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Japan Skates » Interview with Yuko Kawaguchi, 2008 Skate Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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Interview with Yuko Kawaguchi, 2008 Skate Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

 

As soon as Gregg, Gigi and I arrived in Ottawa for Skate Canada, we set up shop in the well-appointed Media Room and prepared for the event.  With Gregg and Gigi tasked with getting the best photos possible during the event, it fell to me to set up the interviews with the Japanese team.  This time, Japan was represented by men’s competitor Yasuharu Nanri, whom we had not previously met, and two ladies we know quite well, Fumie and Nana.  Also present was Yuko Kawaguchi, who is the Russian national champion in pairs with her partner Alexander Smirnov.  The Japanese delegation chief graciously accepted our interview requests with Yasuharu, Fumie and Nana, while coach Tamara Moskvina approved our request for Yuko.

Yuko Kawaguchi is a confident 26 year-old skating veteran.  At different points during her long career, she has represented Japan, the United States and Russia internationally.  For the past few years, she has forged a successful partnership with Alexander Smirnov, and last year the team was Russian national champions, adding their names to an impressive list that includes Gordeeva/Grinkov and Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze.  Finishing an impressive fourth at last season’s World Championships, Kawaguchi/Smirnov must be seen as medal contenders at this season’s Worlds and next season’s Olympic games.

Yuko and Alexander won the pairs event in Ottawa, their first-ever Grand Prix championship, displaying great tricks and athleticism.  Our interview with Yuko followed the pairs’ press conference.  At the conference, Yuko and Alexander were asked their feelings following the big win, and Yuko was asked about her collision with American pairs skater Keauna McLaughlin in warm-up, which silenced the crowd and left both ladies on the ice.  I have included the questions from the press conference along with the exclusive interview that followed.  As Yuko has trained and competed for the US in previous years, her English was very good.  See if you can detect a slight Russian accent in the clips!  Enjoy.

JS:       Japan Skates

YK:     Yuko Kawaguchi

Press Conference

Press Conference Host:  We are pleased to welcome our medalists.  We will ask Yuko and Alexander if they would comment on their first Grand Prix championship.

YK:  Well first, we are very happy to come first place for the first time.  So there’s many things to work on again in our program, but we are very happy.

(Listen to Yuko)

Alexander:  (through interpreter) We’re especially pleased that it worked out for us in Canada.  It’s always so nice to compete in Canada and we like to skate here and we really want to thank everybody who’ve supported us. Basically, we’re very pleased with how we did here.

Question from the floor:  About the crash in warm-up between Yuko and Keauna…Did that affect you; did it injure you at all?  How did it affect your concentration going into the program?

YK:  It didn’t affect me at all, and it I hope it didn’t affect her.  Are you OK? (laughs)  (Keauna nods) That’s good!

(Listen to Yuko)

Keauna:  I think I was a little shaken up after I fell, my back hurt a little bit but I tried to walk it out and focus really hard for my performance.  I don’t like to blame any outside factors for what happened today.

Japan Skates Interview

JS:  Congratulations on winning Skate Canada, your first Grand Prix championship.  Can you tell us more about your feelings about winning, and what did you learn here this weekend?

YK:  When we first came out, we began in first place after short program.  It was kind of a big pressure, I think.  But I’m trying to concentrate.  Skating in the last order for the long program, it was a long wait.  We have to do it…but we prepared for Skate Canada.  We have so many things to work on, but I think we are not 100% with what we did, but just came in first…70% I think we did, probably.

JS:  I know the crash did not affect you mentally, but I saw you holding your arm a little bit.

YK:  Right…it did kind of hurt, but I didn’t have any cuts, so… I didn’t crash with a boy; it was a girl, so it was good.

(Listen to Yuko)

JS:  How is quad throw Salchow going?  Is it going to be debuted soon?

YK:  Of course.  We wanted to do it, but today our stretch was not so good, and we want to do a clean program and to be strong. This time the quad Salchow stayed off, it’s a hard element.  It’s mentally very hard for me, but of course we’ll do it.  In practice, we did.

JS:  Other than the quad Salchow, what is the element you wish to improve the most this season?

YK:  Everything! (laughs)  Especially “no speed!”

JS:  Is there a placement you’re looking for…to repeat as Russian champions, or to medal at the World Championships?

