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Japan Skates » Interview with Fumie Suguri, July 15 2008 at the Ice House, Hackensack, NJ
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Interview with Fumie Suguri, July 15 2008 at the Ice House, Hackensack, NJ

<<Hear Fumie pronounce her name>>

Japanskates: Let’s talk about the practice, the format of the practice and what brings you here to NJ?

Fumie Suguri: I was in Russia last year for one year but first time my agent suggested to me to have Nikolai do choreography. But, first time I never thought that way. But last year I didn’t get very good result so my agent suggested why don’t I take lessons from Nikolai cause Nikolai had made a lot of champions and he knows how to do things. So then one month I really thought about it.  Every time I decided for myself the choreographer and coaches,  that something sometimes I thought not working very well. So maybe sometimes I need to follow things that other people suggested. And then I decided I ‘ll try this one.

JS: You came here for choreography only?

FS: It’s because of Nikolai’s way, how he works so I decided it would  be good to take not only choreography might be good to take a lesson from him. We did a tryout and I really like how he teach me .

JS: Watching the practice today it looked like you had a session focusing on jumps first. Is it jumps in particular you are working on?

FS: Yes cause that is my weakest point. And also I have to start to do stamina things for the long programs so he wanted me to build up a little bit during the summer season.

JS: and the the next session was stretching …

FS: Yeah stretching and spins.

JS: Is that the way it goes every day?

FS: Umm…similar. Sometimes he puts in more or less. He’s looking at my body a lot.

JS: Is there something in particular about your skating you’re trying to improve?

FS: (laughs) Especially jumping I guess! And Nikolai wanted me to get back my skating skills. So we work on that but mainly my jumps cause he, and myself, think that my weakest point is the jumps.

JS: Do you look back at your point totals from the previous season?

FS: Actually I just follow Nikolai’s way. He knows everything…he’s like my boss.

JS: He has a way of teaching that applies to everyone?

FS: Yeah if I say my way then there’s no point that I come to him.

JS: What is your music this season?

FS: Actually he didn’t decide it yet. Short program, we were going to use soundtrack from Fanfan  but even that I don’t know. He did not finish the cutting, so I don’t know, he might change his mind at the last moment. So I don’t know yet but we are trying to do many music so…

JS:  You’re trying different things?

FS: Yeah, different ones and show him what is very good for me.

JS: So it is Nikolai who chooses the music for you, does he present it to you. Does he say “How about this one”?

FS: Yeah yeah, he brings some idea and then I will discuss with him “I like this “ or I can not do this, or something like that, but most of the thing I will choose from what he thinks is good for me.

JS: So who chose the Pink Panther??!

FS: Oh that is <laughs>

JS: That was one of my favorites!

FS: That one is my former choreographer Lori Nichol. I don’t remember how we choose that music, but it ‘s very weird that, first time I never thought that I’m gonna do that, and the first couple of months it was very difficult for me cause my personality is not very fun.  It’s very difficult for me to be like really happy or something like that.

JS: Yeah, like playful.

FS: playful.. and then I realize it’s really fun.  I enjoyed it more than I thought and after that my mind really opened a lot, so that very help me a lot to go to the next step.

JS: Do you have a favorite type of music to skate to?

FS: Yeah I have a lot of music that I want to skate to in the future but it’s very difficult for competition, like figure skating competition right now cause it’s all about the point. And also even though I like the music it’s not right for the technical things. For example like right now we have so much footwork and so on so after the rule change we go a different way than we did before.

JS: Maybe this is a good time to ask about the scoring system. You skated under the old system, obviously and the new, could you compare them?

FS: Yes, the first time I thought it’s very difficult, like they limited a lot of freedom, that ‘s what I feel like cause, about choosing the music and doing some footwork, they have so many rules so it becomes very similar like everyone looks the same. And to get the point it comes like the same cause old people like it not too difficult but to get the point it will become the same idea. So for me It’s very difficult to get something new or something different. But right now this is system is already 3rd or 4th year, and it’s getting better I guess and they’re gonna change. I think they will go through this new system for a long time, so we have to go through it, forget about the old system, and then improve this new system. That ‘s what I feel like. WE have to switch to that, cause we can not change the whole thing, you know.

JS: Do you ever challenge the judges? Do you ever go back and ask why was this scored low,etc.?

FS: No, No.

JS: Did you ever go back and try to find out why they scored things a certain way?

