Nikola: Hi, this is Nikola and you’re listening to the 2018 Asian Open Trophy bonus segment through In The Loop podcast. I’m here to give you a brief rundown on the event, and to give you a fan perspective, as well as some interviews with skaters competing at the event - including Chantelle Kerry and Andrews Dodds from team Australia, and Misato Komatsubara and Tim Koleto from Team Japan.
For the first time this year, the Asian Open Trophy has been included in the Challenger Series of competitions endorsed by the ISU. This is the first event of the Challenger Series ever held in Asia, taking place in Bangkok, Thailand. The event was held from August 1st to 5th, with skaters competing from novice and juniors, as well senior division who were eligible for the Challenger Series. It’s still summer time in Bangkok, and the temperature averaged around 33 degrees Celsius, or 91 degrees Fahrenheit, and was intensely humid - the type of weather not common for figure skating events.
The rink, Imperial Ice World, was located in the upper storeys of the Samrong Imperial Mall, on the west side of Bangkok outside of the main city district. The rink itself was quite small, housing only about 300 to 400 - though the venue easily reached capacity for both the senior mens and ladies events. Most of the fans attending the events were either locals from Bangkok, or from Thailand, or had travelled from Korea. There was also a very strong presence of other South East Asian fans, and of course, fans from Japan. I spoke to one South East Asian fan about how special this event was.
Jennie: Hi, I’m Jennie, I’m from the Philippines. We only have small national events, this is such a rare occasion actually for an event like this to happen in South East Asia. Normally you’d have to fly to Japan, at the least, in order to be able to watch an international competition like this. It’s a growing fanbase, I was actually quite surprised to see that we have a full house right now. Even back home, the fanbase is growing quite well. I think there’s a lot of potential for South East Asia - not just in terms of its fanbase but also our skaters. We’re getting more and more representatives at international events.
Nikola: Given the size of the rink it wasn’t hard to also catch a glimpse of some of the prolific members of the figure skating community. Including Team Japan coaches Mie Hamada and Mihoko Higuchi, as well as athlete, choreographer, and representative extraordinaire Misha Ge.
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Nikola: After the first practice on Friday I had the opportunity to talk to some of the Ice Dance athletes about themselves, and their plans for the season, as well as what it was like competing at this type of event.
Andrew: Hi, I’m Andrew Dodds, and this is-
Chantelle: Hi, I’m Chantelle Kerry, and I’m his partner.
Andrew: And we compete for Australia.
Chantelle: I, actually, my mum is an Olympian for Ice Dance, so I guess I was always hanging around the rink when I was really little, and it was much easier to have me on the ice. And then I went off and did gymnastics and stuff, and I just decided that skating was what I wanted to do!
Andrew: And for me it started as just something to do after school. When I was younger mum signed us up for the skate school program with my older brother, and it was a once a week thing, and then it grew into twice a week, three days a week, and now every day of the week. *laughs*
Nikola: Is it sort of nice to have that environment where other family members of yours are also skating?
Chantelle: Yes and no. I mean, it is pretty unusual and especially you get to share that kind of connection and that kind of bond and those experiences with people from your family. But on the flip side, you don’t always want to talk about figure skating every night.
Andrew: And yeah, for me it would be the same. Having everyone there and skating all the time, sometime it gets a bit much - but it’s always fun to compete against my brothers as well, so.
Nikola: Do you think there’s any sort of big differences competing within a smaller fed to competing as a member of a bigger federation?
Andrew: There definitely are, there’s definitely a big difference - that it is a lot harder. Yeah, we all come from the same background in terms of we all started at a rink and we all grow into our skating. But when you come from a country that hasn’t had much success in the past it is always going to have that mental block of “You can’t do it because you don’t come from anywhere, and you don’t have that history of people doing it before you.” So you’re always trying to break barriers for your own country, and yourself. There’s also other problems that you come across - not necessarily problems, but challenges in terms of support that you get given along the way. Money’s always a big issue in any kind of sport. Coming from a smaller federation, sometimes it does seem like it’s harder when you hear from skaters from other federations, the things that they get given and the things that they don’t necessarily take for granted but they assume it’s something for everyone.
Chantelle: They don’t realise that it’s different for us.
Andrew: So that’s always the hardest thing for us.
