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Suguri turns to Morozov in attempt to regain form


In an effort to reignite her career, five-time Japan national champion Fumie Suguri has joined forces with coach Nikolai Morozov, the man who led Shizuka Arakawa to the gold medal at the 2006 Olympic Games and Miki Ando to the 2007 world championship.

Suguri arrived in Hackensack, N.J., 10 days ago to begin training under Morozov, who also mentors Nobunari Oda and the Japanese-American ice dancing team of Chris and Cathy Reed.

After struggling during the 2007-08 season with poor results, Suguri left Russia and coach Alexander Zhulin to sign on with Morozov.

At the age of 27, most skaters would be long retired from competition, but Suguri, who finished fifth at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and fourth at the 2006 Turin Games, clearly is forging ahead with the 2010 Vancouver Games in her sights.

“She is an elite skater and will be a valuable addition to our team,” said Ilya Torchinsky, director of Morozov’s management company, by telephone recently. “Nikolai and the other skaters are all looking forward to working with her.”

The Chiba native felt a move was necessary after a season in which she finished fourth (Cup of China) and fifth (Cup of Russia) in her Grand Prix competitions, and failed to qualify for the season-ending Grand Prix Final.

“I thought I needed to change something because I have failed to get good results the past two seasons,” Suguri said in comments relayed by her management company AK Global Agent. “I formally requested that Nikolai Morozov be my coach. He has a lot of experience and has made many medalists. I will do my best for next season.”

Morozov began coaching Arakawa when many thought her best days were behind her, so it will be interesting to see what he can do with Suguri.

Returning home: World champion Mao Asada, who still does not have a full-time coach after leaving Rafael Arutunian earlier this year, will return to Japan next week after working on her programs for next season with choreographer Lori Nichol in Toronto.

Prior to her trip to Canada, Mao spent a week in Russia training under famed coach Tatiana Tarasova for the second straight year.

Mao’s agent, IMG’s Mariko Wada, said there is no announcement imminent on a new coach for the world’s No. 1-ranked skater, but that Mao and older sister Mai will train separately this season. In years past, they have always trained together.

Assignments announced: The Grand Prix lineups for the 2008-09 season have been released by the International Skating Union and promise some interesting matchups.

An early look at the roster of competitors for each event shows the NHK Trophy, scheduled for Nov. 27-30 in Tokyo, to be the most formidable on the women’s side.

Led by Mao Asada, the contest will also feature U.S. champion Mirai Nagasu and Yukari Nakano.

With the GP Final set to take place in Seoul just 10 days after the NHK Trophy, it is likely that all of the skaters will remain in Asia to prepare for it.

In addition to the NHK Trophy, Mao will also defend her title at the Trophee Bompard in Paris, where the lineup will include American Caroline Zhang.

Nakano will take part in the season-opening Skate America, to be held in Everett, Wash., where she will go up against Ando, Nagasu, Kim and 2006 world champion Kimmie Meissner.

In addition to Skate America, Ando will also pull on the boots for the Cup of China, where Kim is also slated to take the ice.

Suguri is penciled in to compete at Skate America and the Cup of Russia, where she will be joined by compatriot Nana Takeda and world silver medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy.

On the men’s side, Daisuke Takahashi will perform in the Cup of China and the NHK Trophy.

Nobunari Oda, who sat out last season following his arrest for drunk driving last summer, is slotted in for just the NHK Trophy.

Takahiko Kozuka, the 2006 world junior champion, will compete at Skate America and the Trophee Bompard.

World champion Jeffrey Buttle of Canada is entered in Skate Canada and the Cup of China.

Nice tribute: International Figure Skating magazine said farewell to two-time U.S. champion Christopher Bowman, who died in January at the age of 40 of an accidental drug overdose, after battling substance abuse problems for years, in its June issue with a story that included comments from an interview with the troubled skater last year.

Known as “Bowman the Showman,” the two-time world medalist is recalled by friends and former coach Frank Carroll, in a six-page spread featuring photos from his career. Most touching are those showing Bowman with young daughter Bianca.

The piece gives readers a chance to look at the success of Bowman’s career, with balance provided by his perspective on his troubles, and is a nice remembrance of the California native.

Figure Skating 2008-09 Grand Prix Events

Schedule and Japanese skaters assigned

Oct. 23-26, 2008

Skate America (Everett, Wa, United States)

Men: Takahiko Kozuka

Women: Miki Ando, Yukari Nakano

Ice dancing: None

Oct. 31-Nov. 2

HomeSense Skate Canada International (Ottawa)

Men: Yasuharu Nanri

Women: Fumie Suguri, Nana Takeda

Ice dancing: Cathy Reed and Chris Reed

Nov. 6-9

Cup of China (Beijing)

Men: Kensuke Nakaniwa, Daisuke Takahashi

Women: Miki Ando

Ice dancing: None

Nov. 13-16

Trophee Eric Bompard Cachemire (Paris)

Men: Takahiko Kozuka

Women: Mao Asada

Ice dancing: None

Nov. 20-23

Cup of Russia (Moscow)

Men: None

Women: Fumie Suguri, Nana Takeda

Ice dancing: None

Nov. 27-30

NHK Trophy (Tokyo)

Men: Takahito Mura, Nobunari Oda, Daisuke Takahashi

Women: Mao Asada, Yukari Nakano, Akiko Suzuki

Ice dancing: Cathy Reed and Chris Reed

Dec. 10-14

Grand Prix Final (Seoul)