Transcript of JapanSkates' interview with Yoshie Onda at the Granite Club in Toronto, October 7, 2005.

By Mark S., (c) JapanSkates 2005.

More photos and videos made at the interview are at this page.

I arrived at the Granite Club in Toronto in time for the 12:30 appointment. Yoshie’s coach, Josée Chouinard, had mentioned that Yoshie trains in one-hour segments with a rest period in between, and would break for lunch at 1:30. I could take some photos during the practice session and then have a 12 - 15 minute interview with Yoshie during her lunch hour. As it turned out, Josée and Yoshie were delayed at a costume fitting for Skate America so the plans changed a little. I was able to sit down with Yoshie between 1:05 and 1:30. This allowed me to fit in more questions and have a fun autograph session afterwards. Yoshie then ate and rested until 2:15, at which point I took some photos at her practice.

The Granite Club is a private country and sports club. It was established in the 1870s in what was then the northern part of Toronto. It quickly became a base for successful hockey, curling and cricket teams. The 1924 Olympic ice hockey champions, representing Canada, were the Toronto Granites. It added figure skating to its resume not long after and has been home to many champions, most recently Yoshie Onda.

The interview began with Josée leading Yoshie and me to quiet table in the gallery overlooking the ice surface. I mentioned what a nice place the Granite Club was, and that even though I am a native Torontonian I had never been there. Yoshie said that she enjoyed it there and lived close enough that she could come by bicycle. I asked how she was enjoying Toronto and we agreed that it was interesting to live in a such a cosmopolitan city.  I then tested my tape recorder, put the earpiece in, set the microphone between us and said, “Test”. Yoshie playfully grabbed the mic and yelled “HELLO!” into it…almost popping my eardrum. I smiled (more liked ‘winced’ without letting on) and removed the earpiece. (I was told Yoshie likes to joke around…now I know it’s true!!!).  Then the interview formally began. I had e-mailed Josée the questions and she had Yoshie look them over before we started. Josée then said she would return in 25 minutes.

JS:  JapanSkates
Y
O:  Yoshie Onda

JS: OK, hello Yoshie!

YO:
Hi.

JS: Thank you for doing the interview today

YO:
Hai!

JS: Congratulations on your excellent performance at the Japan International Challenge last week. How do you feel about your performance there? Were you happy with it?

YO:
Yeah, I was happy because I could compete at the Japan International Challenge. I was so happy, but I was so nervous because the Open was in Japan. I was a little bit nervous because it was the first competition, but I think it was a great competition. It was a good competition for me.

JS: Was it your new free skate for this season?

YO:
Yes.

JS: Was it difficult to prepare for that competition on short notice? I know they just called you about a week before the competition and asked you to compete because of the injury. They only gave you one week.

YO:
Yeah…so when I first heard “Yoshie, can you compete” from the (Japan) Federation because Fumie got injured, I was surprised…“WHAT?” But I thought, “OK, I’ll try” because I was thinking it is a good chance for me. It was the first time, so I was thinking too much because I had to come back to Japan and compete there, and less than three weeks later I had Skate America. I think it is so difficult for me, but still I tried to compete in the Japan International.

JS: The scores that you received, were they what you expected?

YO:
No no, I didn’t expect, but I thought after the competition that for my performance, I needed to keep going with the program, and if I keep going with my training, I think (it) should be better after a few months. So I thought that (this) year’s program is better now, better than last year's.

JS: What do you feel you need to work on for Skate America? That is in two-and-a-half weeks and I know that you’re going to be a strong medal contender.

YO:
Hee Hee

JS: I’m sure you are! What will you need to work on?

YO:
I don’t think of anything between the (Japan) International and Skate America, just to keep going with the training so I keep giving a good performance at the Japan International Challenge and Skate America. And yes, I think (if I) keep going, I’ll be able to (give a) good performance of Skate America, I think.

JS: Have you ever been to Atlantic City?

YO:
No, I’ve never competed at Skate America, (or) Cup or Russia, though I’ve competed Senior (Grand Prix) for four years. So now I’m going to compete at Skate America and at the Cup of Russia.

JS: So they are new competitions for you.

YO: (Laughter)
Yes!

JS: This question is about the new Code of Points judging system. How do you feel your style is suited to the new judging system? Have you had to make any adjustments or changes to be successful in the new system?