YK:  Of course our goal is to skate at the World Championships, but we have to do it one by one.  Going to competitions we have to improve something.  This time, we noticed what not to do on other elements.

JS:  Can you describe briefly about working with Tamara, and what does she bring to your skating, and working with Alexander?

YK:  Well, I’ve been with her almost eight or nine years, she’s kind of a “mama!”  In some points it’s good, some points it’s not good.  Sometimes, I want to be selfish, but she’s “mom”, and I don’t have a mom in Russia.  She brings to me how to figure skate, always.  She’s very strict, but she has a sense of humor, but sometimes I couldn’t understand, because she’s Russian! (laughs)  But she’s fun… it never gets boring working with her.  That’s the most good point.

(Listen to Yuko)

JS:  Now, you have a degree from a Russian university.  Is your Russian very good at this point after eight years?

YK:  Of course… and it’s good for my confidence that I did a good job! (laughs)  But I got degree, and my parents were so proud of my courage.

JS:  You’ve had a very interesting career.  You’ve competed for Japan, the United States, for Russia for a long time.  That’s quite rare.  How do your fans back in Japan react to the fact that you’re competing for another country?

YK:  I think that they are very happy for me that I’m still skating, and skating well no matter which country I represent.

JS:  You’ve been well received in Russia, too?  They’ve accepted you as national champion?

YK:  Yeah, yeah!

JS:  Great!  You’ve had some injuries, more like 2006, 2007.  Are they beyond you, would you say?  I’m referring to the ankle injury more than anything.

YK:  Ah, yeah!  It’s good…it’s no problem at all!

JS:  What is your most favourite and least favourite element?

YK:  The throws.  The twists… those are my least… “Uh oh! No, not for me!”  (laughs)

JS:  You’ve had a lot of career highlights… the Russian championship and fourth place at the World Championships.  What is the top moment of your career so far?

YK:  Maybe winning Russians… but winning Russians doesn’t mean anything.  Our goal is not winning Russians, or become Russian champions! (laughs)

JS:  That’s what Alexei Yagudin always said… winning Worlds is much more important!

YK:  Yeah, it doesn’t matter if you become Japanese champion and win there… it doesn’t matter!  So what?  Nobody cares!

JS:  The best is yet to come at Worlds and Olympics for you?

YK:  Of course.

JS:  Who were some of your favourite skaters when you were younger?

YK:  Actually, I don’t have any favourite skater, but I like Elena Berezhnaya, and Gordeeva/Grinkov.

JS:  On the ice, a lot of people think you look very serious…

YK:  I’m serious?!

JS:  Yes, on the ice.  Do you think that’s a true image of who you are?

YK:  No!

JS:  How would you describe yourself then?

YK:  Like this, like right now! (smiling and laughing) On the ice, I’m just concentrating.  The performance I did today, I smiled.  But the short program is “The Swan”, it’s graceful…  But I’m not serious!  (laughs)  I’m not serious at all!  It’s because of the program.  Sometimes it’s because of language, maybe.  In Japanese, I’m more comfortable, but in Russia I want to make out what Tamara says; I go into myself, maybe…but I’m not serious!!!

JS:  Is there pressure for Cup of Russia?  Is there a bit more pressure at home?

YK:  Kind of, yeah, maybe.  But I will be fine.

JS:  Last thing… Many people from Japan and North America read us.  Do you have a message for the fans out there?

YK:  I appreciate the fans…a lot of fans, they have really encouraged me.  I hope that I can skate and entertain them, and I want to become a skater that they want to see.

(Listen to Yuko)

JS:  Of all the gifts you’re received, what’s the funniest gift you’ve ever got on the ice?  Some girls have gotten love letters, perfume?

YK:  So far, I don’t have any like that! (laughs)

Following the interview, we took some photos and presented Yuko with the official Japan Skates shirt, which she was very nice to model for us!  The next day, Yuko and Alexander wowed the crowd at the gala exhibition, and then returned to Russia to train for the next Grand Prix event, in front of their home crowd.

We’d like to thank Yuko for sitting the interview, and her coach Tamara Moskvina for arranging.  They are both very gracious ladies.

One Response to “Interview with Yuko Kawaguchi, 2008 Skate Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada”

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