Monday, 1 July 2013

Interview With Victoria And Connor Hasegawa

Melanie Hoyt photo

Happy Canada Day! What better a day to celebrate two of Canada's rising skating stars! With energy, musicality and youth on their side, the brother/sister duo of Victoria and Connor Hasegawa are two skaters who are going places. Having competing at Skate Canada Junior Nationals at the pre-novice and novice levels and winning the bronze medal in Novice Ice Dance at the 2010 competition, the team (originally from Montreal, Quebec) made the move to the junior ranks in 2011 and won the bronze medal on the junior level at the Canadian Nationals in 2011. The following year, they dropped to 5th and last year they moved up to 4th place. After training with former Canadian National Champions and World Silver Medallists Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, this dynamic duo switched coaches and are now taking from ice dance legend Marina Zoueva. Connor and Victoria took time out of their off season training to share a bit about their plans, goals and love of the sport:

Q: When did you first start skating and what drew you to ice dancing?


A: Most of our early skating was actually just goofing around on public ice with our Mom, and we were usually focused on getting a hot chocolate afterwards! For a few years, we only skated with friends in the winter; we were occupied mostly with school and music (we both played – and still play – piano and violin); we were also involved in swimming, soccer, tennis, golf, and horseback riding, so we kept pretty busy. In 2002, we finally signed up for formal skating lessons at our local club’s tiny CanSkate program. We took semi-private lessons once a week (the club really was tiny!), then private lessons, and by 2004 we were taking tests and competing in the StarSkate stream. In StarSkate we discovered the possibility of maybe even taking our dance tests with each other as partners. Our club’s dance coach entered us as a team in a few StarSkate dance competitions... and after a few first out of one finishes (haha!) we discovered that no one really competes in dance at the StarSkate level. We asked our coach where we could find more competition and he told about the world of competitive ice dance. In the summer of 2006, we enrolled in a summer “ice dance camp” where we were introduced to the elements of ice dance: dance spins, twizzles, lifts, the basic components of footwork sequences... The works! We had our first ever free dance choreographed (by René Lohse, no less!) and registered for Sectionals. After placing 18th out of 20 in the Pre-novice category at Quebec Sectionals, we decided to “get serious”, make our first coaching change, and so began our ice-dancing career!

Q: You were coached and choreographed by Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, who are Canadian Champions, World medallists and overall pretty fabulous skaters themselves. What is your relationship with them like and who are you currently working with?


A: We were coached by Marie-France and Patrice from July of 2010 until August of 2012; we couldn’t believe that they had agreed to coach us... Just a couple of years earlier, we’d been admiring their picture on the National Team poster in our club’s office! In September of last year, we decided to move to Canton, Michigan to train with Marina Zoueva and her team. We’ve been training here in Canton since last September and absolutely love it. Funny to think that Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were on that same National Team poster; we can’t believe we get to train with them!




Q: You are both originally from Quebec and trained there as well. As Quebec is a province with a LOT of depth to its skating program, how do you think you broke out of the pack and progressed so quickly?


A: It’s true that Quebec has a strong skating program, and we’re proud to represent la Belle Province! We don’t necessarily feel that we broke out of the pack, per se... We actually think that it’s been a slow and steady journey for us. We like to think that our various coaches have each contributed to our progress over the years, each of them adding something new and exciting to our skating experience. In this way, we feel very fortunate to have worked with such a variety of talented individuals, all passionate about the sport. Having had access to such a wealth of experience and knowledge is, we believe, part of what has set us apart. We also have wonderful parents, who have always helped us get the most out of every experience, and have helped us make the big decisions... All in all, we feel very lucky!

Q: After winning a bronze medal at 2010 Junior Nationals in novice, you moved up to junior and finished 3rd in 2011, 5th in 2012 and 4th in 2013. Is moving up to senior the plan for next season and have you started working on new programs? What programs can we expect from you next year?


A: We actually made the late-season decision last year to hold off on our senior debut (after having made the late-season decision to change coaches), in order to re-focus; we had some deficits that we as well as our coaches felt needed to be addressed and we wanted time to solidify certain aspects of our skating before making the move to Senior. Now that we are making our debut as a Senior team, we are very much looking forward to the season ahead, and with such a great pattern dance as the Finnstep, we expect it to be a challenging but incredibly fun year! Yes, music choices have been made and choreography is underway. Our intent is to take our two programs, give our audience a taste of our evolving partnership and style, and display our continuing progression.



Q: What Canadian skaters do you most look up to?


Tessa and Scott! Training with them daily is such an incredible treat: not only are they fantastic skaters, but they’re also just really terrific people; funny, warm and incredibly encouraging & supportive! The last time we crossed the border, the Canadian border officer shared a really funny story about Scott, the point of which was to tell us how impressed he was by how friendly and down to earth Scott was (he doesn’t know him personally, but has been the one to let Scott through the border several times). His parting words, as he sent us on our way, were: “You’re lucky to have such a grounded role model; when you guys make it big, just remember that he’s the kind of person you want to aspire to be like” (he also added that we should remember that there are cool customs officers!) We still have to do the occasional double take and pinch ourselves. Training with Olympic champions ...this is such an amazing opportunity and experience! There are so many wonderful Canadian skaters who we’ve grown up watching. We admire and have such respect for Joannie Rochette; not only is Joannie an amazing and lovely skater, but as a person, she is very friendly and approachable. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford are also favourites of ours (we had the good fortune to skate with them at the beginning of their partnership – which in itself makes us cheer excitedly for them whenever we see them compete); Meagan is such a firecracker and exudes such confidence and determination – a great role model for young skaters! We could go on and on... There are many Canadian who have been inspiration to us along the way: Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko, Jamie Sale & David Pelletier, to name a few.

