Backstage with Japan Skates @ 2011 "All-Japan" Nationals
special thanks to: Junko & her co-reporters and Japan Sports for their splendid photos (as always)
text by AIKO SHIMAZU 島津愛子
Dec. 22-26 in Osaka, 2011

Akiko SUZUKI 鈴木明子, Mao ASADA 浅田真央, Kanako MURAKAMI 村上佳菜子, Narumi TAKAHASHI 高橋成美, Yuzuru HANYU 羽生結弦, Daisuke TAKAHASHI 高橋大輔, Takahiko KOZUKA 小塚崇彦, Mervin TRAN マーヴィン・トラン

☞ in Japanese

+++ Ladies +++

Mao ASADA Gold [4CC, Worlds team] 184.07

::: after Thu. Practice :::

- about the ice condition of Namihaya Dome
When I skated for the first time here, I felt it's not bad, seemed to be getting better and better.

- On her decision to compete in All-Japan
I hadn't enough time to think of this competition, since I went back to Japan from GPF in Canada (as her mother had been in a critical condition, to pass away on Dec. 9th at age 48.). Then I took my own life, to find "only one week left! to All-Japan," so "Go train now!" I thought. Therefore, there was no option to withdraw.

- Quotes from her family to Mao
"Go Mao!" or… "but, you really give your all so don't have to do hard…" (laughs) they quoted. "As Usual" is the most important quote at this moment.

- On her training for this All-Japan
I restarted to train since 13th(9 days ago), in a slow pace, as I took 4days break time. This week, I have trained as usual to come here.

- Some journalist asked "tell about tactics of using 3A"
I haven't "tactics" at all. Just I have tried to consider how my 3A would go today and tomorrow practices, that would make sense for competitions. (Some journalist still asked "Have you planned to have 3A at this moment?":) Not yet.

- On her goal this All-Japan
At first, I have tried to give better performances than GPS. I would like to make no mistake and give them myself all. And I'd like to complete this year with good performances as its finale. Result, scores, placement, I don't care. I'd like to show my best to lots people.

[her coach Nobuo SATO]

- Mao's updates since GPF
Only I had said to her "change your mindset, to move on." She has trained as usual, 3 hours and 3,40 min. duration. "Be As Usual" is also my priority. (Journalists also asked him about "tactics":) It doesn't make sense at this moment, even it's All-Japan, as we have processed her jump contents competition by competition.

- on her goal this All-Japan
I have told as always, that she would be happy if she could give what she has. You don't have to try in order to make "placement". - That is my own priority on coaching.

::: SP"Scheherazade" ::: 2nd (65.40 TES33.80 PCS31.60)
{2A +0.80, 3F-2Lo +0.70, FSSp4 +0.70, 3Lo +0.70, CCoSp4 +1.10, SlSt3 +1.20, LSp4 +0.60}

Mao ASADA 浅田真央  Japan Sports

I'm just relieved. I guess this SP could be advantage for FS to me, I haven't checked judges details, though. (Are you mostly satisfied with your performance?:) Yes, I am. "nicely done" its my compliment, as I have done as usual.

- on her 2A as her opener
I wanted it to flow, as it was a 2A.

- How did you feel about crowds cheering?
Lots crowds were rooting for me, so I felt lots people were on my side.

- Some journalist asked "how struggling were you? as you're still in mourning."
This time, I felt I was weird to be tensed, but I guess I concentrated to perform, to do it stably. I wanted to give what I had trained. I was concerned before my performance, yet the music started to get me started "as usual".

- Quotes from her coach Nobuo SATO
before performance: "Remember your determination, Go for it!" after: "You did it."

- How has it influenced you that you had break time?
I had recovered so smoothly, that I think my preparation went pretty well.

- for FS
This SP could be a good opening act for FS, "Liebestraum", to which I would like to skate gracefully, fluently. (Some journalist still asked "have you planned 3A in FS? that we wanna see.":) well… I would like to have 3A, but I haven't completed it yet, so I will try 3As in practice tomorrow.

[Nobuo SATO]

- Was she concerned?
Yes, I guess she was concerned by pressure, that she didn't reveal. (Does she owe people's expectations?:) Indeed. She got energetic in trainings, but her energy couldn't appear there, thus that pressure took her energy. I ask for her higher skating speed, stronger touch of edge-works.

- How has it influenced Mao that she had break time?
I can say that she hasn't enough run-throughs as usual. (It's unusual, to break for 4 days before big competition?:) Yes, so I would like to say she really has done well. I would not like to say critics about her SP here. I believe that she will recover from its circumstances naturally, if we work together on trainings from now on.

