Near Perfect Season for Japan’s Kozuka

Articles, Articles by Barry Mittan

Takahiko Kozuka

Takahiko Kozuka was almost undefeated during the 2005-06 season, winning the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Ljubljana, Slovenia, the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final in Ostrava in the Czech Republic, and the Japanese Nationals in juniors. He also won the ISU Junior Grand Prix in Japan but finished second at the ISU JGP in Montreal, Canada.

The 17-year-old is a great entertainer as well as a powerful jumper and is extremely fast on his feet. His 2005-06 programs, choreographed by 1994 World ladies champion Yuka Sato, showed his versatility as he skated to Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” for the short, George Gershwin’s “Piano Concerto in F” for the long and Missy Elliott’s “Car Wash” in exhibition.

Sato picked the music for his programs, all of which were new for the season. “I like fast music,” he said. “I wanted to use fast piano music for the free program and everybody told me that I should use ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ for the short because it was fast music with a good beat. ”

Skating is a family tradition for the gregarious Kozuka. Both of his parents skated and are now skating coaches and his father was a national champion. “I started skating when I was three,” he said, “because my parents were on the ice coaching. “I started training seriously when I was five.

He landed his first triple toe loop when he was ten and displayed an impressive arsenal of jumps at Junior Worlds including a triple axel-double toe combination in the short and a double axel-triple toe, double axel-double toe, and triple lutz-double toe-double loop in the long along with a triple axel and four other solo triples.

“The triple axel is my favorite jump now,” he said. “I tried the quad flip and quad toe loop last summer. I landed the quad toe clean but then I injured a muscle in my groin and had to quit. I will try it again this summer.”

Nobuo and Kumiko Sato, Yuka Sato’s parents, are now his primary coaches along with his mother, Tsuguhiko Kozuka, who trained him from the time he was a child. He practices on ice three hours a day, six days a week, seven days if he can, but does only two hours a week of off ice dance classes. “I don’t work out in the gym,” he stated. “I don’t want to look like a muscle man.”

For fun, he likes all kinds of ball games, especially baseball and soccer. “I can’t swim because I sink,” he said, making a diving motion with his hand. He also likes using a computer to play games, shop and surf the web. He also reads comics, watches comedy movies and collects CDs and DVDs.

Kozuka started his third year in high school in April. “I like math, science and history,” he said. “I’m not sure what I’ll study in university, but probably mathematics. I can calculate quickly the points in the new system. I have many interests now so it’s hard to choose.”

Next season, Kozuka may decide to compete in seniors rather than juniors, but is still undecided. “I want to improve my personal bests,” he noted. “I like making no mistakes in competition. Eventually I would like to go to the Olympics.”

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