A Skater’s Art to Remember

With all the talk of the golden age of Japanese skating, I can’t help but feeling like one skater got lost in the shuffle (or, should I say “twizzles”?).

I recalled being very impressed by this skater back in the 2003-04 season. She had all the qualities I most look for in a ladies skater: elegance, musicality, a gamine quality, and vulnerability. Technically, she had deep knees, great speed, gentle jump landings, and some of the best spiral, spread eagle and ina bauer positions and extension in the biz.

Yukina Ota

Her name is Yukina Ota. She won every Junior competition she entered in the 2002-03 season. She was the 2003 World Junior Champion and 2004 Four Continents Champion. She entered my radar via her televised Grand Prix and 4CCs efforts.

She was never the jumping wunderkind that Asado or Ando are, but knew how to play off her strengths, as did her choreographer, Tom Dickson. In this ’04 4CCs LP video she skates to some of the same ethereal Debussy music Sarah Hughes did in her Olympic LP.:

Amazingly, although clearly revealing the depth of the Japanese team, she never medaled at the Japanese (Senior) Nationals. She landed in 4th through 12th place in the four years she competed there.

She was on top of the Junior world, ready to take the Senior world by storm, and yet retired five years later at age 22, without ever fulfilling her promise. Just when her mature beauty was emerging, and her artistry reaching the heights, her body seemed to say no (ala Lipinski, but without the intl. medals).

She had to be one of the finest skaters of the current crop to come out of Japan: more beautiful than Asada, more musical than Ando, and more memorable than Suguri. But, consistency wasn’t on her side as a senior. Her last placement at the ’07 Japanese Nationals was in 7th, before she retired from competitive skating in 2008, finally caving to injury. Fortunately her LP there still showed some of what made her special. Here is that Concierto de Aranjuez program.:

In another youtube video from a 2007 exhibition (not shown here), we tragically see her barely able to land even a double, and more often than not popping to singles.

Other skaters who have shared a similar sad fate, include Ann Patrice McDonough, and Naomi Nari Nam. Although, thankfully Nam had a second wind as a pairs skater. And, McDonough seemed to run out of gas, rather than be forced out by injury.

For all her prodigious qualities and successes as a Junior, she deserves a place in the history of this decades’ Japanese skating greats… AT LEAST the B-List!

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