- about choosing 2A
We didn't talk about it today. It depended on Mao herself. She could read my thought.

- for FS
I hope she will perform "As Usual". But you'll never know how it goes, as same as this SP.

::: FS"Liebestraum" ::: 2nd (118.67 TES54.43 PCS64.24)
{2A(planned 3A) +0.80, 3F-2Lo +0.98, 3Lz(e) -1.12, CCoSp4 +1.30 // 2A-3T< +0.20, 3F-2Lo-2Lo< -0.28, 2S(planned 3S) 0.00, SSp4(planned FSSp) +0.70, SlSt3 +1.00, 2Lo(planned 3Lo) -0.78, FCoSp3 +0.70, ChSp1 +1.26}

Mao ASADA 浅田真央  Japan Sports

I got relieved that I completed my program in safety, but I failed in 3Lo(doubled), that was regrettable.

- On doubled 3S
I didn't feel any problem with my stamina, as I did feel that I could skate throughout the program without tiredness… In trainings I hadn't failed in it, so I was going to be keen, "I could make a perfect program!" then I might turn tensed, I guess.

- On her choosing 2A
I chose for a "perfect program". In between warming-up 6 minutes and before going to the rink, my coach and I discussed then decided. (This morning practice, your 3A could be landed?:) Since this morning, I was going to be able to rotate it, surprisingly. (smiles) I feel my 3A is coming back to me, competition by competition. As I've just rotated today, patiently I should not have it, not to have any mistake on other elements. If you have a 3A to make your program difficult, you would lose your rhythm, so I was going to make the program flow with a good starter 2A. I think I will have 3A next competition! (Then she had tried her 3A in both SP/FS at 4CC.)

- To skate as 2nd place after SP
I'm good at FS more than SP, so I hope I will make my way in FS, after SP flop. As I am many points behind the leader after SP mostly, so I thought it's a kicking-off again, for close top 3 ladies(Kanako, Mao, Akiko). But I didn't care about placement so much, was going to do what I should do.

- Some journalist asked "Now you're a five times champion of All-Japan, but, do you feel different this time, don't you?"
This time circumstances were different from usual, but I concentrated on FS, could do that as usual, that I feel. I'm happy with wining in the end of 2011. (Had you had much pressure, hadn't you?:) As All-Japan was coming, I really had done hard on trainings everyday, was so busy, like "practice, eating, practice." So I hadn't any time to think about other things. I was going to "do hard, do hard", rather than to feel pressure. I guess I could get determined, as an athlete, to do what I should do right now. With lots of crowds cheering, I felt that lots of people were beside me, so much. That helped me in SP, too, I hoped I would give what I had done, though, I felt "something is different."

- Your coach Nobuo SATO noted, after GPF you were going to do really hard in trainings, even he must stop that.
As I took 4 day-off the ice, that forced me to do hard. But I could skate so smoothly in the beginning, not worse than expected, so I was going to have more run-throughs, to have the endurance. As for jumping, I felt no worry, as I could make as same as before. After such long and tight trainings with Nobuo, I hadn't any problem with stamina, and of course with jumping as well, I guess it works little by little.

- after All-Japan
This All-Japan is the point of return of the season. You must be tough from that point.

- On 1st half of the season
I have made my way step by step, little by little. Of course I have the agenda, much room to improve as well, I could make myself advanced.

[Nobuo SATO]

When I watched her practicing this morning, I saw "very well". However, the pressure influenced many aspects, so she felt like muted a little bit. But things are going to go well little by little, that's good for her.

- On her 3A
If she is not going to have 3A in competitions, she would have problem with motivation to compete. So I can't stop her training 3A until programs, but I told her "The most important thing is to make placement overall, because it's All-Japan," after morning practice. Yet, she made the best 3As of this season, as far as I have seen, "Oh well, it turns difficult to negotiate." (smiles) But still, her 3As are called not completed, the base value would be deducted on its judging system. Then I told "You should not have it, patiently," and let her make decision, but in the end, finally she asked me "Which should I choose?" "2A is preferred today," I answered.

- On her doubled 3S
A little tensed on that, which is her weak jump. I don't think the pressure caused its failure.

- Words for Mao before FS
"Be confident, keep Mao-smile to skate"

- Mao's quick quote after FS
She was regretting so badly that she missed 3S and 3Lo. Particularly on 3Lo, "I never do that again." deeply regretted.

