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Japan Skates » Japan Skates’ exclusive interview with Gracielle Jeanne Tan – Thornhill Summer Skate, August 16, 2008
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Japan Skates’ exclusive interview with Gracielle Jeanne Tan – Thornhill Summer Skate, August 16, 2008

More photos and videos from the interview can be found HERE!

 

Central Ontario (Thornhill) Summer Skate is a great opportunity to meet skaters trying out their programs early in the season.  Often, skaters from the U.S. and other countries are in Toronto or Barrie to train for a few weeks, and use the Summer Skate as an opportunity to put their training to the test.  One such skater was top Philippines competitor Gracielle Jeanne Tan, of Los Angeles, California.

 Some readers from Japan had asked Japan Skates back in the spring if we could feature some Asian-Canadian or American skaters, those who compete for Canada or the U.S. but also for Asian countries.  In April, we interviewed Canadian champion Patrick Chan and the interview received much positive response.  Interviewing an American who competes for the Philippines sounded like an exciting idea that would be a popular feature.  I was familiar with Gracielle from seeing her name on the Worlds and 4CC competitor lists, and I hoped that she would agree to an interview.  Fortunately for us, she agreed and we met following the ladies short program.

 We at Japan Skates hope that you enjoy meeting this friendly and talented university student who travels the world representing her family’s homeland in her chosen sport.

 

JS        Japan Skates

GT      Gracielle Jeanne Tan

JS        I should get the official pronunciation of your name.  Can you say your name for our readers?  (We laughed about how the public address announcer had managed to mispronounce it!).

 GT      “Gracielle Jeanne Tan”

Listen to Gracielle

JS        Please tell me about the club you skate for, your coach and the trainers who work with you. 

GT      I skate for Glacier Falls Figure Skating Club in Anaheim, California, and I’m taught by John Saitta, Lia Trovati and Sondra Holmes.  John is my main coach and Sondra is my jump coach.  Lia is my choreographer.

 

JS        Are there any other skaters of international level there?

GT      There was one girl; her name was Tammy Sutan, of Thailand.  She’s not skating anymore, but she’s part of Glacier Falls too.  And we had Stephanie Gardiner from Brazil.  And she was trained over there in Anaheim. 

JS        So a lot of skaters who compete for other countries! 

GT      It’s pretty cool! 

JS        Is this your first year at the senior international level? 

GT      I competed in 2007 at the Asian Winter Games.  I went senior just for that competition.  Then I moved back into junior last year, and I went up to senior again for the 4CC.  So last year was my first year as a senior, and I’ve just stayed senior since. 

JS        What are your planned competitions this season? 

GT      We hope to go to the 4CC in Vancouver.  As of now, we don’t really have anything set.  We were thinking maybe of doing Nebelhorn, but we opted not to do that, I’m not ready yet.  So we’re not really sure right now.  Actually when I get home, I have to start planning with my main coach, John, to see where I want to go. 

JS        Can you compete in USA sectional or regional competitions? 

GT      I don’t think I can.  I tried to get into the collegiate championships because I go to UCI (University of California at Irvine).  I deferred this year but I’m a student at UCI.  So I asked if I could get into that but I would have to drop my Philippine representation to get into that into that because it’s a U.S. nationals.  So I’m pretty sure it’s the same for regionals and sectionals, they wouldn’t allow me to go.  If anything it would probably be an exhibition or something. 

JS        What brought you to Summer Skate?  Were you doing any training up here? 

GT      I came over, it was just sort of random thing.  We thought “Hey, why don’t we just go out and train, see some different scenery?”  So we called Brian Orser, and we came over to the Cricket Club and I’ve been here for around two weeks training. 

JS        Was the training with Brian?

GT      I’ve been training with Ernest Pryhitka and Geoff Dionisio, and Brian.  And Suzanne Corupe, she’s been helping me with the choreography for the program.  Astrid (Jensen)’s been busy… I really wanted to take a spin lesson with her!

JS        Are you getting a lot out of your time there? 

