Saturday, 23/6/2018 | : : UTC-7
Skate Today

Suguri Moves to Chicago

Fumie Suguri

Japan’s Fumie Suguri was faced with a dilemma this summer. The closure of some Japanese ice rinks and the increase in the number of high-level Japanese ladies skating at her rink meant reduced ice time and contact with her coaches. So she decided to move to Chicago to train with noted Russian coach Oleg Vasiliev. Previously, Suguri had worked with Nobuo Sato for many years. “There just wasn’t enough practice time available in Japan,” Suguri stated.

“Fumie first came to train at our rink for four or five weeks in the summer,” said Vasiliev, who also coaches Russian pairs team Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin. “Lori Nichol worked with her on the choreography while she was here. Fumie also asked me some technical questions while she was training and I helped her. When she went back to Japan, she asked her coaches and the federation about coming to train with me. So she started with me at the beginning of September.”

“She already had her programs and choreography,” Vasiliev continued, “so we have just been working on her technique. I always liked her work ethic. She’s always ready mentally and physically. But she needs to improve her upper body strength, her leg extension on her spirals, and her speed. We will be working this season on increasing the power in her stroking and also improving her edge jumps. The salchow is about 90 percent where it should be technically, but it needs time to be perfect.” Suguri trains for three hours a day, five days a week with Vasiliev. On Saturday, she also skates a short session by herself. Vasiliev has also added some new off ice work to increase her strength and improve the quality of her skating.

Nichol has choreographed Suguri’s programs for the last eight years. This season, she is using The Pink Panther for her short program and a Latin motif for her long. The medley includes Tango Para Percussion by Lazlo Schifrin, Carmen Fantasie by Franz Waxman, and George Bizet’s Carmen. For her exhibition program, Suguri is using Lara Fabian’s Adagio.

“Both of my programs are new,” Suguri said. “I try to change every year. This year, we had a choice between my normal classical programs and Pink Panther. I thought about how the audience always wants new things from skaters so Lori and I tried to create a new part of my skating. It’s the same as we tried last year with Paint It Black. Now I’m sure I can do different things. But I really love the classical style.” Suguri tries to get the audience involved in her programs. “I like it when the audience is excited, when you can send a message to the audience by skating with your heart,” she explained.

Suguri had an unusual reason to become a skater. “When I was three, we moved to Alaska for my dad’s job so we played a lot of winter sports there. When we moved back to Japan, my mother was afraid I would forget my English. She thought if I continued to do sports, then I’d remember Alaska and remember my English.

Suguri, the 2004 ISU Grand Prix Final medallist, has twice won the Four Continents Championships and taken two bronze medals at the World Championships. She also finished fifth at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. She has been on the podium for eight straight years at Japanese Nationals, winning four golds, three silvers and a bronze overall. Suguri started this season with a fourth place finish at Skate Canada in Halifax.

But Japan now has the strongest ladies field in the world after sweeping all of the ISU championships last season except Europeans where they couldn’t compete. “The new generation is coming,” Suguri stated. “We need to take power from them while keeping the good part of the old ways. They have new thoughts, a different way. They think outside of this (making a box with her hands). Not that it’s good or bad.” Now her younger sister, Chika, who is 20, is among her rivals. She has also been competing in seniors for the past three years and recently finished eighth at the Vienna Cup. “I’m more nervous when I see her skate than when I skate,” Suguri said. “And she’s nervous for me. That’s not good when I have to skate after her.”

She’s not sure how the new judging system will affect her placements. “I wish we had it last year so I would have been much higher at Worlds,” she lamented. “After the qualifying round, I was always climbing the stairs. It’s good that we can win if we do poorly in the short. But it’s kind of hard to tell what it will be like this season. The good part is that they see more of the artistic and not just the technical. But when you think negatively, there are fewer parts that we can create. You have to do this, this and this to get the higher level. That makes it hard for choreographers.”

And hard for Suguri as she does not yet have a triple-triple combination in her arsenal for this season, instead using a triple lutz-double toe loop and triple flip-double toe in her long program. She also uses the triple lutz-double toe in her short. “We plan to add triple-triple combinations,” Vasiliev said. “And we hope to work on a triple axel right after Worlds next year.”

As for her off ice activities, Suguri said. “Cooking is my hobby now. When I was in Japan, I was living at home so I didn’t have to cook, but now I’m living by myself in an apartment in Chicago so I have to do it. It’s a lot of fun.” She also likes to read. She used to play the piano, but no longer has time. And she no longer collects anything, except clothes. “I’m not a stuffed animal collector,” she related. “I take them to the children in the hospital.” She doesn’t have any real animals either. “My parents said we already have two pets, me and my sister,” she laughed.

Suguri finished her university degree in social sciences two years ago, but thinks she will remain in the sport in some capacity. “I cannot take skating away from my life,” she said, “but I won’t be one of the new judges. I don’t like to judge someone.”

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