- about difficulties of preparations for All-Japan
That patience you never know. But her everyday dedication to trainings could help her. Her devotion finally worked - I would like to say. (On problems with trainings:) She started to train rapidly, that caused muscle aches, which hadn't healed so long time. Other things were going to have no problem. If you start to train immediately, you must get tired. I was worrying that the peek of her tiredness would meet this All-Japan - I supposed. So I needed to restrict her trainings, such a tough work. As she "wanna skate more and more," I prevented in all resources. (smiles)

- Words for Mao winning her 5th National title
"Good Job!" I would like to say. (Did you give any compliment to her after her winning?:) Only one thing I could tell at this moment, "Congratulations."

- On her effort this All-Japan
I expected that effort could move her body well, as she devoted herself with sincerity, continuously.

- On 1st half of the season
I see her skating getting smooth, even getting better and better to correct details from now. She got her agenda, I guess that's also good for her. (On their collaboration:) We're getting close, going to understand each other little by little, for we have discussed every day.

- On her 3-3
She hasn't trained yet, but I expect she would start to work on it soon. (Then she had tried 3F-3Lo in FS and practices at 4CC.)

- for Worlds
The things are undefined, at this moment. I hope she's going to train as usual, without any injury. We need to discuss more on this All-Japan, to analyze much of details to correct. (On her 3A:) Suddenly she has rotated it since this week. So she is likely to have it at Worlds, at high probability, but I'm not sure. It's difficult to read "when, how it goes", that I can't predict, but I hope it will be available somehow. (Then she had it in both SP/FS at 4CC.) (On her goal at Worlds:) As I have to ask students to "reach the next stage, as you could climb here." - that's my coaching way, I never ask them to "have a goal to train for that." If you do that, you may get injured, as you have to work too hard. You must restrict yourself, patiently. If she has much more practices of 3A, she must get injured, so I must brake Mao to avoid her injury in the right way.

::: The last day Worlds team press conference :::

I'm so glad that I'm going to compete in Worlds. At worlds, I would like to show more and more improved performance, and to complete my FS"Liebestraum", which I couldn't do that last Worlds, it wasn't the best of mine, so I would like to "do best this time!", to train harder.

- as the defending champion
Last season, I couldn't make my way from the beginning, to compete in last Worlds. This season, I'm going to have consistency little by little from the beginning, so I could have the good 2nd half of the season. Now I'm so positive about myself. But, still I have to improve more and more, and would like to show better and better performance at this Worlds, than last Worlds.

- As the last question of the press conference, some journalist asked: "What do you tell your mother, as you got through these tough days? (since her mother passed away around GPF)"
I feel she had been beside me, utmost, so she has seen everything, even though I haven't told her anything.

::: Epilogue for Mao ASADA all interviews at All-Japan Nationals :::
- after finishing its transcript -

Everytime everywhere, papers and TVs terribly love "heart-felt" story to sell.

As they had prepared their ready-made plot to press: "Mao ASADA dedicates to her mother at All-Japan". So, they needed these quotes from Mao, "for my mother" "thank my mother", since the first interview on Thursday, journalists had been eager to pull those quotes, to ask her the same meaning question "How do you feel after your mother's death?" repeatedly-continuously, in multiple perspectives. And they hadn't gotten these words from Mao herself, then they were going to come running to her coach Nobuo SATO, had asked about her condition since that. Nobuo, he had dealt with such questions, not to reveal her feelings, but he calmly reminded them on Thu. "Personally I hope she hasn't been questioned about that." (- those lines I cut from his Thu. quotes above, as you have read.)

"No Way!" the journalists had been asking and asking Mao, but she never gave what they wanted - quotes for her mother, never starred in their "heart-felt" story, with her sweet attitude throughout interviews as you have read. I saw her distinctive principles shining strongly there.

written by Aiko Shimazu 島津愛子, was so pleased that I had been not there in All-Japan with them - "the journalist", that I hadn't barked at them "Why are you gonna force Mao to say thank-you to her mother? You should thank Mao for competing here with such determination." …but, you know, actually I don't bark, I'm just always barking at the moon, so you all, please stay in touch with Japan Skates, our greatest-ever human-touched editors(Mark&Gregg) representing.

((The rest of Ladies translations coming soon!))

☞ Results, Judges Scores

☞ Men, TAKAHASHI/TRAN (in Japanese)

☞ A Peculiar Invitation for 2011 "All-Japan" Nationals