GT      Oh yeah, it’s a different environment than it is in LA.  Everyone’s more like a family environment, and LA is very “in and out” because we pay per session.  We have a few girls that are there every day, but I’ve never really had a family environment like here.  I’m really close to the people here, which is really cool.  They’ve accepted me in two weeks, so it’s pretty cool! 

Listen to Gracielle

JS        Can you tell me your music selections for this season? 

GT      My short program is “Song from a Secret Garden” and my long program is “Reflections from Mulan” by Vanessa-Mae.  I’m using the same music as I did last year, both the long and the short. 

JS        Can you tell me how you got into skating originally, and why? 

GT      I started when I had just turned ten.  My aunt, who was my care-taker, really loved figure skating, and so I was in a lot of stuff… I was doing dance, taekwondo, tap, jazz; it was a lot.  And she said “Hey, why don’t you try figure skating, I think you’d be pretty good!” because I was pretty good at dance.  So we did a few lessons.  I started in Irvine Ice Arena in Irvine, California, and just progressed from there.  I watched the 1998 Olympics where Tara Lipinski won; that’s when I was just like “Wow, I want to do that!”  It was really exciting.  I had watched Kristi Yamaguchi before and I thought “yeah, it looks like fun” and then Tara came and I thought “She’s 14 years old, this little girl and I went “Hey, I can do that, too!”  So that’s why I joined. 

JS        So you were born and raised in California? 

GT      Yeah, born and raised there! 

JS        Who else is in your family?

GT     I have one older brother; we’re just two in the family.  But I have three cousins who live with us in the house; we have a pretty full house.  Two of them are older and one of them’s younger.  I have my two grandparents that live in our house.  Then we have a little dog, a Chihuahua named “Yuki”.  She’s our little princess. 

JS        You mentioned school a bit earlier.  You’re a deferred student at University of California - Irvine.  What will you be studying? 

GT      I’m studying biological sciences…pre-med! 

JS        Wow! 

GT      Yeah, pretty cool!  Both my parents are doctors, and so it’s only natural for me to go that route.  I’m very comfortable with it.  Hoping to become a doctor!  I finished my freshman year over there.  Before Lake Placid, actually.  Then I decided to defer for a year.  And this year I decided to defer again to continue skating. 

JS        Does any specialty interest you? 

GT      Nothing at this point.  I’ll see what interests me in a few years! 

JS        Do you have any goals for this season in terms of placements or scores?  And what are you trying to improve the most?

GT      My consistency with my jumps.  I get really nervous out on the ice, and tend to over-analyze everything.  So what I really want to do is get consistent with my jumps in my programs.  As for scores, I’m not really looking into the score.  It’s more of what I can accomplish.  I want to land my double Axel in my program; I want to do a clean triple in my program this year.  My Salchow has been cheated for the past few months so just these past two weeks we’ve been trying to clean it up.  I was trying to get it out there! 

JS        Is there a level of spin you’re shooting for? 

GT      Yeah, my combination spin, I’m shooting for a Level Four.  My layback, we need to work on it.  I think I’m at a Level Two right now, I want to try and get to a Level Three.  My flying combination I think is a Level Two.

JS        When did you first start training triples?

GT      I started working on triples probably three or four years ago.  I really just waded my feet in.  And then I got injured and I lost my double Axel, so I had to start over.  I’ve only recently really started pounding out this triple Sal…the past year, maybe a little less.  I landed my first triple, clean, probably a few months ago, but it wasn’t consistent at all.  It was probably just one or two, then it was back to being a little short.  So when I came over here, it started cleaning up.  We worked a bit on the triple toe so my ankles have been a bit weak, so we haven’t really worked on that a lot.  We’re starting to do a few flips and Lutzes these past few months, ever since I got back from Worlds. 

JS        What was the nature of your injury? 

GT      I had bone bruises in both of my ankles.  I had it in my right foot, and it healed but I got it in my left foot, so it was pretty bad.  It’s one of those things where it’s healed, but every once in a while if I train too hard it still comes back.  So I have to be careful that I always wrap my feet, and take precautions. 

