Reigning world junior champion Marin Honda traveled to Canton, Michigan, recently to spend time working with coach and choreographer Marina Zoueva at the Arctic Edge Ice Arena. Honda is tuning up for defense of her title at the world junior championships in Taipei this month.
Zoueva is a renowned figure with more than 30 years of experience who has helped mentor two different ice dance teams (Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White — 2014; Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir — 2010) and one pairs team (Russia’s Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov — 1988, 1994) to the Olympic gold medal.
The Moscow native, herself a former ice dancer, recently became one of the coaches (along with Oleg Epstein) of two-time U.S. champion Gracie Gold after she left Frank Carroll following the U.S. nationals. Zoueva also works with three-time world champion Patrick Chan and U.S champion Nathan Chen in Canton.
Zoueva has choreographed Honda’s short program the past two seasons. She set a nice routine to “Spring Sonata” for the last campaign and another for “Smile” this time around. Honda’s interpretative skills have made both programs winners.
Honda, who is coached in Japan by Mie Hamada and Yamato Tamura, is attempting to become the first Japanese woman to win consecutive world junior titles. Mao Asada came the closest previously, capturing the crown in 2005, before finishing second (behind Yuna Kim) in 2006.
Honda seems to have enjoyed herself during her stay in Michigan, as the Kyoto native posted photos with Davis, Chan and Gold on her Instagram account while there.
Chen spent three months last fall working with Zoueva in Canton. She choreographed his short program for this season to “Le Corsaire.”
“She is a really positive coach,” Chen told the Detroit Free Press in a January interview. “I feel she’s very willing to work and she’s very happy to work. . . .”
Chen said Zoueva also provided input on his free skate to “Polovtsian Dances.”
“She didn’t necessarily change the whole program,” Chen said. “She just added some things, put jumps in different sequences, things like that.”
Zoueva, now 60, left Russia in 1991 and is a naturalized Canadian citizen, though she is the head coach of the International Skating Academy that is based at Arctic Edge.
“Marina’s Russian heritage and her education, her very classic education, in dance, theater, music here in Russia plays a large role in her artistic eye,” Davis was quoted as saying by The New York Times at a news conference during the Sochi Olympics in 2014.
“She is just a genius,” Davis said in Sochi. “Her ability to train people as she sees fit — different athletes, different strengths, different challenges — she is really able to bring the best out (of) her students. It’s an incredible talent.”
Zoueva details her philosophy in a quote on the ISA website.
“Every individual has a special talent. My goal is to find that talent and nurture it in order to help each person reach their full potential.”
Ice Time was unable to contact Zoueva for comments on her work with Honda despite multiple attempts.
Too much: In another head-scratcher, Shoma Uno and Rika Hongo are both slated to compete in the Coupe du Printemps in Kockelscheuer, Luxembourg, this week. The lower-level event has a weak field in both men’s and women’s singles with few recognizable names.
Coming off less than inspiring performances by both at the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo last month, and by participating in the European competition, Uno and Hongo will have skated three out of four weeks going back to the Four Continents in South Korea.
I don’t get it. It would seem that ahead of the world championships later this month in Helsinki that Uno should be practicing and getting rest instead of flying halfway around the world to skate.
Uno looked exhausted in Sapporo, and it is hard to see how going all the way to Luxembourg is going to help refresh him.
Takahito Mura joins Uno in the men’s field, while Yuto Kishina and Tatsuya Tsuboi will represent the Hinomaru in the junior men’s singles.
Rino Kasakake will be in the junior women’s field, with Takeru Kataise in the lineup for the boys singles in the novice division and Mana Kawabe on the roster for the girls singles.
Getting noticed: Chen was recognized by Time magazine recently in an edition entitled “Next Generation Leaders” that featured South African comedian Trevor Noah on the cover.
Time referred to Chen as “The Ice Prince” and included a brief interview with him. The 17-year-old, who narrowly beat Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu to win the Four Continents in South Korea last month, while landing five quadruple jumps, told the magazine watching others skaters at international events convinced him that his technical prowess needed to be boosted.
“I was seeing all the younger skaters doing crazy things, and I realized we were a little far behind,” Chen was quoted as saying. “Knowing there were guys far ahead of me switched a light on in my head.”
Challenger events set: Four of next season’s 10-event Challenger Series were confirmed in an announcement by the ISU on Feb. 27. Additionally, the ISU said that one competition will be scheduled for the United States or Canada.
Set for next season are: the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstorf, Germany; the Finlandia Trophy in Espoo, Finland; the Nepela Trophy in Bratislava, Slovakia; and the Golden Spin of Zagreb.
Sad news: Ice Time regrets to report that Brian Orser’s father Harl “Butch” Orser died at the age of 83 on Friday in Barrie, Ontario.
Brian Orser posted a black and white photo of he and his Dad on Instagram on March 5 with the following poignant message:
“My hero passed away on March 3rd. I will miss him, his smile and his humor. Rest in peace my father.”
How proud Mr. Orser must have been of his skating son, whom he lived to see be a two-time Olympic silver medalist (1984, 1988) and world champion (1987), before going on to becoming one of the top coaches in the business and lead giants like Kim and Hanyu to Olympic gold medals and world titles.
Ice Time sends its deepest condolences to Orser, who is one of the most accessible coaches for media in skating. It’s not just that Brian talks, but what he says that always resonates. Always patient, professional and profound. He was clearly raised the right way.
Top 10 list: Reader Andrea Kobayashi from Gunma Prefecture submitted her list of the top 10 Japanese female skaters of all time to Ice Time last week. Here is the way she sees it:
1. Mao Asada
2. Midori Ito
3. Marin Honda
4. Akiko Suzuki
5. Yuka Sato
6. Shizuka Arakawa
7. Yukari Nakano
8. Satoko Miyahara
9. Fumie Suguri
10. Miki Ando
It’s interesting to see how highly Kobayashi regards the 15-year-old Honda on a list that features so many prominent names.
Global reach: Ice Time’s recent book contest for free copies of “Team Brian 300-Point Legend” brought in entries from several countries around the world for the tome about Orser and prized students Hanyu and Javier Fernandez.
In addition to a number of applications from Japan, entrants applied to win the book published by Kodansha from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Moldova, Italy, Spain, Morocco, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Russia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, Laos, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Macau and Indonesia.
The wide range of geography covered by the entries illustrates the passion fans both near and far possess for Hanyu and Japanese skaters and is truly inspiring.