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Thread: Why are there no Japanese pairs?

  1. #1
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    Why are there no Japanese pairs?

    It would seem that, with wonderful female pairs skaters from Japan like Rena Inoue, Utako Wakamatsu, and Yuko Kawaguchi and a strong programme of singles skaters in both the mens' and ladies' divisions, that Japan would be able to come up with a few homegrown pairs teams that could do well on the world stage. It's seems like there are enough ladies in Japan who are interested, but it seems like Japan has to import men (Aleksandr Markuntsev, Alexei Tikhonov) to fill out the teams. So, why aren't the Japanese men interested? They're willing to do ice dance; Japan has at least three ice dance teams (granted, ice dance isn't as demanding as pairs).

    I'm curious to know if anyone has any insight into this, because this baffles me

  2. #2
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    Yuko Kawaguchi paired up with an American skater, Devin Patrick, this past season (coached by Tamara Moskvina, last I heard), and they were the only senior pair at Japan's Nationals in December. The Japanese federation, for whatever reason (Patrick's citizenship and/or residency status?), has not sent them to any internationals yet.

    I think the main challenge is, and has been, the lack of experienced pair coaches in Japan.

  3. #3
    In my heart, I'm actually Canadian....
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    To some this is going to sound politically incorrect, but bear with me here.

    With the way Pairs skating is now, it's almost essential that the man be close to 6 feet -- and there are few Japanese men who fall into that category, and of them, you also have to factor in the chances that they'd be good at skating. So I imagine finding a native Japanese male who would be tall enough would be rather difficult. I do recall several years ago a pair at Worlds from Japan where both members were actually Japanese (It sticks in my head that Shin Amano, who also competed in singles, was the male partner, but I could be wrong and I can't remember the year well enough to look it up at the moment), but they were an exception. They've also had a few pairs that they haven't sent out internationally because apparently they didn't meet the Japanese federation's standards. But basically in order to get the height needed, they most of the time seem to have to go elsewhere.

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    Over 6 feet?

    Over 6 feet tall? Really? Some of the pairs skaters out there don't look that tall. How tall is John Baldwin Jr?
    Linny

  5. #5
    In my heart, I'm actually Canadian....
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    Quote Originally Posted by Linny
    Over 6 feet tall? Really? Some of the pairs skaters out there don't look that tall. How tall is John Baldwin Jr?
    Linny
    5-9, actually. But for Japan, that's still pretty tall. Karen Preston, former Canadian champion, who isn't even THAT tall and frequently skated (skates?) in Japan with Disney on Ice, has talked about what a "giantess" she is considered to be over there.

  6. #6
    Rinkside
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    I haven't been in Japan for over a decade, but when I was there I remember being struck by how many tall young Japanese men I saw there. So I don't think stature is a problem, but rather its interest, ice time and coaching.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sylvia

    I think the main challenge is, and has been, the lack of experienced pair coaches in Japan.
    True, Japan has few (if any) experienced pair coaches, but there seem to be enough foreign coaches like Moskvina who seem willing to work with a Japanese pair.

    It sounds like the issue is the standards of the Japanese Federation. If they did have a pair where both partners were Japanese, it seems like the Federation is unwilling to release them out into the world until they reach a certain level. I know Kawaguchi was the one who approached Moskvina about skating pairs and Moskvina was the one who paired her up with Markuntsov (sp?)

    I'm curious to know why the Japanese Federation, if they had a Japanese-Japanese pair team or a Japanese-Japanese team with interest, they would not release them to work with another coach outside of Japan to get better? The Chinese Federation released Yang/Gao to train with Dubova for ice dance.

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    I find it hard to believe that the men are too small in Japan. You can easily field an all Japanese pair team with a 5'1 girl and a 5'9 guy. If you look at the Chinese teams, the girls are rather tall (at least taller than the 5'1 US and Russian girls) and the guys are about average height except maybe for Tong who looks like he might be 5'11-6'0 tall. The Chinese guys, especially Zhang are pretty built. Having seen the Japanese gymnastics team, I know for certain that Japanese men can get built like that as well to throw and catch a 5'1 woman.

    I think their issue is lack of men in figure skating. The men's team isn't deep at all. However if they develop a program, they can get a really good pairs team(s). The Chinese did it with even less of a skating tradition than Japan.

    Worse comes to worse, maybe Japan can look to Korea for men. Korean guys are pretty tall.

  9. #9
    It's all about Plushenko.
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    I think part of it might be that the ladies singles program is so incredibly strong that girls might not want to try pairs. I'm kind of thinking how the best girls in Russia were always pushed towards pairs, so that their singles program was not strong at all until the 90s. Maybe the same thing is happening to a degree in Japan? Everyone wants to be Shizuka Arakawa or Mao Asada?

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    Quote Originally Posted by nicole_l
    I think part of it might be that the ladies singles program is so incredibly strong that girls might not want to try pairs. I'm kind of thinking how the best girls in Russia were always pushed towards pairs, so that their singles program was not strong at all until the 90s. Maybe the same thing is happening to a degree in Japan? Everyone wants to be Shizuka Arakawa or Mao Asada?
    But the ladies singles programme is so strong in Japan, I would think that more girls would transition to pairs to bypass how cutthroat the ladies singles competition is and have more of a chance of representing Japan internationally. Goodness knows if you were a good enough singles skater and you found the right partner, there is zero competition for pairs in Japan so it would seem like a straight shot

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    Perhaps like US

    Perhaps the Japanese have the some of the same problems fielding quality pairs teams that the USA has?
    Linny

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    Quote Originally Posted by Linny
    Over 6 feet tall? Really? Some of the pairs skaters out there don't look that tall. How tall is John Baldwin Jr?
    Linny
    John is listed at 5 foot 9. But Rena is only 4'10", so he is still much taller than she.

  13. #13
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    Developing great pairs teams takes years of hard work. Also, if there is a shortage of male skaters, which I think is the case in Japan, it makes the process even more difficult. Canada, has a Canadian/Japanese team at the moment - F&W (sorry not sure how to spell her name) and although they skate well together, the announcement was made during the worlds "she will not seek her Canadian citizenship as planned so therefore they will not be skating at the next Olympics." It's a real shame. They performed beautifully in the Canadians and also at the Worlds. So it's back to the drawing board for Fecteau. Hope he finds another partner in time for the Olympics.

  14. #14
    Tripping on the Podium
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    I would think that watching Yuka Sato have so much fun skating pairs with her husband would inspire more Japanese skaters to want to do pairs.

    Also, are there any Japanese ice dancing teams? I can't remember seeing any Japanese team compete there either.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by icer
    Also, are there any Japanese ice dancing teams?
    Yes! Watanabe and Kido! The most delightful couple on ice!

    MM

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