FS: At the Olympics there was something my coach and the other Japanese judges could not understand, but, you know, after they got the score they could not say anything about it…after we got the result. They say we can ask them but it’s…some people can say why don’t you try the different way to get more secure point.  May be hard [for the judge] to award a point. If I have to make sure to get the point maybe I have to do it more clearly. It’s not only just the judges fault.

JS: What are your goals for this season?

FS: For this season, definitely I want to go to Worlds. Which is being held in United States. L.A right?

JS: yeah L.A.

FS: And also I didn’t go to Worlds for two years to I really want to go there.

JS: So you are going to have to beat Mao, or Miki, or Yukari and some other hot skaters ?

FS: I have to be top 3 at Nationals definitely.   I think Nikolai’s thinking is to get back my good things, you know, that I had before. So first I have to skate well at the competition cause these two years I wasn’t really satisfied with what I skated at the competition, and then maybe the result will come after.

JS: Are you planning on going on to the next Olympics?

FS: Yeah sure yeah! That’s why I was very…I thought a lot about these changes, very seriously . Cause I really wanted to go to the Vancouver Olympics. And it’s only like two years, two seasons left. It seems like one season left, so there’s not a lot of time. So I really thought about the whole thing a lot.

JS: I know, it’s already been two years since Torino.

FS: YEAH!! Right, so fast!

JS: I did want to ask you a little bit about the Olympics, the last Olympics, since I was there. After you’re free skate you seemed very emotional.

FS: You mean right after?

JS: Right after, yes. You were never the type of skater or athlete that would come off the ice and get a big hug from you’re coach.

FS: Yeah! Like it’s not Japanese culture!

JS: And you seemed more emotional that season, that Olympic season. But really right after the free skate were you just happy to have the free skate over…?

FS: Yeah relief but also we are really on board cause I was injured that year and we really had a difficult time at Skate Canada and NHK through it cause I injured it in September and then I didn’t skate for one month and I never thought I can go to Olympics. I never gave up the time but very on board and so NHK Nationals I finally make it. <becoming emotional> So and then at the Olympics, it was very difficult to make that affair but I think it was because of my coaches effort, Mr. Sato’s effort. I think he fight with me so that’s why I was so emotional. And I was just happy I could skate my best at the time.

JS: Yes you did. And I know a lot of people there thought the same thing, that your performance was just great, just wonderful. And I know a lot of people thought you should have got a medal, but that’s up to the judges.

FS: Yeah and also it’s life, I think. And after two years, after that Olympics and I learn a lot of things after these two years. And I think that I was not enough, even though I skated well to get the medal, many things were lost. After when I got to Nikolai, or went to Russia or maybe I wasn’t enough to get on the podium. It’ ok, I learn from these two years. So I get through it.

JS: I saw your performance in Champions On Ice in NH.

FS: Oh a long time ago.

JS: And now “Champions On Ice” no longer exists. Do you have any thoughts on that?

FS: I’m very disappointed that and maybe in the future if economy could get better and also many good American skaters could come up maybe they could start again. For example, after the Olympics or something like that.

FS: When Lori Nichol does my program we designed together. And we like to design the kind of a different way than the normal dresses. And right now, I don’t know about Nikolai, how he works on it, but right now my ballet coach in Japan helps me a lot with it and sometimes I think about my design of the costumes.

JS: Is there a process? Do you say “purple” is going to go well with a program?

FS: I know pretty well what color is going to work on me. Even though the same color, like red, I have to choose a different red than like white people. My skin is yellow so I know what is not good about my body so I know what looks much better on my body. My ballet coach helps me a lot with it.

JS: Who are you some of your favorite figure skaters, anyone you watched who made you want to be a skater?

FS: hmmm….Many years ago I had favorite skaters but recently when I see a skater I can see what is really good on THAT skater. Like “oh this skater is very good on this point”, and I like it. So it’s a different way right now that I’m looking at it. Any kind of skater I can see the good point.

JS: So did you have a favorite skater when you were growing up?

FS: I like Michelle Kwan, that’s why I started to work with Lori Nichol.   I‘m wondering what she’s doing right now.

JS: Yeah yeah we’re all wondering…she’s going to school and serving as a diplomat for the United States. Neither of which involve skating!

FS: Yeah. I’m the same age. We competed a lot. So and I think in figure skating world I am the oldest girl that is doing this sport. Like sometimes when I go to a competition I say “Hi how are you doing, TO THE COACHES” <laughs> It’s so funny!

JS: It says on the internet that Michelle Kwan taught you how to do a triple lutz….Or did you teach her!??

