In March 2006, Natalia Alexandra Mitsuoka became the first skater from Argentina to compete in an ISU international competition when she competed at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Although she didn’t make it out of the qualifying round, which eliminated over 40 percent of the initial entries, she still took her place in the history books.
The 17-year-old was born in Buenos Aires but now resides in New Providence, New Jersey. Although her name sounds more Russian than Spanish, she is actually of Japanese ancestry. “Both my grandparents came from Japan,” she said. “But Natalia is a popular name in Argentina. My parents thought of naming me Alessandra but they thought Alexandra sounded better.”
Mitsuoka didn’t start skating until she was 12. “From five to eight, I was swimming,” she said. “Then from nine to eleven, I played field hockey. That was my favorite sport because I was really good. I wasn’t good at soccer and volleyball. We went skating for a friend’s birthday party. I saw other skaters jumping and spinning and tried to copy them. My mom saw that I enjoyed it and asked me if I wanted to start. There’s only two ice rinks in my country so there weren’t any competitions, just little shows.”
“In 2002, we moved to New York because my mother wanted to start her own business doing professional dental work, like bridges and things,” she continued. “She wanted to move and start a new life in America. So I started at the Skyrink in Chelsea Piers. Sid Morgan started coaching me and I took lessons from Lu Chen and Lucinda Ruh and some other coaches. When Sid became the director of the new rink in New Jersey, I moved there and started working with Galina Zmieskaya. That was about a year ago.”
“Natalia learned an axel in one lesson,” Morgan said. “That’s when I knew she was special. Since she’s only been skating for a few years, we’ve had to fast track her to learn how to be a competitive athlete. But she has a very positive attitude and is a very hard worker.”
The 17-year-old beauty trains at Iceworld in Wayne, New Jersey. She works for four hours a day, five days a week on ice and another hour a day three times a week off ice. Since she has only been skating for five years, Mitsuoka has not yet mastered any triple jumps. She’s working on her double axel and has tried all kinds of double-double combinations, including the double lutz-double toe and double toe-double toe she used in her 2005-06 long program. Her progress was hampered by a joint inflammation in her hip that kept her off the ice for several weeks last summer and prevented her from jumping for three months.
Nina Petrenko choreographed both her 2005-06 programs. The short program was to “Comtine D-Un Autre Ete” by Yann Tiersen and “Reflections of Passion” by Yanni, while the long was to “Nightingale” by Yanni and “Devils’ Trill” by Vanessa Mae. “My dad and I pick the music and cut it together on the computer,” Mitsuoka said. “I like piano music a lot, soft lyrical music to skate to. That’s why we picked the music for the short. The long program is the same as the year before. I couldn’t compete because I hurt my hip so we decided to keep it. It starts soft, then gets really strong.”
“We want her to try every genre,” Morgan said. “She had already done Latin and rock.” For an exhibition program, Mitsuoka choreographed her own program to a Spanish a capella version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” from the soundtrack of Mulholland Drive. Off ice, she listens to American pop, music from Argentina, and techno.
The lively brunette enjoys going out with friends, shopping and going to parties. “I love to dance a lot,” she said. “A group of Argentinean friends and I go out to an Argentinean disco dancing club in New York. She also has an unusual hobby, collecting rocks and semi-precious stones. “My dad brings me rocks from other countries,” she said. “In Argentina, we used to go out in the hills and collect rocks.” She also likes rock climbing. “We have a three story rock climbing wall at Chelsea Piers,” Morgan said. “So we decided to let the kids try it for cross training. They had to use muscles they didn’t know they had. But our injury percentage went down to near zero after we started the program.” Mitsuoka also likes other extreme sports and wants to learn to ski.
Mitsuoka, a junior in high school, is home schooled and cited history as her favorite subject. Although she likes computer systems, she has no idea of what she wants to do as a career. “I want to keep skating as long as I can,” she said. “I want to be the first Argentinean skater to compete in the Olympics.”