Transcript of JapanSkates' interview with Aki Sawada at Thornhill Summer Skate, Aug 19.

By Mark S., (c) JapanSkates 2006.

More photos taken at the interview are here!

I was fortunate enough to bump into Aki and her coach Mie Hamada in the lobby at the Thornhill Community Centre on the first day of competition, Thursday August 17.  I showed them my permission note from the Japan Federation and we scheduled the interview for Saturday, August 19 right after the Ladies short program (as I wouldn't be able to attend the free skate on the Sunday).  Thornhill Arena and Community Centre is only a few minutes' drive from where I live (and just north of Toronto), so the Summer Skate is definitely my "home competition."

Saturday came, and with I-Ching on hand I met Aki after she had successfully debuted her new short program.  We found a quiet table in the lounge and proceeded with the interview.  Ms. Hamada was so kind to act as translator when needed.  I was intent on asking more detailed questions and better follow-ups than I had with Yukari three weeks earlier, and felt satisfied that I was prepared for our meeting.

As in past transcripts, I've tried to stay as close as possible to a verbatim transcription.  Also, I have put Aki's own words in regular type and Ms. Hamada's translations in italics.  I have also put Ms. Hamada's translations into the first person.

JS:  JapanSkates
AS:  Aki Sawada

JS:  Aki, thank you for doing the interview today.  Congratulations on the short program.  How do you feel about your performance in the short?

AS:  I have not been competing for a little while, so this is first time to skate the new program in front of an audience and I was nervous about it.

JS:  So this was a new program for this year...what are your musical selections for this season?

AS:  Ah, this year, we use "Blues" for short, and long is "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones.

JS:  Who chooses your music?

AS:  The choreographer, I discuss it a lot with the choreographer.

JS:  What is your favorite type of music to skate to?

AS:  Last season's short program music is my favorite, that was "Caravan."

JS:  That was very good!  This is your first season on the senior Grand Prix circuit.  Do you have any goals for this season, or maybe for the next few seasons?

AS:  I want to get higher marks for the five components.

JS:  Which element do you want to improve the most?

AS:  The spins...I want to get Level 4 spins!

JS:  Are you going to stay in Toronto now or are you going to return to Japan?

AS:  I'm going to leave on the 23rd.

JS:  Some of the Japanese skaters like Miki and Shizuka have come to North America to train.  Do you think you'd like to do that?

AS:  Not all the time...all year, but for a short time.

JS:  This a question we ask all of the skaters.  What was the funniest gift ever thrown onto the ice for you?

AS:  Just teddy bear...

JS:  Are there differences in the gifts that Japanese fans give you and the ones Americans and Canadians give?

AS: Japan fans like to throw letters on the ice.

JS:  (I-Ching asking this one):  Like LOVE LETTERS?

AS:  (Torrents of laughter)  No no!  Not love letters!  Just "Ganbatte" letters...  (all laugh)

JS:  Do you have a best-ever performance from your career so far?

AS:  Last year's junior Grand Prix in Okaya, the SBC Cup (note:  Aki won this with 150.98 points).

JS:  Do you go to a regular high school during the year, and is it difficult to maintain school and skating during the year?

AS:  Yes...but it is difficult.

JS:  Who are your best friends on the Japanese team?  I always ask this!

AS:  Ah, well I am the same age as Akiko, and Mai, elder sister of Mao.  And Nana!  Nana Takeda.

JS:  What are some of your interests outside of figure skating?

AS:  I like learning how to speak Korean.

JS:  Great, I used to live in Korea!  There is a lot of attention and demands on Japan's top skaters nowadays.  Have you changed from all of the attention?  How do you deal with it?

AS:  Yes, everyone likes figure skating as a sport.  These days, I've been trying to lose weight!

JS:  Ah OK, so there is pressure...  Do you enjoy the attention?  People asking for autographs?

AS:  Oh yes!

JS:  Do you have a message for your fans at We have many fans from all over the world.

AS:  Yes, please watch me skate and look for the difference from last year!

Ms. Hamada had to leave at this point to be with a junior male skater during his performance, leaving Aki with us...but she proved that she had been hiding some excellent English skills as she handled the questions expertly!  The following questions were asked informally as Aki signed pictures and posed for some photos.

JS:  (Mark):  Have you ever visited Korea?

AS:  Not yet, but I have many friends there.  Chae-Hwa Kim, but she is living in Japan.  And I know Yu-Na Kim.

JS:  (I-Ching asking):  Are you going to do any sight-seeing before you leave?

AS:  Yes, Niagara Falls.  And shopping...but I don't know where!

JS:  What is your next competition?  Are you going to Skate America or Skate Canada?

AS:  I'm going to Cup of Russia and Cup of China!

JS:  (I-Ching asking):  You'll do very well, I'm sure!  When will we see you again?  Are you coming back next year?

AS:  Next summer...but I don't know about here...

JS:  (I-Ching again):  Well we're going to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, so we'll see you there!

AS:  (laughs)  Of course!

After this, we said our good-byes (for this time!) and wished her all the best in the free skate, which she won handily to take the competition.  Later that day, we saw her in the lobby and she smiled and waved at us, and again we saw her Sunday afternoon after the competition ended.  Moments like these make all the effort worthwhile!!!

JapanSkates would like to thank Aki and Ms. Hamada again for their valuable time, and also Julie Keown and all the staff at Skate Canada's Central Ontario offices and at the Thornhill Community Centre.  Thanks also go to the Japan Skating Federation for authorizing this meeting.



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