FS: No no no. I asked her to do the triple lutz, to show me. Cause I at the time I didn’t land it. So at my rink there was no one who could land a triple lutz. SO when she was in 1994 worlds she came to my rink to practice, and I ask her <pleadingly> “Can you do a triple lutz for me”.

JS: that’s a good story!

JS: We ask this to all the skaters. What was the funniest gift you ever got from a fan, like thrown onto the ice?

FS: Oh many things. Like somethings like a doll, is always very funny. Like, why they give it to me? <laughs> Like sometimes it’s cute but sometimes it’s very weird! <both of us laugh> . I heard that some people got underwear!

<<Listen to audio clip of answer>>

FS: Not for me, thank God <laughing hard> I didn’t get them.

JS: No underwear to be thrown on the ice for Fumie Suguri!

FS: No please! <both of us in hysterical laughter>

JS: Do you have an other skaters that are your friends?

FS: Right now I just move to New Jersey but I have some skaters that are working with but they are very young. It’s like 10 years difference. So I have more good friends with ice dancer who is a little bit older.

JS: So it depends on where you are.

FS: Yeah. It’s very difficult in skating world right now cause they are a generation younger. So I’m very close to the coaches. <laughs> At this rink there is so many coaches that I competed together, so, it’s more fun.

JS: I think our readers like to understand how you get along with the others. Do you talk to Mao, do you talk to Miki, do you interact with them, or are they always your competitors that you always keep a distance from? Do you talk when you are at the same competition?

FS: Yeah I talk, but actually I don’t have so much time to talk before the competition or during the practice. Even thought Miki is skating at the same rink she is on a different schedule. So I saw her and I say hi or something like that but I didn’t talk deep. And before even though we are on Japanese team, maybe I have so many things to do so I did not have time to talk really deeply. In the future if I have more time I want to talk, to listen to them. You know, even though they are young they have their own opinions. So to get more experience I want to talk but just busy life!! Unfortunately.

JS: Do you think that as a veteran you get marked up or down? Does it matter as a veteran? Do you think they are just scoring what they see?

FS: hmmm…I don’t know…<thinking>. I think it’s the same in any sport. The first year, when they come they will see just the good points, right? Like “oh she’s so good” or something like that. And then after when they got the result they will try to see the bad part of that athlete. “Oh even though she won worlds she is not good on this point, this point, this point.” And then the next year, second year, very difficult for them. Cause they will already see one year and get used to the skater. So maybe second year is very difficult. And from then on it’s very difficult for us to not to be the same every time. When we will try the same thing every year they will say “Oh she’s not improving a lot”. But it’s not only the skating but life is like that. Even though we get old we have to learn something new.

JS: Do you have any hobbies?

FS: Skating! I love my sport so much, so it looks like I’m living for this. Also I like to see ballet a lot. Ballet, dancing things. Like artistic things. But it’s always going through figure skating, you know. Like “Oh maybe this is good for figure skating”. But that’s why really like to live here. So many good things to watch at the downtown NYC. I have to go there to learn, to study a lot.

JS: You have always been an artistic skater. You listen to the music, you skate to the music.You have emotion in your face…you entertain, and you try to win people’s hearts..

FS: Yeah, uh huh.

JS: Where does that come from? Is that just the way you are?

FS: No I wasn’t like that way. But it’s very much an influence from Lori, that I worked with her a lot. And then I realize that I really like that way. More artistic part that I really love to do. And it’s very difficult to bring it at the competition. Right now, I’m really suffering from that. Maybe like competiting at figure skating or performance of figure skating. It’s very difficult to combine together. Maybe becase of the new system, or something like that, I don’t know. But It’s very difficult. I think the artistic part is the thing I really love. So I want to try as much as I can in the competition. North American people really like that way.

JS: Yeah, I think they do.

FS: Like Asian people like more technical things. Like more jumping or something like that. But I can feel when I went to a competition they (North American audiences) see a different way.

JS: Yes. I always thought that was something Michelle Kwan brought to us. We got used to watching a very emotional skater, not just doing it but winning by being that way.

FS: Yeah yeah. Right now it’s very difficult to have those things. Even though they will say they are looking for skating skills or something like that, we don’t have so much time. They make it less this year, cause they took out one spin for long programs. But we have do spiral for, 3 seconds, or 6 seconds, or something like that.

JS: They took out one entire spin requirement?

FS: Yeah yeah. Just three, it used to be we had to do 4 spins. We are ok just three spins now. So maybe one spins time we can save for something artistic!

