and Championships that they stand out? European girls have a go at 3-3 combo (and occasionally land), Stephen Carriere tried a quad in Skate America this season and took me by surprise. Patrick's quad is no way near as reliable as let's say Kevin van Der Perren's in GPS but he put it in anyway. Last season, Oda, whose gorgeous quad and quad combo were regularly witnessed in practice sessions, never really attempted one in competitions (only at Japan Nats and he fell). Japan also had a world champ without great jumping ability but with everything else - Yuka Sato. Akiko Suzuki's strength and priority are not jumps either.
If you allow me to simplify, I thinks there are roughly three camps, in which we can categorise those skaters who attempt the difficult jumps regardless of success rate;
- those who have to otherwise they have no chance of winning / medalling / being on the higher placement - because of low PCS, weak footwork, spins, etc;
- those who have a good success rate during practice and need to get used to put one in when it counts; and
- those who can afford to fail as they have other things in thier arsenal to compensate - high PCS, strong footwork, spins, etc.
Using Japanese skaters as examples;
I think Miki in 2009 was the case #1; despite her coach's repeated encouragement, she herself lacked in confidence, and believed she needed her jumps to win. This seems to have changed drastically last season, she concentrated on her presentation side and gained confidence from her relative success. I put Yuzuru Hanyu in this category too. This is his first senior season and he could not rely on PCS, which was low in GPS, and he had nothing to loose. (having solid 3A also made it easier for him to go for the quad though) Machida, Mura, Haruka Imai are the same. They have no choice but to jump. Mao last season may have been feeling like this too, as she needed 3A to compete with Yu-Na.
Kozuka and Oda (this season) seems be the case #2. Both of them land the quad regularly in practice, so all is left for them to do is to nail it in competitions.
Daisuke may be the case #3. As well as his personal quest for the quad, I am sure he kind of knows that he can afford to fail to some extent, as he is a so-called complete package and has means to make up the points lost. He seems to be now aware though, that he needs the quad to be on the level playing field with Patrick.
Talking about Yuzuru - he at the beginning of the season said the quad is what separates the senior skaters from the juniors. He in reality needed the quad just to compete with those who are expected to be in the final flight of Japan Nats - all have the quad or nearly do in their arsenals. (Daisuke Murakami, Japanese No 7 man, fell but rotated 4S at Universiade BTW.)
However, his focus is not only on the quad - in the recent interview, he said he had been overwhelmed and fascinated by Patrick's skating skills, which he witnessed with his own eyes during the practice at COR. He now calls Patrick as his role model in skating skills. How he described his admiration was rather funny and cute - he said he wanted Patrick to give him a piggyback and skate, so that he could learn how to do it, and he was afraid if they'd hold and skate together like ice dancers, he would fall by trying to keep up with Patrick. He said he'd then even imitated Patrick a bit and went for deeper edges than usual during the warm-up and was surprised that it gave him much more speed. He now says that Plushenko is his hero, Johnny his idol, Tod his textbook, Patrick his role model - the young boy wants everything!
That is going to inspire a few slashfics.How he described his admiration was rather funny and cute - he said he wanted Patrick to give him a piggyback and skate, so that he could learn how to do it
I googled the word as I had never come across it ... Blimey... Gob-smacked that some people's imagination could stretch that far. Hope they remember he's just turned 16 and leave the poor kid alone.That is going to inspire a few slashfics.
Yeah!! Exactly!! That is a true choreographic masterpiece done by Kenji Miyamoto.would love Daisuke to try something like Bachelorette again - it was the programme which took my fascination with him to another level, as a skater who has something terribly unique. Never seen anything like it performed by a male single skater before or since.
I am so happy to find a person like you. I showed it to some of my American friends and they said something like," Is he gay?" Common, why can you not appreciate art like that?
Re Quad, I would like to add one thing about Dai.
Dai used to land two beautiful quads in one program before injury. He said in the interview, " I used to do two quads in one program, so at least I will have to come back to that level or even exceed it."
This may explain his strong quest for quads.
mot, very interesting information. I'd love to comment on it but it's so OT, starting from my question for you. I'd like to take it to a new thread but don't have an appropriete thread title for it. I like to analyse mindsets and assess the skaters from where their heads are at. I need to know what to call the subject.
SkateFiguring, I shall keenly await your new thread.
Bachelorette was a fabulous program. Seeing it at the 2008 Worlds gala, I couldn't understand why everyone had been so excited about the techno Swan; Bachelorette was so much cooler (well, Morozov vs. Miyamoto, there you go). I would love to see Daisuke do something like it competitively.I would love Daisuke to try something like Bachelorette again - it was the programme which took my fascination with him to another level, as a skater who has something terribly unique. Never seen anything like it performed by a male single skater before or since.)
He now says that Plushenko is his hero, Johnny his idol, Tod his textbook, Patrick his role model - the young boy wants everything!
I know Yuzuru admires Johnny and Plushenko, and I think you can see it in his skating. It's nice that he is constantly inspired by others and tries to incorporate things he learns from observing their skating into what he does, while still pursuing his own style. Yuzuru seems to be going in the right direction and considering he is amazingly talented already, that bodes well for his future in the sport.