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Worrying times ahead for Japan’s international team
First Suzuki, then Murakami, now Asada.
At this rate of going, Mathman could get their wish of Tsuya Yamaguchi competing for Japan; with Miki Ando and Fumie Suguri as her team-mates!
(If you want to know what I’m on about, see Mathman’s post in my “Parallel Universe” thread)
Seriously, though, these are worrying times for Japan’s international team. If all the rumours we are hearing are true, then all the Ladies skaters that have been representing Japan internationally in recent years (Suzuki, Asada and Murakami) are retiring.
On top of this, the guts of Japan’s Men’s international team (Takahashi and Oda; not sure about Kozuka, Machida, Murakami or Mura) could also be retiring.
Admittedly, the Men’s team does have Yuzuru Hanyu as hope for the future. But, when Kozuka, Machida, Murakami and Mura do go, then it is hard to pick out potential team-mates for him. Ryuju Hino and Shoma Uno looked promising at Junior Worlds, but we all know how difficult the step up from Juniors to Seniors can sometimes be.
But, unlike Hanyu in the Men’s, there does not seem to be any standout star for the future in the Ladies division. Satoko Miyahara and Rika Hongo looked promising at Junior Worlds, but are no-where near stepping into the skates of a Suzuki or even a Murakami. Of the skaters that are already in the senior ranks, only Hiruka Imai jumps out, but she hasn’t had a great season this year.
Although I was joking when I mentioned Kristi Yamaguchi at the start of this comment, this could realistically be the chance that Miki and Fumie were waiting for to get back into the Japanese team, even if it is just for the short term.
And, if Miki and/or Fumie were on the team, it would provide support for whichever championship rookies that were joining them (although Hiruka has been to 4 Continents a couple of times, she hasn’t been to Worlds). And, if all the older guys do retire, Yuzuru could fulfil a similar role in the Men’s category.
Throughout the season (but particularly during the Europeans), I was saying that for major championships like the Europeans and Worlds, the Russian team should have a skater who has been there before to help support Sotnikova and Tuktamysheva if they needed it. My suggestion was that they should have sent Polina K to Europeans, and Leonova to Worlds. That would also have let Gosviani get some GP experience under her belt before the big fight for international places next season. (See this post for my full explanation). But, they didn’t… until the Worlds, anyway. And as a result, during the Europeans, all the Russian teenagers came under a lot of criticism on this forum unnecessarily.
I would hate for this to be repeated with the Japanese teenagers, whatever category they skate in.
Although the picture I am painting is not rosy in singles skating, it is even bleaker in Pairs skating. We saw that ourselves when, after Takahashi and Tran split, Japan couldn’t even find anybody to enter into the 4 Continents, Worlds and WTT.
During the WTT, Mathman asked whether Japan could have entered a novice team to pick up the 7 points. Now, I don’t know if there are any novice pairs teams in Japan, but they certainly don’t have any junior pairs.
Looking through the history of Japanese Nationals, since 1984, there have only been 7 Junior Pairs competitions, and only 1986 had more than 1 entry (a grand total of 2 teams!)
Before Narumi Takahashi and her former partner Yoshiaki Yamada appeared in 2006/07, there had been no Junior Pairs competitions since Yuko Kawaguchi and her former partner Alexander Markuntsov (yes, she had another Russian!) turned senior in 2000! Then, in the 2 years when Narumi was competing, she and her partner (be it Yamada or Tran) were the only entries! And, since Narumi and Mervin turned senior in 2008, there hasn’t been any Junior Pairs competitions at Japanese Nationals!
It was the same in the senior ranks. There had been no Senior Pairs competitions since Yuko Kawaguchi and her new partner Devin Patrick switched to competing for the USA in 2005. Then, in the 4 years when Narumi and Mervin were competing, they were the only entries! And then this year, after Takahashi and Tran split, there was no competition.
This just shows how ill-prepared Japan are for the future. We all know how easy it is to get injured; and we also know how often partnerships split up. And, thanks to what did happen Narumi and Mervin, we all know now how difficult it is to get Japanese citizenship. Surely the Japanese Federation would have known all that as well. So, they should have at least had some sort of contingency plan in place in case something happened.
Although we mightn’t see them on the international stage too often because the headlining partnership is so dominant, at least there would be another pair available to be called on if needed.
That’s what it’s like in ice dance. Although we see the Reeds in every international competition, there are other ice dance partnerships in Japan. OK, so there mightn’t be too many entries in Japanese nationals, but it is worth noting that apart from the 2007/08 season (when there was just the Reeds), the last time that there was only one entry in the Senior Ice Dance at Japanese nationals was 1972/73! (In Juniors, it has been a more regular occurrence to have just one entry, but since 1987/88, the only year with no competition was 2011/12, as the partnership that had been entering the previous few years had moved up to Seniors).
So, I hope that over the next few years, the Japanese Federation puts all their efforts into developing a strong team for the future in all disciplines. Because, if they don’t and all the skaters we expect to retire before Pyeonchang do go, we could see a very sudden end to Japan’s success story.
At the moment, there are just no visible foundations to build a new team from. There is just one block in place – Yuzuru Hanyu.
Until then, I hope that all the skaters who are planning to retire enjoy a successful swansong to their career. Especially Mao and Akiko!!!
Mura also shows potential. Machida can be good but is so inconsistent it seems. They dont seem to have many promising ladies and Murakami retiring after Sochi is surprising and bad news (and Asada retirining but that is more expected), and their best pairs team was split up. Their could be tough times ahead but I am sure they will rebound with some other strong singles skater at some point. They have a strong program in place.
I think the Japanese are nearing the point in singles where USA was in ladies singles 30 years ago. Whenever someone retired, there were new and fresh faces to take their place in the spotlight. The foundations have been laid, and they won't crumble when the current crop of Japanese stars move on.
