Monday, December 28, 2009

Japan Women's National Figure Skating Championships

Let it be known first and foremost before you venture further here: I'm absolutely not interested in sports.

The most sport I've actually participated in is an ad hoc round of tennis once every three or four years, an annual game of ten-pin bowling, Yoyogi Park soccer and/or volleyball for birthday parties, and the long-lost days in Australia when I watched the test cricket on the telly, preferably with beer(s) in hand and mates nearby to distract my wayward attention.

I've never skied or snowboarded; the only real time I tried to go skiing (in Gunma in Nagano a few years back), the kids there were so good that I renounced my intentions and found instead an onsen to pickle myself in. I'm from Australia, not the best place really for snow, but I'd been ice skating a handful of times in Melbourne and Stockholm (where I almost cut someone's throat open with my wildly kicking skate as I flipped over).

So who would've figured that I'd end up gripping my seat, enamoured with skinny Japanese girls skating about?

Yet that's exactly what I was doing last night with my wife Yoko, during the Japan women's national figure skating championships down in Osaka (December 27).

The skaters here vied for the two available places in the Japanese national team for 2010's Vancouver Olympics (Miki Ando had already attained the third slot).

So you had the likes of Mao Asada (Mai Asada's sister, definitely a local favourite, and the scion of a helluva lot of TV advertising) skating against long-time stalwart Yukari Nakano and the up-and-coming Akiko Suzuki, pictured above and, at almost 25, one of the oldest in the field but also a vibrant highlight in recent events.

Personally I'm an Asada fan and have really grown to love Suzuki's exuberance and flair, while having been an Ando supporter since her struggles at the previous Olympics - and all three, as of last night, have qualified for Vancouver as Asada and Suzuki came first and second respectively.

Although she didn't qualify, one of the absolute highlights of the Osaka get-together was Kanako Murakami (below), who turned 15 just last month and is a refreshing mix of quirkiness, talent and bubbly innocence. Expect big things from this kid in the next Olympics.

Unfortunately someone had to miss out, and this time around (much like four years ago) it was again Nakano.

Sports. Bah, humbug.

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