Chantelle: On the flip side, I mean, as much as there sort of all those challenges for us being the first dance team from Australia for a long time to qualify for Worlds in our first season, and things like that - it’s kind of motivating to want to push the standard for Australia and show the skaters that are coming through that you can do it as well. So it’s fun to be the ones breaking those barriers as well.
Nikola: How has it been transitioning from Singles into Ice Dance, or in your [Andrew’s] case, doing both at the same time? Is there a big adjustment to do there?
Chantelle: I mean for me, cause I’ve done the full one to the other kind of switch, it is very different. Obviously you’re used to being completely independent in your training and your competing. For me, personally, the positive side of that is whether I did well or didn’t do so well it was on me, and I could feel very comfortable with the fact that I put myself in that situation. I think when you’ve got a partner as well it could be hard if something happens, learning to make sure you’re working together on everything, which I think, luckily for us, we’ve just clicked straight away and it works really well. But on the flip side, I think for both of us we’ve had a lot of success in Singles, and we should be really proud of that, and it’s awesome to now be able to experience more and be standing with someone who’s going through that work with you every single day, at the end of it to stand there and go like “We did that together.” So I think it’s awesome that we’ve gotten to experience both opportunities ourselves.
Andrew: Yeah, I think the biggest and best difference for me is the fact that on a hard training day you’ll always have that one person that’s there for you, that you can just vent to and get your frustrations out. In Singles, you’ve always got your coach for that but it’s different when your coach is on the barrier, it’s having that person next to you that’s also having the same frustrations as you to go “Crap, this is a tough day.” Like “Ugh, I’m not going to get through this one today!” - that kind of thing.
Chantelle: Just saying “Help me.”
Andrew: Like “Okay, you’re gonna need to push me through this run through today.” That’s the best thing about having a partner.
Chantelle: I think, continuing that as well, we’re both very perfectionist kind of personalities, and we’re very picky on ourselves. And I think that’s good in skating, in one way you always want to be better, but it’s also kind of nice like if I’m picking on something I’ve done Andrew will say “It wasn’t that bad. We did this good.” And vice versa to make sure that we’re still staying positive - both pushing ourselves, but always in the right way.
Nikola: Are you experiencing - is there like a different sort of vibe here to what you’re used to? Or humidity? *laughs*
Andrew: Well yeah, the weather at the moment, it’s very humid. But the one thing I like about these smaller comps in general though is that when you do get a crowd in because the rinks are always a lot smaller there’s a bit of better vibe, in terms of sometimes when you go to a big, open stadium and you don’t get a full crowd or anything.
Chantelle: It’s a bit awkward.
Andrew: It seems much more friendly as well. Especially at a competition like this, like I’ve been to the Asian Open Trophy before it was a Challenger Series, and because it is a lot of small federations as well we all have the same kind of vibe.
Chantelle: There’s a camaraderie within.
Andrew: And we all know we’re from small federations and we’re going through a little harder than some others. So we kind of form bonds between each other a little easier, and it’s a lot friendlier, I guess.
Chantelle: I think, this being the first time we’ve had Dance here as well, we’ve ended up having a good amount of teams, and we know the teams that are here and it’s really nice for us to start our season off at an event that - everybody’s positive at this comp, there’s no kind of -
Andrew: It’s an event for us.
Chantelle: Yeah, it’s an event for us, and we’re all here for the same reason and we all get along really well. So it’s nice to catch up with them again, and just get the season rolling.
Nikola: So, speaking of this season, I was wondering if you guys could tell me a little about your plans for your Ice Dance season, a little about your programs and if you have any sort of big aims for this year.
Andrew: Well, our biggest goal this season would be to make the Free Dance at Worlds. Last year, like we said, we made Worlds in our first season together, and we got to do the Short Dance.
Chantelle: And that was our goal for that season, so we got everything we wanted.
Andrew: We wanted to make Worlds, and if we got there, whatever we got was great. We were happy with it. So now we want to start pushing it, and start getting to that point where we’re looking in the end of the next four seasons at getting ready for Olympics.
Chantelle: Yeah, how we get to that qualification year.
Nikola: Do you guys have any sort of plans for Beijing 2022? Is that on your minds?
Chantelle: Be there! See ya there!