Q: When you first competed internationally on the Junior Grand Prix circuit, was it an overwhelming experience or something that pushed you to improve? How do you think international competition can improve and grow a skater's overall experience in a way competing within your own country can't?


A: Oh my goodness! Our first experience on the Junior Grand Prix circuit was... well, an experience like none we had had before! Both elements of our team were new to the scene: us, as skaters flying to Japan for our very first international assignment, and Patrice, as a new coach, this was his first international coaching experience. I think it’s fair to say that none of us was really prepared for all the possibilities of a young team’s first competition, along with two brand new programs (after making a coaching change in July, we had choreographed two new programs – and only finished choreography for the Short Dance in August!) Despite our somewhat bumpy start, we are, to this day, tremendously grateful that we were given that first opportunity; it totally changed our perspective – about everything. We believe that international exposure is essential to a skater’s development. Being exposed to competitors from different countries gave us insight to the possibilities, and solidified our desire to pursue our passion. Generally speaking, we think that it helps athletes to decide where (and if) they want to fit in the world of figure skating. In our case, it also changed our approach to training. It provided us with a better understanding of what skills we needed to develop and what direction our training needed to take in order to compete with the ‘big kids’ (seeing is believing!) It adds a dimension of motivation that one doesn’t necessarily find amongst one’s fellow domestic teams; even though there are a number of extremely strong teams in North America right now, which makes for great competition, one gets used to seeing the same teams at the same competitions from year to year, so the international competitions mix it up, keeping you on your toes... And, well, anyone who has had the opportunity to participate in a JGP knows that the whole experience makes you feel extremely lucky – travelling around the world to do what you love, meeting people from different countries who also do what you love, it’s really quite amazing.

Q: What are your favourite TV shows?


A from Victoria: We don’t actually watch very much TV here in Canton (aside from the occasional episode of something online), but whenever we’re at home in Montreal, I watch shows like Modern Family, Mythbusters, Iron Chef America, Criminal Minds, The Late Show, Frasier... A little bit all over the map!

A from Connor: I prefer books and movies, but when I do watch TV (when we’re in Montreal), I usually stick to the Food Network and Craig Ferguson (connecting with my Scottish half)!




Q: Where would you most like to travel if given the opportunity?


A from Victoria: If I had to pick 3 places where I would want to travel to for skating, I would say Germany, Japan, and France – pretty much anywhere in those countries. Connor and I both went to German school - from preschool to partway through grade school - and I’d love to be immersed in the language again (seeing as I’ve forgotten nearly everything!)

A from Victoria and Connor: As for Japan, even though we were raised as Canadian kids and barely speak Japanese (not more than the average tourist, in any case!), we would love to see more of the country of our heritage. Japan is one of our favourite countries – we both love the culture, the history, the landscapes, the traditions, the people, the food, the figure skating fans... everything about it makes us want to visit!

A from Connor: And France; well, vive la France! When we were in Lyon and Courchevel last year, we felt so at ease and comfortable, it was almost as if we were at home. I would love to explore and discover more of Europe– Italy, Spain, Germany, Scotland, Poland...

Q: Who do you think will be on the podium in ice dance at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics?


A: Of course, like so many ice dance fans, we’re excited to see the top two 2010 Olympic medalists - Virtue and Moir and Davis and White - back, skating their hearts out for another crack at the gold medal! This season brings to a climax what we think has been one of the most epic skating rivalries since the Battle of the Brians! Both teams are simply stunning to watch and a huge inspiration to us - and all the ice dancers of this generation, I’m sure! At the same time, I’m sure that we’re all going to have our eyes on the battle for the bronze medal; there are a number of great teams – it’s a deep field – who will be vying for their spot on the Olympic podium. It will be an especially intense year in the world of ice dance!

Q: My sister skated as well (although we both skated singles) and we have a wonderful relationship. What do you enjoy most and least about skating with a sibling?


A from Victoria: That is so nice to hear! What I enjoy most about skating with Connor is the relaxed environment that we have found we can create in training as well as when we compete. We seem to have reached a point where we are able to have a kind of bubble around just the two of us, and it’s really nice to be able to work within that dynamic. Also, there’s something about being able to ask your partner if you have something in your teeth that is just so comforting! We try to do separate off-ice activities though, so that we don’t spend too much time together.

Q: What are your long term goals in the sport?


A: Ultimately, our long term competitive goal is to be on the World podium, as well as the Olympic podium. To get there, we have refocused on development with the objective of progressing steadily during the upcoming years. As for non-competitive goals, we want to actively contribute to innovation in the sport and its continuing evolution. With all the exciting teams that are in the sport right now – and those coming up through the ranks – we know we’re in good company and competing is always going to be an enjoyable experience!

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