Thanks to the Japanese readers of my blog who really helped achieve record numbers for the site (in its three month existence) in the last two days! As a "tribute" of sorts, I am going to share with you my favorite performances of some of the biggest stars of the sport from the country. I hope you enjoy!
Midori Ito - 1993 World Professional Championship Technical Program - "The Rose of Pain"
This competition took place right before I developed such a big passion for skating, but thanks to YouTube, I saw this particular performance a few years ago and was blown away by it. I wouldn't say that Midori was ever considered a very artistic skater, but her effort here is really great. This performance also includes quite possibly the best triple Axel I have ever seen by a lady.
Fumie Suguri - 2001 Goodwill Games Free Skate - "Moonlight Sonata"
I couldn't decide whether I wanted to include this program or her "Jupiter" free skate from the season prior, but the decision became easy when there was no good clip on YouTube of the latter :-) I remember waking up bright and early each day to watch the Goodwill Games live, and one of my favorite performances from the competition was certainly Fumie's free skate. Rosalynn Sumners says that her opening choreography is "the kind of skating that takes [her] breath away," and I couldn't agree more.
Shizuka Arakawa - 2001 Skate America Free Skate - "Violin Fantasy on Puccini's Turandot"
So, you might be asking why I didn't choose either of her World Championship or Olympic gold medal-winning performances to this same music. I remember watching Arakawa at the 1998 Olympics and then in the Grand Prix series a few seasons later and thinking she showed promise, but that she had absolutely no connection with the music. Then, she shows up to this Skate America and I think the entire American skating fandom really took note of the potential in this girl. Shizuka was still a bit reserved in this early outing, but the quality of her basics and her trying to sense the music really shined through. I still love watching it!
Takeshi Honda - 2002 Olympics Free Skate - "Concierto de Aranjuez"
I've posted this before as one of my favorite performances of all-time, and I still can't say enough about how amazing this program is. It really makes me wish that Takeshi would have stayed with Lori Nichol rather than venturing to the Nikolai Morozov side of "choreography". This really is a masterpiece.
Yoshie Onda - 2002 World Championship Exhibition - "Just Wave Hello"
We saw Yoshie so many times during the 2001/2002 season in the USA, and while I think the general consensus was that she showed amazing technical ability and consistency, everyone knew she had such a long way to go with the artistic side of skating. After a great 5th place finish at that seasons Worlds, Yoshie skated in the exhibition and had such a relaxed and fun time. I wish she would have been able to show the confidence that she had here in the following seasons.
Part two will follow, with Yuka Sato, Nobunari Oda, Miki Ando, Mao Asada, Yukari Nakano, Daisuke Takahashi, and Takahiko Kozuka!