Andrew: We are going to be there.
Chantelle: That is the long term goal, that’s where we’re focused on - but for me, I’ve been through the cycles before, Andrew’s experienced it as well, if that’s all you’re focused on, it’s not going to happen. You need to take steps to get there. If we’re only thinking four years ahead we wouldn’t get there. We wouldn’t be pushing ourselves for each and every comp. So it’s in the back of our minds but we’ve got a lot things that we need to tick off to get there.
Andrew: Small goals along the way.
Nikola: Thank you so much Chantelle and Andrew, and one last thing, because this a fan run podcast I was wondering do you guys have any advice for figure skating fans for attending competitions?
Chantelle: Come up and say hello, first of all, if you do get to go to these events. Please come up and say hi, it’s honestly like the coolest thing ever. And if you’re actually into skating, get on the ice, you’ll love it. But if you’re there, come and say hey! Hang out!
Andrew: That’s always the most enjoyable part for me. When you go to a comp and you have people who go up to you and say “hey, I wish you good luck, or anything, any kind of interaction, it doesn’t have to be-
Chantelle: We love it. Maybe not when we’ve got earphones in and we’re about to step on-
Andrew: We’re all stuck on an ice rink all day every day so it’s nice to have other people-
Andrew: To have other interactions with people!
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Misato: I’m Misato Komatsubara, ice dance skater representing Japan.
Tim: And I’m Tim Koleto and together we make Team KoKo. This will be our third season together so we’re really happy to be able to talk with you guys and experience the first Challenger of the season.
Nikola: Do you guys have any sort of different vibes from this competition compared to regular competitions, say in Europe or North America or in Japan?
Misato: It feels really really different than European Challengers or any other international competitions. I feel very supported by making this great first experience together with federations or Asian community, I’m really happy about that.
Tim: It was great today, even just coming in for practice. We saw that there were a few skaters from Kuwait, and like places I’ve never seen skaters from before and I’ve been skating almost 20 years now. So it’s amazing to have such a new experience. It’s our first time in Thailand as well so we’re really happy to experience all of the new things together and it makes me really happy to see so many different skaters from places that are now being inspired to skate from all kinds of media, like youtube, and things that didn’t happen 20 years ago to inspire skating.
Nikola: In Japan, singles skating is very, very big but ice dance I guess is considered almost a more European speciality, North American specialty. What’s it like being a, representing an Asian country in ice dance, particularly Japan?
Misato: I was also a singles skater, but I used to love to see ice dancing, it’s just hard to find… To see real ice dancers. I guess if we can show ourselves in Japan, or if we can get good timing to see good ice dancers as Japanese, we have a good future for ice dancers. So I want to help about this culture in my future.
Tim: We both came from singles and were inspired to start ice dance at a later age than some other countries, and it’s very special that we were able to train together first in Europe and now in North America, also mixed with European coaching. And then when we’re in Japan, we spend time with Misato’s coach, Rie Arikawa is her name, who was also a competitive ice dancer for Japan, who trained in Lyon actually, with Romain Haguenauer, who is one of our coaches now. So the world is very small for skating but I think there’s been a big shift for Asian ice dance that’s been coming for many many years, and we hope to be a part of that and we’ve been working really hard to continue to bring that - what makes it so popular in Europe, and share that when we’re in Japan, especially live in front of the kids to show them that it’s also special.
Nikola: So speaking of that, you guys, as you’ve just mentioned, you very recently moved to Montreal, in Canada, can you give us a little bit of background on how that decision came about and how is everything over in Canada?
Misato: It was a shock to me, when I first time saw Gabrielle and Guillaime, first World Champion season, when they became World Champions. It was really a shock to see beautiful programs and new, I could feel new movements of ice dancing, and I was like “ah, that’s nice”, and then last season when we competed at NHK with Tessa and Scott, and Madison and Zach, I was like really jealous about how they skated, super inspired, and I’m super super happy that the coaches accepted us.
Tim: The lifestyle in Canada is of course more comfortable for me, as I’m North American, but our daily routine is pretty similar. We take the bus to the rink every day, just like we did in Italy, and we feel the same amount of passion from the coaches that we had before, it’s just a different approach and we’re very happy with the programs and the content that we’re creating and we hope that this first competition is a nice way that we can show all that we’ve been working on. So it’s been a really lucky experience for us to have been accepted to such a great school, and we’re really really enjoying the process.