YO:
Hmmm…sometimes a good thing, sometimes a bad thing. I’m thinking it’s a good thing, so now I can do a lot of the things. Before, it was just…you know, just a performance. But now, I can do a little bit more difficult steps or difficult spins, and I do difficult training. But before, (it was) always same skating. It is difficult for me now, but I want to learn difficult skating. So, yeah, it’s a good thing. But we have five components and different levels, and every rotation…everybody checks rotation, and spirals (laughs), and I don’t like it because skaters are thinking to count; but at the competition (we) can’t count the spins and spirals, because everybody’s feeling so nervous. But we have to count every time in competition, practice and every time. I don’t like that part of it.

JS: Last season many fans thought it was a very successful season for you. Why, then, did you decide to move to Toronto and train here at the Granite Club with Josée?

YO:
Because, (for) one thing….she was such a good skater! (laughs). And I said, “OK I want to try training with her”. It was so difficult to decide to come to Canada, because you know the U.S., it is so famous for figure skating, so it’s so difficult to decide to move from U.S. to Canada. But you now, I want to try…I could get more points. I think that she is thinking Code of Points, the levels, everything…so I changed coaches.

JS: So it was your decision? Or was the club recommended to you?

YO:
Oh, I decided. And so I first told the Japan Skating Federation, and (the) Federation helped me and (contacted) her, and so I moved here.

JS: What are your choices of music this year? Short program, free skate and exhibition?

YO:
Ah, she (Josée) decided them. She knows. (laughs)

Note: According to our friends at yoshieonda.com, Yoshie’s music selections for this year are:

SP: "Madame Bovary" Soundtrack
FS: "La Strada" Soundtrack

I saw Yoshie debut the free skate at the Skate Canada Central Ontario Summer Skate back in August.


JS: I have a question from my partner on the website, Gregg… If you could have any gift thrown onto the ice---

YO:
Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!

JS: - what would you like the gift be to be?

YO:
Well, three years ago, I got socks! It was in Japan, and I was surprised. I thought it was a gift, and I opened it and said…”Oh, it’s socks!” (laughter) And I was so happy. And the last few years I’ve got T-shirts, and I was so happy. I never get T-shirts. Every time it’s flowers. I like flowers, but I can’t bring the flowers home.

JS: Do you usually keep the gifts?

YO:
Yep. But I can’t keep the flowers, so I put the flowers in the hotel. So I can bring (back) T-shirts, letters, and everything. But I can’t take the flowers.

JS: The website that we run is about you and the other Japanese skaters. We feature eight of the top skaters in Japan. Is it easy to be friends with the other top Japanese ladies because you’re competitors at the same time?

YO:
Ahhh….I think so…everybody is friends. Just a bit different….to compete. After (we) compete we change to friends. So in Nationals, every time (laughs), before practice we are talking just as friends, but there is competition so it’s a little bit different, you know we are just skaters. And we don’t talk anymore.

JS: So you are friends outside of competition?

YO:
YEAH! (enthusiastically)

At this point, I had completed the questions I had planned to ask in the 12 minutes I had allotted. I then went on to some supplemental questions I had prepared in case we had time. I had Yoshie look them over and then we began. The tone now was more relaxed and conversational in nature and we had fun covering these topics.

JS: I have a special message for you from a friend of mine, Dave Carmichael.

YO:
HAI! HAI! HAI! I know! I know! I know!

JS: And he has one word for you…he said “SMILE!”

(I asked this because Dave, one of Canada’s top skating photographers and a major contributor to our site, had told me how hard Yoshie had worked to develop her smile during her programs over the last few years).

YO: (Laughter)
Yeah every time he says, exactly, so I know. You know, after some skating I was not smiling, and he said ‘you have to keep smiling”. But I’m so focused on skating, I can’t smile (laugh). He says every time “You have to smile”!

JS: We’ve become good friends with Dave; he is such a nice guy.

YO: (Torrents of laughter)
It’s true! Please tell him, it’s true!

JS: This is an important season with the Olympic games.

YO:
Ah yes.

JS: Is this going to be your last competitive season?

YO:
I think a little bit different in my mind (nowadays). The first time…I want to do good for Skate America, then next time for Cup of Russia, to do good performances. And I want to go to the Grand Prix Final. Every year I can do that, but it is difficult for me in (Japanese) Nationals… But now in the Japan Federation, it’s not (as) important at Nationals, it’s the total of the difficult year. But I want to keep going…to be better, better, better; and I want to go to the Olympic Games. But I am thinking first time Skate America. I don’t think ‘Olympic Games’ yet.

