Interview - Joseph Phan


This interview transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity by Clara (@daejangie) and Andrea (@starryyuzu)

Karly: Hi, this is Karly (@cyberswansp) from In The Loop and I'm here with Joseph Phan, the 2016 Canadian Junior National Champion and two-time Junior Grand Prix medalist. Hello Joseph.

Joseph: Hi Karly, how are you?

We're just going to sit down with Joseph and ask him a couple of questions. First off: if I read correctly, it's been about a year since your move to the Toronto Cricket Club was announced, correct?


Obviously making a coaching change is a big change. Do you feel like you’ve grown more accustomed to training and working with the people there over the past year, and have adapted to the new environment well?

It's not been that long since I started adapting to the environment. I feel like it took a lot longer than I thought it would mentally. When I first moved to Toronto I was really excited: new coaches, new training partners, everything. I was really excited and I thought it would be fun and I would improve right away. And I already had a lot of friends there so I thought it would be really easy, but when I got there it was like a shock. I felt really unstable, my jumps were not consistent in practice, I was starting to get mentally scared and not confident.

During the season the competitions started off really bad. Like my first JGP: if you saw, my first JGP last year was really bad. I remember doing an okay short, [but] my long – it wasn't even past 100 points because I literally fell on everything and popped everything. I still remember it, it was really a down point in my career.

As time passed by I worked a lot mentally with a psychologist and with Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson, my main coaches, on how to deal with that. How to train, and cope, and adapt to my environment and just be able to perform even though I'm in a new environment. I really felt that during Canadians this year, I was able to perform under a lot of stress. I feel like it was after Canadians that I really adapted to training in Toronto. Woah, that was long!

Are you looking forward to the next season of working under Toronto Cricket Club?

Yes, definitely. I feel like this is my year. I'm ready for it.

That's awesome. About TCC: many people online follow lots of TCC skaters and we see lots of posts about the community there. Would you say it's a fun community, that it's a good environment of skaters?

Yeah. There's a lot of different personalities in Cricket and it just makes it like a big, fun, nice family. That's how I feel: no drama or gossip. Well actually, I'm not a person that is into that kind of thing, so even if they have some I don't really listen to it or anything! So I can't really tell about that but yeah, I love it. I love the environment there.

Your short for this season is “Torn” by Nathan Lanier and I read your free was “Emperor Concerto” by Beethoven. Can you explain to us the process that goes into building your programs, and how these two came about?

Actually, David Wilson found my short. He wanted one of Brian's skaters to skate to the music "Torn (Redux)" because he found it really interesting and he really wanted either Jun or I (for example) to skate to it. I really really liked the music, I wanted the song so Brian decided to give it to me. We picked Jeffrey Buttle to choreograph the piece for me, and I had a lot of experience and programs done with Jeffrey Buttle so it was really fun.

For the long, it was my first time working with David Wilson, I was really excited. He found this piece on the piano – this Emperor piece by Beethoven, and when he made me listen to it I was actually really, really nervous, because I felt like I wouldn't live up to the song, to David’s expectations. Because it was my first time working with him right? And he’d worked with Yuzu[ru Hanyu] and with all these great skaters... So I told him I was nervous, and he was like "You don't have to worry about it, you'll be perfect, you'll be fine." So I put my trust in him when he did this program. I really enjoyed working with him too, I find him different from Jeff, in a way. David is – I find he's more fluid in the movements and really creative, and Jeffrey too. And we worked on the program for a good week, after that we did some little tweaks here and there, and that's pretty much it.

Was this your first time working with David Wilson?


Had you only worked with Jeffrey Buttle before?

Yeah, for the last two years, it was just Jeffrey Buttle.

Were you excited to hear that you would get a different choreographer?

Definitely, like – David Wilson, right?! When Brian said I would work with David Wilson I was really excited. I knew it was going to be a great program, the only thing is that I wasn't confident I would live up to his expectations. When we did the program it looked really nice and David Wilson was really proud.

We look forward to seeing your programs! You talked about how you feel more confident going into this season, so what progress would you like to make this season?

First of all in competitions I would like to feel good on the ice, and work every element one at a time when I'm in the program and not feel too stressed about it, because when I do that my performances tend to go better. When I start to think too much that's when everything just falls apart, and I've worked a lot on that with my psychologist. In terms of goals, I would like to medal in my two JGPs to be able to go to finals, and also to go to Junior Worlds and medal in Junior Worlds too.

Now that you're feeling more confident and you know what kind of headspace you need to be in, you can go into this year and make it happen.


I noticed that you’ve landed a quad Lutz in training. Is that something you’d like to train further and incorporate into future layouts?

Definitely. For the moment, I'm just focusing on my programs and my future competitions. But I think next summer, after my season is done, I'll definitely work on my quad Lutz again and my quad Loop. I've been working on my quad Loop this summer and it was really, really close, and I think it's either my Loop or my Lutz that I feel like I'm going to have next. The quad Sal is giving me a bit of trouble even though I've landed it a couple times. But yeah, quad Lutz is definitely something that I want to be able to do later on.

We're excited to see it from you! I read in an interview that was released a while ago that you're balancing school with skating. Is that still going the same for you? Is it something you find challenging or are you used to it by now?