JS        What is your favourite jump, and your favourite non-jump element? 

GT      I love Lutzes!  I don’t like loops at all… I tend to twist my body.  I use my upper body a lot.  We worked a lot on Lutzes when I came back home from Worlds and I really love that jump.  I love how it flies up into the air.  I like my double Axel too when I land it (laughs).  Favourite other element… it would probably be my death drop, that’s pretty cool.  When I do it well, it feels really good!  I usually don’t really like spinning, but when it gets up in the air, it just flies, you know?! 

JS        How would you describe your style?  Is there a skater’s style that you admire or tried to emulate? 

GT      I think I’m pretty diverse.  I love dancing, so I think I’m pretty graceful.  I love watching Sasha Cohen.  I think she’s perfect!  Whenever she does a perfect program, I love the way she moves on the ice. 

JS        Do you prefer to skate to a certain type of music? 

GT      Not really.  I like varying it.  I think I skate well to classical music, but I like fast-paced music too.  Whenever we have our Christmas show, I always try to choose something fast, because I like to divert, and it’s only two minutes, so just do it all!  But I think classical is usually my better route.
 

JS        How do you choose your season’s music?  Is it a collaborative effort? 

GT      Yeah… Usually my mom and I listen to music and it’s one of those things where I just keep on playing music until something clicks and I say “That’s the one!”  But my short program, “A Song from a Secret Garden”, I had a few choices, and when my coach heard that one she said “I want you to skate to this.”  So she was the one who chose that.  “Mulan”, it was my mom who showed it to me and we were thinking of another choice, and she said “I just want you to hear this once!” and once I heard the fast part in it, where I put my footwork, it’s amazing.  I was just like “OK, this is the one that I’m going to take!” 

JS        You have an active role then in the choice of your music!  A lot of top skaters have their music basically chosen for them. 

GT      Yeah!  I want something that I can emote to when I play it.  If they give me something and I don’t like it, it doesn’t look good.  I’m not very natural with it.  So usually they’ll give me a few pieces and if I don’t like it, then they’ll scrap it and we’ll look for more. 

JS        What is a typical day in your life during the skating season? 

GT      I usually skate for around two hours.  I get to the rink at around 8:00, warm up, and skate from 9 to maybe 11.  Then I’ll go to the gym.  I do 30 minutes of cardio, and then I usually have an off-ice lesson with a trainer that takes me for 30 minutes.  Then I go back to the rink, I skate around one or two hours more, depending on if I’m tired or not.  Then I stretch and go home!

Listen to Gracielle

JS        Your off-ice, is that weights, Pilates? 

GT      We do a lot of Thera-Band stuff, a lot of tubing.  We try not to do a lot of weightlifting.  I used to do weightlifting before with another trainer, but I bulk up really fast, so we started doing a lot of resistance training and interval training. 

JS        You have dance, so you’re not actively taking any dance lessons? 

GT      No, I haven’t taken ballet in a while.  During the summer I did maybe two or three classes, but I haven’t done it in a while.  But I have dance from a long time ago.  Over the summer, I did do Salsa dancing, though!  I don’t know if you’d consider that!!! 

JS        Is it six days a week? 

GT      Yeah, I usually go Sunday through Friday.  I take Saturday off completely, to take a rest. 

JS        Do you have any other hobbies or interests outside of skating? 

GT      The Salsa dancing this summer…  Hopefully after I’m done skating, I’d like to get into Latin Dance sport.  We’ll see!  This summer, it’s been pretty much skating, and then dancing, and then go home!  Skate, dance, go home! 

JS        Ultimate goal… you’ve deferred university two years now for skating…  Is your goal to go to the next Olympics? 

GT      We’ve been talking about that.  I sort of want to just go until I’m “done skating.”  I don’t feel like I’m done…I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished what I want to accomplish yet.  I don’t really know what I want to accomplish yet, I just know that’s it not time to go.  And so we’re thinking of continuing until 2010 and the re-evaluating and seeing where I want to go then.  We’ve talked about the Olympics.  I don’t know if it’s a possibility or not… we’ll see. 

