The continuation of my favorite performances by Japan's biggest stars :-)
Yuka Sato - 2000 World Professional Championship Artistic Program - "Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun"
I actually had another program I was going to use (her 2002 Hallmark "Song of the Homeland"), but it isn't on YouTube so I had to do some searching. While it's true that many of Yuka's programs as a pro are very similar in that they were light and slow, it didn't mean that she let up at all on the triple jumps, amazing footwork, or great basics. This program is one that she had used several seasons before but brought back for the competition, and it helped her easily win. Nobu Sato is just a mastermind at teaching his skaters the most perfect basics.
Nobunari Oda - 2005 World Junior Championship Short Program - "Super Mario Brothers"
This is one of the first times that most of the world became familiar with Nobu, and a program to Mario?! Just awesome. It is really interesting for me to go back and watch this, because I see such a relaxed quality to his skating that I think he lost in the last season or two. Look how huge the triple Lutz is here-- it looks like he'd easily be able to rotate a quad! There is also some really cool choreography in the program (check out how he leads into his double Axel, for example), and I think it was the perfect vehicle for him as a junior. Definitely my favorite of anything he has done! Oh and by the way, he's back training with Lee Barkell, who was his coach during this time. I hope he finds that relaxed and confident quality once again.
Miki Ando - 2005 Cup of Russia Short Program - "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence"
This was one of those transformations of Angela Nikodinov-type proportions. Miki went from skating right through the music and doing her triple/triple combinations to coming out in early 2005 with two very well choreographed programs and really attempting to listen to them. The problem though? She somehow seemed to lose all of her confidence in that process and apparently she was miserable in Cleveland (my hometown!) so her stay only lasted for a season. This is my favorite program of hers by more than a mile.
Mao Asada - 2006 Skate America Short Program - "Nocturne"
I've already written about and featured this program several times before so this should come as no surprise. I am really, really hoping that either Tarasova or Nichol gives her a program of this nature for next year, because it fits her so much more than all of the depressive and dark stuff that Tatiana seems to love. Pleaseeeee.
Yukari Nakano - 2007 World Championship Short Program - "Memoirs of a Geisha"
This is another program that I have highlighted previously on my site, when I did my tribute to Yukari upon her official retirement announcement. I could obviously see the fault of her wrapping her jumps so severely that sometimes she under-rotated them, but I didn't care. Yukari was just so gentle and sincere in her presentation that the technique didn't even matter. This particular program suited her perfectly, and it was great that she was able to hold it together and skate clean in front of her home country. Even though she barely missed out on two Olympic Games in a row, sometimes there's just so much more than that. She's produced so many great performances throughout the years, and I will really miss her competing.
Daisuke Takahashi - 2008 Four Continents Championship Short Program - "Swan Lake"
"This is the seasons signature short program as far as I'm concerned," says Paul Wylie. How can you disagree? Okay, one thing I do hate is when skaters have all of their jump elements done within the first 40 seconds of the program, but this is one case where I could care less. He goes from showing off his great traditional skating skills and jumping ability to making the program so modern and cool... but those footwork sequences are far from easy. This might be one of my favorite programs of all-time, even if Morozov was behind the choreography. I guess he has good ideas, sometimes :-P
Takahiko Kozuka - 2010 World Championship Short Program - "Bold as Love"
One of my favorite programs of the Olympic season, and Takahiko has become one of my favorite skaters. This program is already amazing, and the thing is that he can do so much more with it, which Kurt Browning and Tracy Wilson discuss here. When he gets some confidence and realizes that he is one of the best in the world, watch out. Takahashi was the World Junior Champion in 2002 and look at the season he had in 2010. Kozuka won the Junior title in 2006.. 2014, anyone? :-)