JS: So you might continue to skate competitively next year?

YO:
Oh yeah! In March, after the season, every year I’m talking to keep going to skate, or to stop. So I’m talking with my family, and we will decide to keep going or to stop, I can’t decide it by myself.

JS: Yoshie, what do you think your best-ever performance was? Or maybe your best competition? Some people have told me that it was last year in Korea at the Four Continents.

YO:
Hah! I don’t think so!

JS: What do you think it was?

YO:
Oh, so I never…every time I need a good performance. Just everybody says, “Yoshie you did your best performance at Four Continents.” But…I don’t think so.

JS: You don’t really have a favorite performance?

YO:
Favorite performance…um…three, almost three years ago after the Olympic Games I got first at NHK. I was thinking that was my best performance.

JS: Who were some of your favorite skaters when you were growing up?

YO:
I don’t know! I don’t look around at another skaters. I’m thinking just me….I’m not thinking another skater.

JS: How do you deal with being so far away from your close friends and family in Japan? You were in the States last year and Canada this year.

YO:
Yes, it was difficult to me so I need my family, and I need my friends. But…I’ve come to train; I came here just for the training. I am a figure skater. Sometimes I need my family and my friends, but I have to keep going (to be a) good skater. Now, I don’t need to miss my family or my friends. After skating, I can come back to Japan (to) my family and my friends. So for now, I don’t need them.

JS: The last one is about your spare time. Do you have any favorite hobbies? What sports do you like to watch or do other than figure skating?

YO:
Hmmmm…I don’t have a hobby.

JS: Someone told me racing, driving?

YO:
Ah, last year I did driving! But now, I don’t drive. And then…oh….it’s difficult. I don’t watch just skating…but right now I’m just skating. That’s it.

JS: Do you read a little bit?

YO:
No, I don’t like it…but I’m studying English now. It’s difficult to me sometimes, but I need it, so I’m studying English.

JS: I have heard that you don’t really like practicing ballet?

YO:
Ah…but now, in my mind I need it so I have to go to ballet, so I go twice a week, but before I don’t like it and so I didn’t go to ballet. But now I change (my) mind, and I’m going to ballet.

JS: Just one more. We have a lot of visitors to our website who are very interested in this interview. Do you have a message for them, or to say hello to your fans at the website?

YO:
Ah, just one thing. I wanna do my best. “Ganbatte kudasai!” Do your best!. So that is my message.

(pause while I checked how much tape was remaining)

YO:
So, did you understand my English?

JS: Everything. They (Josée and some Granite Club officials) told me it was very good.

YO:
Really? Good!

JS: Are you confident speaking English? Last year (in Washington) you stayed with a family and you only spoke Japanese most of the time. But you now have to speak English most of the time now.

YO:
It’s true. Yeah. But sometimes, I’m talking to my mom by Internet, so I forgot to speak English!

At this point, Josée arrived at our table. We had a fun autograph session at which Josée laughed at the
picture I had chosen for her to sign, as it was several years old! She has promised to send along a few signed press photos of both Yoshie and herself, which I will post when I receive them in the mail. I also gave Yoshie and Josée my JapanSkates card. I mentioned that Gregg and I would be at Skate America and asked if we could have a brief post-competition interview with Yoshie on the Sunday, and Josée was open to the idea if it could be conveniently arranged. Stay tuned!

After lunch, I was invited into the rink area to take a few pictures of Yoshie training with Josée, along with a few candids. These are posted at the JapanSkates website. I then stayed for about half an hour and watched Yoshie slowly warm up into a few spins and jumps. Both Yoshie and Josée are very fun to talk to, and they get along great together, joking and laughing with each other. As soon as the practice begins, though, the game faces go on and both are most serious about what they’re doing. You can’t help but root for Yoshie this season and a possible return to the Olympics and Worlds.

Interviewing Yoshie was a very fun experience. I would like to thank Yoshie for taking the time out of her busy training schedule, and to Josée Chouinard and Barb Sisson at the Granite Club for accommodating me so professionally. This was good experience for my next interview with Miki Ando and Carol Heiss-Jenkins in the near future, which Gregg will be attending as well. Stay tuned!

Return to Yoshie's page 
 

 



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