JS        Do your friends tend to skaters for the most part? 

GT      Yeah, I have a friend that’s also a figure skater who was raised in the same city as I was, so we’ve been best friends for quite a while.  Most of them tend to be skaters, but I do have a bunch of school friends that I’ve kept in touch with from high school, where we formed a little group.  We always get together two, three times a year.  So I have those friends, but I’m not really as close to them as my skating friends, because I see them every day.

JS        Who are some of your favourite skaters from the past or present?  You mentioned Sasha and Tara. 

GT      I love Michelle Kwan!  I think she was so graceful on the ice, and she always captured my attention when she was on the ice.  I love Sasha, but she always fell, and it was such a shame, because she was so good.  So I loved watching both of them.  I liked Kristi Yamaguchi a lot too, and Nancy Kerrigan, but those were my two…Michelle and Sasha.

JS        Do you have a career highlight or favourite program to this point? 

GT      I really liked my program at Worlds.  Right before Worlds, before I got onto the ice, I got a bloody nose, so even though I didn’t do a perfect program, but it was something I really enjoyed because I took in the whole experience.  At first I was thinking “OK, I have a bloody nose, what if I can’t compete?” but I thought “You know, you’ve come all the way here, I’m GOING to complete!”  So I think that was a big accomplishment for me.  Just getting out there and enjoying experience, even though I didn’t do a clean program, it just felt so good to end that program.  It was a really nice cap for the season.  That’s probably my highlight!

JS        You skate for the Philippines.  I know that a lot of our readers from overseas are interested in that.  Can you describe how that relationship works?  How did it get started? 

GT      What happened was that I usually go the Philippines every once in a while.  That year, my aunt from the Philippines invited me over and said “Hey, come skate with us!”  I thought “Yeah, sure, you know!”  I was injured at the time but thought “Yeah, OK”.  I went over there and they asked “Hey, do you want to skate, we can give you ice.”   So I thought, “Yeah, I’ll go and skate.”  So I went over there and the coaches would see me every morning.  The national championships are during the summer, when I went.  I was practicing an artistic program at the time because I was planning on going to the National Showcase and they just asked “Do you want to skate for us?  We have an ISU membership and they’re asking for us to send people, and would you like to skate for us?” because they didn’t have anyone at the time.  And so that’s pretty much how it started.  They asked me to go to Nationals, and so I went to their Nationals.  I just did an exhibition actually, but they said “That’s good enough, and do you want to go to the junior Grand Prix this season?”  And so that’s how I started! 

JS        Do you compete formally in their national championships? 

GT      I haven’t gone back since…I’ve just been really busy.  Especially with school before, and I was really busy this summer, so I wasn’t able to go.  I haven’t gone back since that national championships, no. 

JS        How do they decide their international assignments? 

GT      Their national champions from last year, and I believe this year, are going to go out on international assignments.  But I’m still on the roster, just because we don’t have a lot of skaters over there, and so the skaters that they do have, there’s not that many, probably four… Last year, there was just two of us, me and another girl who won the national championships. 

JS        So the decision to send you to the Worlds or Olympics, would that be more of a committee decision as opposed to in a competition? 

GT      Probably…  I’m not really sure how that’s going to work.  Hopefully it will be a competition where we all compete against each other, and the highest scorer gets to go.  But I’m not really sure how that’s going to work.  We’ll probably figure it out as they come!  (laughs

JS        How does the citizenship work in that respect? 

GT      I’m a dual citizen.  Both my parents were born and raised in the Philippines before they came over here, so my brother and I are both citizens of the Philippines and of the United States.  I know that if you have residency in a country you can compete for them at Worlds, but not at the Olympics.  But I’m a citizen. 

JS        So “Tan”, is that a Chinese name? 

GT      Yeah!  Both my parents are Chinese, born and raised in the Philippines. 