The emerging trend for team events... WTT and Olympic Team Event... should spur the Japanese to take the pairs and dance disciplines more seriously. They're not really in the conversation for Olympic gold in the team event because of weakness in pairs and dance.
The could conceivably take top spots and men's and women's singles, and still not make the podium in the team event.
I don't know if any country will ever match the US when it comes to Ladies skating. Until this last slump which has lasted for about 6 years the US was in contention in the Ladies event for over 50 years. Only thing that slowed the US women down was the plane crash and even then it took only 4 years to get back on the podium.
Yes and the U.S ladies are moving back into contention and will probably remain there for a long time to come again when they return there. They will have more competition than in the past with Asia so strong and likely to remain so in some form, and Europe sure to have some future contenders, but they will still likely be up there, making 2008-2011 a rare standout dark period in history (and even in that Czisny won the Grand Prix final and Skate America over that seasons future World Champion even with falls, Nagasu was 4th at the Olympics and won the short program at Worlds ).
Ice dance is nearly as weak as pairs. If the Reeds hadn't switched from the US to Japan, they wouldn't have a dance team. The two other dance teams have at least one non-Japanese partner (Bryna Oi and Marien de la Asuncion). Bryna Oi is American born but presumably has a Japanese parent and might be able to get Japanese citizenship. Hirai/de La Asuncion are the better team, but de la Asuncion is wholly French and they train in France, so he'd be in the same position as Tran.
Japan's population is declining with fewer kids and yet it is still a prosperous country that provides many opportunities for its youngsters. Amongst the many sports that parents could encourage their children to take up, I don't think figure skating would appear particularly attractive. For example, if I were a parent of a child that shows promise of reaching the very top in either ballet or figure skating, I would encourage my child to take up ballet, because it seems to promise a more gratifying career.
The problem with figure skating is that it purports itself to be a sport and yet this so-called sport changes its rules every 2-3 years at least! I mean, if baseball or basketball changed its rules as often as figure skating I'm sure its credibility as a 'sport' would be questioned.
Also, let's say basketball rules started saying things like, even if you manage to get the ball into the hoop, you will get a different score if the last leg that you jumped off of was your left leg or right leg, and if a referee says you used both legs to jump, then the score is invalidated. However, if slow-mo replay shows that the toes of your left feet got off the ground within 0.1 seconds before the heels of the right feet took off, then you get half a score. Also, if your toes are pointed, and you have a nice arch as you jump through the air, and landed without tripping over and flashed a great big smile afterward, you get a bonus point on top of the base point that you got for getting the ball through the hoop. And of course, the distance that you jump as you try to put the ball into the hoop makes a huge difference in the bonus point as well. If you jump just under the hoop, that's like a really bad jump, but if you jump horizontally across the air when you make your last jump, you get a huge bonus point. Also, at the end of the day, even if your team manages to collect more points through getting the ball through the hoop more than the other team, the results can be overturned because referees actually watch you to see how you got across the court, whether or not you did little things like twirling, running backward, stopping briefly to pose provocatively, or throwing your head back in abandonment to show that you are totally emotionally immersed in the moment.
So clearly, figure skating is not a sport, the results are subjective, and it seems like politics does have a huge sway in who the winner is.
And so as a parent, I would advise my child not to take up figure skating because I wouldn't want to child to get involved in a sport where s/he is quite helpless to determine the outcome.
Originally Posted by hurrah
The scoring may be frustrating, but the nature of skating is that it evolves and advances. Part of its attraction is that its skaters will take it to new levels. By changing the scoring, that evolving and advancing can be enhanced. (Get your point though.)
Regarding Japan, I think that the rest of us would love to be in Japan's position. It seems to have such an incredible interest in the sport and has done so much to develop skating all the way down its ranks, and it properly supports its skaters at the top. It seems to be a system based on more on merit than on merit and means as is the case in Canada. There will be periods when there are lulls, spaces where no one is skating at the top, but if there is a broad foundation of opportunity, as Japan has tried to foster, those skaters will appear. (Isn't it interesting how all of a sudden Mura has a big presence.) And you really only need one skater at the top to be there. Japan may have been used to having two or three in the top tier in men's or women's singles, but if there is only one, it isn't a big deal. (And it will make the rest of us feel better not being shut out. ) Japan has no problem at all.
Regarding pairs and dance, Japan will not only have to redirect resources but find generally bigger men who skate. Don't see that situation changing for a long time. But it isn't anything new for Japanese skating. It isn't as if there is a downgrade occurring. As a whole, the sport is still really healthy, and it has done so just on the basis of singles in the past, and can do so in the future.
Agreed. It really is an unenviable task to be a men's or women's Japanese singles skater because the level of competition is extremely high. I think people are often too worried about the future. Before Hanyu came around people were worried about post-Takahashi. Ladies is trickier with Murakami and Suzuki intending to retire (and Mao too), but I think that presents great opportunities for younger skaters who wouldn't otherwise get the experience to up their game because of the top ladies boxing them out.
Originally Posted by phaeljones
Don't forget Shoma Uno! He had the 3rd highest PCS in the FS at JW and is really a wonderful performer with excellent transitions. He really reminds me of Daisuke. Needs the 3a and quad still, but he can do everything else, and he's soo tiny still that I feel getting those jumps will be more a matter of when he grows rather than ability. He turned 15 in December and still is just 143 cm, so I would guess he's due for his big growthspurt soon and once that boy grows up watch out! He really is mesmerizing, the past 2 seasons his FS programs totally drew me in, there is something zen-like and soothing about his skating, and the arm movement and facial drama is totally mini Tak.