Kanako Murakami: A Japanese Star on the Rise

The Deepest Ladies’ Field

Looking at the incomparable field of Japanese ladies, it’s hard to believe that Mao Asada is no longer the new kid on the scene. It seems just yesterday that we were left wondering what mark she would have left on the 2006 Torino Olympics, had she been a sliver older.

Fumie Suguri is their reigning veteran, debuting at Worlds in ’97, and Japanese Juniors in ’92! I wonder if she will announce her retirement from competitive skating soon, especially as her competitive season is now essentially over, after a seventh place showing at Nationals. Sadly, it appears she won’t be going out with a bang, perhaps erring by putting herself more recently in the hands of Morozov, Mishin, and Zhulin. She is one of the few remaining skaters in the intl. field that for me consistently calls to mind Kwan, since they were contemporaries, both born in ’80, and having rather comparable jumping ability (although Kwan was of course more consistent).

Hurricane Kanako

Judging from the recent Japanese Nationals, and Junior Grand Prix Final, Kanako Murakami appears to be the new one to watch, and the future (possibly very near future) of Japanese ladies’ skating.

This Nationals short program, performed to “Nectar Flamenco”, and “Frente A Frente” is very complete! She seems to have it all. Her eager nods to her coach before her program alone tell the story of her spirit. Although less artistically evolved, and with an erratic fall on her footwork, her long program, from the JGPF also shows her real competitive fire.

She won the JGPF, and came in fifth (in the SP and LP) at Nationals, less than 10 points behind Miki Ando, and two spots ahead of Suguri.

She exudes a real love of skating, has quite mature artistry and expression, beautiful extension, detailed footwork, and impressive jumps (nailing a 3/3). However, her spins can REALLY travel and could have better positions, and she struggles with the oft-criticized flutz, but those will hopefully be corrected with time.

She is coached by Machiko Yamada, who used to coach Ito and Asada, and still coaches Nakano. Thankfully, Ito’s and Nakano’s wrapped leg jumping technique appears to have gone out the window, as neither Asada nor Murakami display that technique.

A Supportive Gesture to Akiko Suzuki

Murakami and Suzuki appear to be linked in this emotional kiss and cry interaction, from Nationals. It shows an emotional gesture from one fellow competitor to another, belying her supportive character.

I was very touched to discover the following about Suzuki, who just landed a spot on the Japanese Olympic Team, by winning silver at Nationals.:

“Her story of coming back after suffering a serious personal ordeal made headlines in her home country. Due to the extreme stress of controlling her weight, Suzuki began to suffer from anorexia in 2003 and her weight dropped to the low 30kg range. She sat out the entire ’03-’04 season, and her first season back after that was disappointing. But she signaled her full recovery this year with a third place finish in the International Skating Union GPF earlier this month.”

That’s a mere 66 pounds!…quite a low point from which to regain health and wellness. Kudos to you, Akiko! Due to overcoming this, as well as her spirited “West Side Story” LP, she is easily my sentimental favorite in Vancouver!

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