Nikola: We were just in practice, and we just saw your new Rhythm Dance. It looks really good, can you tell us a little bit more about your Rhythm Dance for this season?
Misato: I really wanted to… do a tango tango tango program, you know? I feel about tango it’s a little bit sassy, I really like that, and I wanna show to other people how I feel with this music, how we feel this music, how we made this music, I wanna tell the story of this program, I wanna share with everybody.
Tim: Some of the themes that we worked on - actually, the backstory to finding the music was that we were listening to Loco, which obviously Shoma Uno famously skated to just… three season ago I think? And it doesn’t really have a consistent beat, which is of course very important in ice dance, so we started to look elsewhere in the same album, it’s like a Piazzola memoir album I think, I don’t know if I pronounced that correctly but I did my best, but we ended up finding another piece from the same homage to Piazzola album, which carried that same sort of dark energy, and film noir quality. So we wanted to bring sort of classic a 20s to 40s vibe while still having it feel really modern and fresh and sexy, it was very important to us that it felt sexy, we feel that maturity is one of our strengths in ice dance. So we’re hoping that everybody enjoys what we’ve been putting together.
Nikola: Misato, you were saying a little bit about the costumes for the Rhythm Dance, can you tell me more about your costume?
Misato: So my costume, it was.. I brought a lot of ideas, and then we saw, I showed the pictures to Marie, and everybody was like “this idea is so great!”. Then we asked Mathieu Caron, who is making Tessa and Scott’s, he’s really famous lately in ice dance. He knows that I like Tessa, so he put studs which she was putting on the costume, so I really feel special.
Nikola: And what about your costume, Tim? I also thought it was quite special.
Tim: Well in this rink, the velour jacket was very very warm, let’s say, and I think it’s gonna stay that way all year actually, regardless of the rink it’s gonna feel pretty warm, but as her dress is black and white we wanted to incorporate some color and it just made sense if our theme was sort of black and white, that we had the nice pop of red to go with it. Yeah.
Nikola: Very sexy, very mature. I personally love the choice. Basically, so for the rest of the season, do you guys have any sort of big aims for this year, this season?
Tim: As the World Championship is in Japan this year, we’re hoping that we have a chance to compete there and represent Japan. And we also, this will be our second season on the Grand Prix series, so we’re hoping to move up a little bit, and show how much we’ve grown in the last year on the Grand Prix series as well. And we’re happy to have the opportunity to start our Challenger Series a little bit earlier this year. And this year, compared to last year, we get to compete in two Challenger Series, so we have a lot of opportunities and we want to show consistent growth throughout the season.
Misato: As we moved to Montreal, we also practiced our basic skills with the new coaches. I feel very stronger than last year, I wanna show how much we improved with the new programs.
Nikola: So just one last question: As this is a fan podcast, I just wanted to ask you guys if you have any advice for fans attending competitions? Because I know for some people it’s hard to get out so maybe they’ll only go to one competition in the season, and they’ve got to make the most of it. What’s your advice for any fans coming to competitions, who might be new to that environment?
Tim: Don’t be shy, it’s always nice some people come up and introduce themselves, and say their name. Oftentimes we interact with people on Twitter or Instagram and you know, we know them from their profile picture but we might not know them directly. So it’s always nice when someone will come up and say “I’m this tag on Twitter, it’s me, nice to meet you”, because oftentimes it’s pretty familiar. So we love when people take the time and come and say hello directly in person. Don’t be shy.
Misato: We feel very supported by skate fans. We are really really happy. We wanna give it back you know, and so I wanna hug you guys. So please come to me, we’re really open, and hopefully I can give you back my love. Our love.
Nikola: Thank you so so much, Tim and Misato. And I hope you guys have a wonderful Asian Open!
Tim and Misato: Thank you so much!
Nikola: Thank you!
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Nikola: I hope you’ve enjoyed this short report on Asian Open Trophy 2018. You can listen to the main episode discussing the results of the Asian Open Trophy on the In The Loop podcast, through iTunes and through Youtube. Feel free to contact In The Loop on Twitter or on Tumblr. I’ve been Nikola, thanks again and see you next competition!