Takahiko Kozuka; Towards the Next Season: “No matter what, I need to work hard and practice my jumps.”
Q: The season’s finally over, isn’t it?
A: At first, I had planned for this season to be a short one, by little by little, it started extending, and finally, I find myself at the World Championships (laughs). Although it’s been tiring, I’m really happy. To be able to represent Japan at the World Championships isn’t something that can always be experienced! After all, only a select few can attend every year. Honestly speaking, I’m still regretful of the finale, and wish that I can redo it. However, when I think about my training conditions, I did pretty well. Even Satou Kumiko said “That’s amazing!” These two emotions conflict with one another, creating a feeling of restlessness.
Q: Is there any reason why you think you were able to finish the season pretty well?
A: My body’s condition hasn’t been the best, but I think I was able to remember that I needed to seize each opportunity given to me regardless. When I say my body’s condition isn’t at its best, I’m referring to the fact that my jumps aren’t too consistent. The triples are, without a doubt, straining on the body, resulting in an accumulation of tiredness and stress. I’ve known this for a while now, so whenever I’m on the ice, I try to use the excuse that I’ll be able to truly take advantage of the opportunities that come at me when I recover from the fatigue. Although I am forcing myself to believe that, if my body doesn’t move, then I won’t be able to compete. To be able to get my body to move the way I want is the key, and I’ve been thinking this way in order to push through. However, this time around, it was the World Championships. Doing the triples were a gamble, since I had not idea if I would be able to land them cleanly or not. l think that in ways, my short program improved, even though I wasn’t able to push through with my free skate. In the end, it shows that I will still need a fair bit of training. Training doesn’t lie. The fatigue that you get from training supplies you with the mindset that you will be able to succeed, and I think that is why I was able to do pretty well this season.
Q: How do you plan to challenge the next season?
A: During the off season last year, I wanted to tap into my own body more. I wasn’t able to find any peace and quiet in Japan, so I went aboard to focus all of my attention on my body and mind. I think I was able to learn more about myself to some extent afterwards, so this year, I plan on staying in Japan to train. If you’re asking for what I plan on training, I want to work on my jumps… Whatever I do, I want to work hard and perfect my jumps. Even though I’ve understood my body and health more now, the feeling of submitting myself into a rigorous training regime is important as well.
Q: Do you think the results of this season can serve as a motivational tool for you?
A: I’m the type that likes to distance myself from reality at times, so I don’t really think much about it. I think that it’s more important to actually do something rather than think. Even though I say this, I believe that even athletes need to have a brain, as we need to make sure all the moves we make are intelligent and will lead us to the result that we wish for. However, it’s not a good thing to only have brains, though! Therefore, I think that a balance between athleticism and intelligence is very important.
Q: You said that you wanted to be able to get more intelligent in order to achieve that perfect balance between your physical and mental state. How do you plan to achieve this?
A: I think that I shouldn’t just be knowledgeable about skating, but also dabble around in track and field, swimming, baseball, soccer, etc. I want to know about all of other sports’ training strategies and motivational techniques. If I can mix what I learnt in with what I currently know, I think that it will definitely help me out a lot. To me, the physics of figure skating is certainly starting to get old. If I can somehow expose myself to other sports as well, I think I’ll be able to spice up what I know. Emotions are what drives the artistry skills, so if I can talk more with other people to train my interaction with others, that will surely be a good thing.
Q: Have you learnt how to take care of your health well now?
A: I’ve gotten better, but it still hurts a bit… Once the medicine wears off, it starts to hurt again, after all. I used to have a coach who would give me physiotherapy treatment everyday after practicing, so it was fine back then. In ways, I guess this is a form of training right now… Although it’s a bit unconventional, as long as I am determined to overcome this pain, I will definitely succeed… That’s what I think.
Q: How did you reply when Daisuke Takahashi sent you a message saying “Sorry that I had to have you go around so much.”
A: After the Olympics, I sent him a message that said “You’ve worked hard!” During the free skate, I saw a very Daisuke-like performance and said “That’s really cool!”, to which he replied to with “I didn’t skate my best.” I then responded back with “That’s certainly not the case.” After coming back to Japan, Daisuke went underwent a checkup, and the results swayed the skating federation to approach me and ask “Do you want to go to the World Championships?” He later sent me a message that said “Sorry that I had to have you go around so much,” but I don’t think that I’ve been played. It’s not like he’s my girlfriend, after all (laughs). I personally think that it was a great learning experience. It feels more like he was giving his juniors some advice, so there’s nothing bad about it…. I don’t know (laughs).
Q: Compared to the past four years, what is your stand on the four years that have still to come?
A: I can’t remember when, but a fellow skater once asked me: “Taka, do you plan on continuing skating?”, to which I replied with: “Yup, I plan on continuing.” He responded to my answer with: “The Japanese media will definitely ask you what you plan on doing in four years time!” I also remembered him saying that “Perhaps you don’t need to decide that far off into the future…” In reality, I’ve just continued skating through the years by focusing on one each year. In a blink of the eye, it’s already been this long. I walk the path that I’ve chosen a step at a time, only thinking about whether to put my left or my right foot out. Just like that, time has passed by quickly. Till now, I still continue skating with this type of mindset. I like to think that I’m like a multi-season DVD. I plan on flipping to the next page of my career one step at a time.
Q: How do you plan on improving your stage presence and performance skills from now on?
A: It’s blatantly obvious that I can’t do it myself. I’ll need to listen and find out what other people think about my skating first, and then ask for suggestions on any possible moves that I can do. In order to do that, I’ll need to copy other people’s movements, and mix it in with what I have thus far to create my own original style. I think that it’s crucial that I search for new movements.