For Japan’s Shizuka Arakawa, the 2002-2003 figure skating season was a long one. “Worlds was my 11th competition for the year in seniors,” she said. “It was my second Worlds but it felt like I was a newcomer.” Arakawa finished eighth in Worlds, an improvement from 22nd in 1998. During the season, she also won the Asian Winter Games and the Winter Universiade, took her second consecutive silver medal at the Four Continents Championships, finished fourth at the ISU Grand Prix Final, and took the bronze at the NHK Trophy and fifth at the Cup of Russia. She also finished third at Japanese Nationals, her fifth medal there to go with two golds and two silvers from previous seasons. Arakawa is also the only Japanese skater to win the junior title for three consecutive years from 1996 through 1998.
Arakawa began skating when she was five. “I went to the ice rink and saw the kids with cute clothes. I wanted to wear the beautiful costumes,” she laughed. “I actually started swimming first, skating came later when I went to a private skating school for lessons.” She currently trains with Richard Callaghan in Detroit. Arakawa works for two and a half hours a day, six days a week on ice. Off ice, she runs for conditioning. She started ballet classes at seven, but doesn’t currently take classes.
Arakawa landed her first triple, a salchow, when she was eight, but her favorite jump is the toe loop. The double Axel is the hardest jump for her, and although she has landed a triple Axel in practice, it was cheated. “I’ve tried all kinds of triple-triple combinations in practice,” said Arakawa,” who used a triple lutz/triple toe in the short and the long last season.
“I like to skate to music with a story,” she said. “Something big that I can skate to. If you compare skating to ballet, there’s a story you have to follow in ballet. But in skating, I can tell my own story by performing whatever feels best with the music.” Nikolai Morozov choreographed her programs for last season. “I go to Connecticut for two weeks in the summer to do the programs,” she said. She used a modern version of Tchaikovski’s “Swan Lake” for the short program and music from James Horner’s soundtrack of “Titanic” for the long. “The first time I heard the music, I really liked it,” Arakawa said. For her exhibition program, she used “Wind Song.” “I listen to many kinds of music,” she noted. “It depends on my mood. I like a lot of Japanese pop music.” Arakawa also took piano lessons, but said she didn’t like to practice.
One of her hobbies is cooking. “I love to eat and I like to make someone else happy by cooking,” she said. She also likes to shop and go to all kinds of movies. “I like to read mysteries,” Arakawa said. “I try to find out how the detectives found out who did it.” She also collects Beanie babies and has a pet Shih Tzu. “Id like to try some other sports,” she said, “but I don’t have time.” She also enjoys travel. “My favorite trip was to Brisbane, Australia,” she said. “The people were very warm and I liked the environment of the city. I’d like to go to Hawaii, Guam and Okinawa – places with nice beaches.”
The lovely 21-year-old has just completed her third year at university, where she is taking social studies classes. “Other than being a professional skater after she finishes competing, she doesn’t have any career goals in mind. “I want to do whatever I can do the best,” she said.