Interview With Fumie Suguri
Three would appear to be Japanese figure skater Fumie Suguri's lucky number. She's won three medals at the World Championships, three Four Continents titles and in doing so, certainly performed more than her fair share of three revolution jumps. In her incredible competitive career that spanned over three decades, Fumie also won the Grand Prix Final, won four medals at the Asian Games and finished in the top five at two Olympic Games and earned an incredible twelve medals on the senior Grand Prix circuit. Even more impressive in my mind than her competitive record and gutsy performances was her admirable longevity as a competitor, and that was just one of many things that her and I had chance to speak about in this interview that I guarantee you that you're going to just love reading:
Q: Your competitive career was nothing short of incredible. Three world medals, three Four Continents titles, a win at the 2003 Grand Prix Final, five Japanese titles and an impressive twelve senior Grand Prix medals... I have to just say wow! Looking back on it all now, which moments stand out as both the most special and the most challenging in hindsight?
A: It is really hard to pick one - Olympics and Worlds are always special - but if I needed to pick one, that would be the 2003 Grand Prix Final. It was such a nice moment when I saw my coach Mr. Sato was crying a lot when I took that title in Colorado Springs. That was the same place that Mr. Sato finished fourth at Worlds. He couldn't reach to the podium even though everyone said his skating was incredible. I think he wasn't satisfied with this. I can imagine from his tears how hard it was for him to have that feeling for a long time. That's why I was so happy that I could skate well and earn that medal for him.
Q: One thing that just blows my mind is the longevity of your career. You first competed internationally back in 1994 and were still competing twenty years later. What motivated you most to stick with skating over the years, especially in the more difficult times?
A: My competitive career lasted twenty eight years. I love figure skating so much and this is like a gift from God to me. After I met my long time choreographer Lori Nichol in 1996, I learned so many things not only about technique but also about entertainment. There is so much good entertainment in the world which can move peoples hearts - Broadway shows, dance, ballet, music etc. Those things always have kept me up even though I had hard or difficult times. Since I met Lori, I started to dream that I wanted to make any kind of entertainment that I could to make people happy.
Q: Staying on that topic, I've always had a hearty laugh at the people out there who are for some bizarre reason critical of skaters who choose to stay in the sport and continue competing after 'they reach a certain age'. What would you say to those people?
A: To tell the truth, there are only a few people that can be in the top rankings in any sports field, like standing on the podium or winning the competition. Is just winning the goal? NO! We learn so many things from sports. For example, at figure skating competitions you can't stop even when you fall on the first jump. Whatever happens, you have to continue. Life is the same. Even though you missed something, you have to figure out how to solve the problem and how to fight back, not to give up or throw it away. From a younger age, skating teaches us many things that we are supposed to learn later in our lives. God give everyone different challenges. It is not about our age. It is about what one decides to have in one's OWN life story.
Q: If you had to pick one favourite program that you have skated, what would it be?
A: Again, I have a hard time choosing…But I think "Paint It Black". That was really challenging for me to try rock music but the costume was a challenge as well. At that time, no one wore pants at the competitions. Lori and I always wanted to try new things and we said maybe we can try pants because there is no rule that says girls can't wear pants. We were afraid that someone would say that is not a good idea so we put a skirt on the pants. After that, the ISU put in new rules that girls can wear pants at the competitions.
Q: Is it true that Michelle Kwan was the one who first taught you the triple Lutz?
A: Actually, she SHOWED me the triple Lutz. She came to our rink (Shin-Yokohama) before the Worlds for practice. The Worlds in 1994 were in Makuhari, Japan. She was my idol at that time. I couldn't believe that a girl the same age as me could land all of her triples so easily. I asked her, "Could you please show me the triple Lutz?" She also gave me advice. It is a good memory.
Q: You have competed against a who's who of phenomenal skaters over the years - people like Michelle, Yuna Kim, Mao Asada, Maria Butyrskaya, Irina Slutskaya, Sasha Cohen and countless others - Of your competitors who did you most respect most?
A: I can't pick one. I respect them all because I knew all these skaters had lots of drama in their lives and I know just how hard it is to continue skating with this going on.
Q: To say that you have obviously travelled extensively around the world is an understatement. Where have you NOT gone that you would love to and what is your favourite country to visit?
A: Egypt. I want to see the Pyramids. I also love the Middle Eastern music and culture a lot.
A: Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, John Curry and Kurt Browning.
A: (laughing) I'm like a man - very wild! People think I'm very classical but actually, I'm not.
Q: What is the best advice that you could give someone in skating who felt like giving up?
A: There are not always good sides. There are bad, difficult moment as well. It is like the weather. There are sunny days, cloudy days, rainy days, storms... But that's why flowers can bloom and animals can live. You have to ask yourself how to live with skating.
Q: What is next in life for you?
A: My goal is always the same. I want to create or make something that can make people happy. Figure skating is one way that I can do this. When I was a competitor, I tried to do by skating my programs. Now I want to make programs or produce shows and continue to try to make good entertainment in the world.
Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating and archives hundreds of compelling features and interviews in a searchable format for readers worldwide. Though there never has been nor will there be a charge for access to these resources, you taking the time to 'like' on the blog's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SkateGuard would be so very much appreciated. Already 'liking'? Consider sharing this feature for others via social media. It would make all the difference in the blog reaching a wider audience. Have a question or comment regarding anything you have read here or have a suggestion for a topic related to figure skating history you would like to see covered? I'd love to hear from you! Learn the many ways you can reach out at http://skateguard1.blogspot.ca/p/contact.html.