JS: What are your international assignments this year?

FS: Skate Canada and Cup of Russia.

JS: Last question. You’re still going to skate for at least a couple more years, anyway. When you’re done, what would you like to be remembered for?

FS: I don’t think that way. I never thought that way. One thing I really want to have, one good program that people can remember as a good program. Not as me.

JS: A signature program?

FS: Not because of me. But “that program was very good..well done” or something like that. When I saw ballet, a lot of programs are well known as a choreography. Right? It’s not the performer, it’s known as the programs. So I want something like that. I don’t care, my name will be on the…<laughs> I will die, I know, <laughs> in the future so I don’t care about it. So I really never thought that way but I think that I have to continue the figure skating history for the next generation. What I learn from, maybe Mr. Sato, or Lori, or Nikolai, I can’t let them go..what they teach me. I have to bring it to the next generation, for the figure skating history. So I never thought that it’s very important for my name to live on. I never think that way.

20 Responses to “Interview with Fumie Suguri, July 15 2008 at the Ice House, Hackensack, NJ”

  1. Thanks JS for the interview with Fumie Sugri.
    Great questions.

    Fumie: I am so glad you are still aiming for 2010 Olympics.
    I also am looking forward to seeing you compete again at 08 Skate Canada in Ottawa. I shall be there cheering you on.
    I also hope you make it to Worlds in L.A. so I can cheer for you there as I will be attending that competition too.

    Ganbatte Fumie!

  2. What a wonderful interview with Fumie :) I have been a fan of her for many years so this was great to read and find out some of her thoughts. I wish Fumie the best of luck and I am really hoping to see her in LA at Worlds this year. Here’s to a great season!! :)

  3. As always I’m impressed by this young lady’s desire to keep learning. I remember Fumie from the early days she just started to work with Lori, she was calling her “an artist” . Now Fumie herself has become an artist. Her presence adds depth and richness to today’s figure skating world.

  4. I think that JapanSkates obtained Fumie’s best words possible !
    Thoughtful questions and very characteristic answers !

    I also think that the depth of this interview comes from Fumie’s many years of striving … such flavor in her words … a treasure to figure skating fans.

  5. She has a wonderful perspective on things. Good luck Fumie!

  6. One of the most impressive interviews I’ve ever read!
    Yes, yes, I agree. Depth, richness and flavor in her skating should have been created by the fermentation by many years of striving and efforts.

    I believe that the interview was in English and her
    original words are very characteristic and might let us think and imagine much more about her. Thank you!

  7. Yes the entire interview was done in english.

    I’ve inserted two audio clips. In the first clip she is giving me the correct pronunciation of her name. In the second clip she mentions she heard about a skater getting underwear thrown onto the ice as a gift! We both laughed hysterically over that. What fun!

    I also performed some more editing to make it a bit more readable. Thanks Hikki for bringing that up.

    -Gregg

  8. i love the way fumie skates, her grace and charms and she always gives 100% her heart and soul in her programs. she seems a very nice person and pleasant to be with. i wish her all the best of luck in the future. hope to see her more in the news because she really deserves it.


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    ISU:http://www.isu.org/vsite/vform/page/feedback/1,11038,4844-130886-132194-74548-user-feedback-start,00.html

    To Whom It May Concern:

    I am writing this message to let you know how dangerous Ms. Fumie Suguri (a Japanese figure skater) to other skaters is.
    I am not sure if Ms. Suguri had some intention to hurt other skaters simulating by accident, but I would like to tell you what Ms. Suguri did recently.

    On December 27th of 2008, Ms. Suguri collided with Ms. Miki Ando during a 6-minute-practice of ladies free program at the Japanese Nationals.
    As a result, Ms. Ando got an injury and lost to Ms. Suguri (Ms. Suguri received a silver medal and Ms. Ando received a bronze medal).
    You may want to watch the movie of the accident at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjoeY2YmYfU (please watch the movie at 2:04 min. The accidnt
    was happened)

    On February 6th of 2009, Ms. Suguri almost bumped into Ms. Mao Asada during a 6-minute-practice of ladies free program at the four continent figure skating championships.
    Fortunately Ms. Asada avoided the near miss and she received a bronze medal.
    You may want to watch the movie of the near miss at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYMsA-AlsUE.

    I would appreciate if ISU could tell this information to all competitors of World Championships to prevent from all accidents/injuryies.

    Thank you for your attention.

    your name

  10. Incredible site!,


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