JS        Are you friends with the other Philippines skater? 

GT      Yes, her name is Mary Grace Baldo and she’s from LA too!  She competed at junior worlds.  I don’t what level she competed at this year, but we’ll see! 

JS        Have you had any feedback from other skaters or children in the Philippines, or from Filipino-Americans? 

GT      I do talk to a few of them in the Philippines.  When I went to the Asian Winter Games, there was a team of us that competed together, so I still talk to them.  When I back to the Philippines before the Games, I talked to them too, the other skaters.  I still communicate with my teammates from Asian Winter games via email and networking sites. 

JS        Do you speak Tagalog?

GT      I understand it fully, but I can’t really speak it… I speak it really bad!!!  (laughs

JS        Do you speak a Chinese language?

GT      No, I understand a little of it.  My caretaker before, my aunt, she spoke Filipino to me so that’s how I learned it.  My parents tried teaching me, but I was too old already!

JS        Some fun questions now.  What is your favourite food? 

GT      Oh, I don’t have a favourite… I like all food!  (laughs)  Favourite candy… I love dark chocolate!  I eat pretty much everything.  But I don’t like olives or eggplant! 

JS        How about a favourite musician or singer? 

GT      I’ve been into Latin music because of my Salsa dancing.  I listen to everyone, usually the top hits. 

JS        How about colour? 

GT      Oh!  I love hot pink!  I’m a big pink fanatic.  Usually I’m wearing all pink.

JS        Is there still a taboo in skating about wearing green?  Or am I just really old?

GT      You know, I heard of that!  I know when my dressmaker was making a dress for me and I suggested it, she said “Oh, not green!”  But I’m not really sure. 

JS        If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? 

GT      Probably I would wish to be more fearless, more bold.  Go for things!  I tend to over-analyze things.
 

JS        If you were on a desert island, what one thing would you bring? 

GT      Hmmm…  I’d probably… Can I bring a few things?  I’d bring my mom, because I don’t think I’d be able to survive without her.  I’d probably bring my dad and my brother, and I don’t know what else!  And probably my iPod! 

JS        What was the funniest gift you’ve ever received from a fan? 

GT      Ummm…  I got a stuffed animal claw… I thought, “OK what am I going to use this for?”  I ended up giving it to my dog and she loves it.  Then I got some bath soap and I thought “OK, I must be really stinky on the ice, or something!”  (laughs) But other than that, pretty normal stuff. 

JS        Can you give a message to your fans and those supporting you out there? 

GT      Hi everyone, my name’s Gracielle Jeanne Tan.  I represent the Philippines.  I just wanted to say “thank you, guys” for reading this interview.  I hope it’s not too boring!  And I hope to do well for you guys next year.  All right, see you later… bye! 

Listen to Gracielle

I’d like to thank Gracielle for taking the time to interview.  She was a joy to meet and talk to.  Skaters are always so friendly and co-operative, and Gracielle certainly was both!  Afterwards, she sent me some off-ice photos for use in the interview.

 

We at Japan Skates hope that you enjoyed meeting one the top skaters representing the Philippines.  Hopefully, we’ll see her again later on in the season.  We wish Gracielle all the best in her skating career and beyond!

5 Responses to “Japan Skates’ exclusive interview with Gracielle Jeanne Tan – Thornhill Summer Skate, August 16, 2008”

  1. Nice, a figure skater living in the States competing for the Philippines.

  2. This skater’s story just inspired me. I am a figure skater too, but I’m kind of worried since I also plan to be a doctor and I don’t know how I will be able to balance my studies with my skating. I am entering college this year.

  3. She kind of looks like Michelle Kwan.

  4. Hi Roselyn! Thanks for your comments. I’m glad that you found Gracielle’s story inspiring. I had a great time interviewing her. I will let her know that you commented on the interview. Good luck with your skating and your plans to be a doctor. Both are possible!

  5. nice read. Good luck on your quest in Vancouver., you’re almost there…

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