When I was younger, balancing school and skating was a lot easier because the courses were a lot easier too. Now, just the load of the homework and what we learn in general in our courses – like next year I'm going to take Calculus, Advanced Functions, Chemistry, Grade 12, I just feel like it's going to be a really hard year for me in school. So balancing school and skating – I mentally prepared myself for it, I prepared myself schedually [sic.] and all of that. I actually did Bio online this summer so I know what I'm going to head into. I feel like it's going to be a tough year for me, but I'll manage.

Something tough, but not anything you can't do?

Right. And also I have a friend, Frigga, who's going to be in the same classes as me. I think that's going to be helpful too.

It's always nice to have friends in classes. Calculus is... a fun time (laughing).

I'm so excited (laughing). I'm actually not excited at all, but you know...

Don't worry. I’m an engineering student, and I'm not good at calculus.

Yeah, I have a hard time there, but...

Good luck.

Thank you, thank you.

What are your favorite things about your day-to-day training?

What I love about training at Cricket is that the coaches are always there, they're always helping you. I really like that they have a good break between sessions, so that I don't burn out. Each coach also has a different expertise, which when combined really help each one of us.

You have Ghislain the jump coach –

And Brian, he's technical too. Brian is pretty much everything, and Tracy is an expert in edges and moral support.

So it's a very well-rounded environment.

Yes, that's why I went.

How would you say you motivate yourself on days where you just want to be lazy? How do you find the motivation to go to training?

By looking forward to competitions: I want to really do well there this year. I think that's really a motivator for me to work hard every day, even though some days I just feel like crap. I just know that I'll get through it. And those are the days I really need to push through so that in future, when I feel like that, I'll still be able to push through – and in competitions, if I feel like [crap] I'll still be able to perform well. There are really strong competitors this year, I'm sure, and I want to show what I'm capable of.

Who are your role models in figure skating?

Definitely Yuzu. Even before I came to Cricket, I looked up to him. Watching him skate on TV at the 2018 Olympics, I remember hearing that he got injured and he wasn't able to train much beforehand and I feel like his fierceness and his commitment really showed. I feel that's such an inspiration for every one of us. I also love his jumps, they're textbook. And his determination – you can see it in his eyes when he performs. Even now when I train beside him I just have a great respect when I watch him train.

Training with him and moving to the place where he trains, made you gain more respect for him?

Right, and motivation. When I see him land quads it gives me motivation and excitement – like, "Wow, that was nice, I can do that too!" It gives me hope, you know.

If you could have the skills of any figure skater in the world, who would it be? Would it be Yuzu?

Definitely. But also Patrick Chan: before I knew Yuzu, when I was younger, I looked up to Patrick a lot. His skating skills – I would really love to be at that level of skating one day.

Are your programs this season styles that you haven't challenged before?

I have done classical music before. My long, "The Emperor", is classical too, but I feel like the movement and how I perform it is different from what I've done before. I also feel like this year I really improved in my skating skills, in my performance. I feel really comfortable doing it.

My short is really different from what I used to do before. Last year my short was a really dramatic pop song and that was definitely out of my comfort zone. This year, it is a bit out of my comfort zone too, but at the same time I feel comfortable doing it, it's a mix.

Is there [another] genre or style that you'd like to try?

Right now I can't really think of one. Maybe an instrumental of a really popular song. Or I really enjoy listening to anime soundtracks, some I find really good. We'll see... But yes, I'd love to skate on an anime soundtrack, the emotional kind.

Would you say you enjoy watching the more emotional, classical-type programs?

Yeah, I feel like that's my style of skating.

A lot of our team, and a lot of figure skating fans we know, are also K-pop fans – and we know you're a K-pop fan [too]...

What? How do you know? (laughing)

What are some of your favorite songs right now? Are you learning any new dances?

Let me think... Every new K-pop song that comes out, every comeback, I always watch it, whether it's girl-groups or boy-groups. I enjoy most of the music. I really enjoy listening to BTS, CLC, Everglow's new music "Adios". Not long ago, Jun [Hwan Cha] and I were listening to Chung Ha's single "Snapping" and we were digging it. Jun learned the choreo for it, I sort of learned it too, it was fun.

K-pop dances are so energetic and demanding!

They are. When you do them alone it's fine, but when you watch them they're always all in sync and it's just amazing to watch.

I am always very impressed by K-pop choreography. Would you ever be interested in doing a program to a K-pop song, like an exhibition?

Ooh! Yeah, definitely. At one point I'll definitely do one, I'm sure of it.

Did you see Misha Ge did a program to a BTS song at the Olympics?

Yes! "Mic Drop", BTS. That was awesome.

I really enjoy this, and I know a lot of figure skating fans who are also K-pop fans who enjoy this, so we're looking forward to [a K-pop program] from you.

Okay! I'll prepare that. (both laughing)

Our final question: if you could let the figure skating fan community know one thing about you, what would it be?

I don't know… I really love my dogs – they're right here with me right now on my bed.


Yeah, that I really love my dogs. Let's just say that they're also one of my motivators to continue skating. They're moral support for me and I'm really thankful to have them in my life.

Thank you so much Joseph for sitting down with us. Fellow fans, you can watch Joseph this coming weekend at the Junior Grand Prix in Riga. The schedule will be posted on our Twitter at @inthelopodcast soon. Stay tuned for our episode on the first two Junior Grand Prix which will be released Wednesday. Thank you for listening!