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Moa Iwano relishing chance to work with Daisuke Takahashi

by Jack Gallagher

One of the realities of life is that luck plays a part in it for just about everybody.

Moa Iwano is no different.

The 14-year-old junior skater from Kobe trains under veteran mentor Utako Nagamitsu and Takeshi Honda at Kansai University’s Takatsuki rink.

One of the perks of training with a prominent coach is the chance to work alongside other elite skaters who have the same mentor.

On July 1, former world champion and Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi stunned the skating world by ending his four-year retirement to return to competition. He resumed full training with Nagamitsu, one of his former coaches, in Takatsuki.

Iwano has been one of the beneficiaries of Takahashi’s return.

“Working with Daisuke is great, because he is very talented and very generous,” Iwano said Sunday night in an exclusive interview, following a four-day junior training camp at Chukyo University. “He’s so good for me. He’s really a positive influence on my skating.”

Takahashi’s work ethic has really impressed Iwano.

“He is training very hard every day,” Iwano stated. “He always comes to me and offers his help and encourages me.

“If I am struggling with my jumps, he will tell me, ‘You can do it. You can do it.’ ”

The most difficult jump for Iwano is the triple lutz/triple loop combination, she told Ice Time.

Iwano, whose musicality is advanced for her age, struggled with her jumps last season while dealing with a growth spurt that saw her become 6 cm taller.

She placed sixth last September in her Junior Grand Prix debut in Salzburg, Austria. Despite the result, many observers were blown away by her artistic impression in her short program there to “Asturias,” which was choreographed by Akiko Suzuki.

Iwano, who will represent Japan this season in the Junior Grand Prix series, will use “Asturias” again for her short program.

Wowed by Pyeongchang

Iwano, who was born in Seoul and lived there until age 7, returned to South Korea in February to attend the Pyeongchang Olympics as a spectator.

There was a reason for the visit.

Iwano, who speaks Korean fluently, is hoping to represent Japan at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, and felt it would be worthwhile to get the feeling of what skating at the Winter Games was really like.

“It was a really incredible experience,” Iwano commented. “That environment, with so many people, was really something. It was beautiful. I’m really glad that I went to see it.”

Iwano attended both the women’s short program and free skate. She was especially impressed by the performance of Satoko Miyahara, who finished fourth in Pyeongchang.

Miyahara also trains in Takatsuki with coach Mie Hamada.

“Satoko’s skating at the Olympics was so wonderful,” Iwano commented. “I learned a lot watching her there.”

Learning experience

“The best part about the camp was the lessons from (choreographer) Jeffrey Buttle,” Iwano stated. “It was my first time to learn from him. He relates his motions and actions very directly.

“I like his style. His way of teaching is fun and gentle. He is really nice. All of the skaters like him,” Iwano added.

In addition to Iwano, female skaters who attended the camp were Yuhana Yokoi, Shiika Yoshioka, Tomoe Kawabata, Sora Maeno, Hana Yoshida, Azusa Tanaka, Nana Araki, Riko Takino, Rion Sumiyoshi, Kinayu Yokoi and Sara Honda.

Male skaters taking part were last season’s Japan junior champion and world junior bronze medalist Mitsuki Sumoto, Koshiro Shimada, Yuto Kishina, Sena Miyake, Yuma Kagiyama, Tatsuya Tsuboi, Shun Sato and Shunsuke Nakamura.

Arranging new program

Iwano traveled to the Detroit Skating Club in April with Nagamitsu to have Pasquale Camerlengo choreograph her new free skate to “Jeux d’eaux.”

“It was difficult, but I really enjoyed working with Pasquale,” Iwano said. “He is kind and very unique. It took us one week to make the program.”

Camerlengo is the one who suggested the track for this season’s free skate and Iwano liked the choice.

“We didn’t diagram it on paper. We went on the ice and just went by feel,” Iwano noted. “He is so talented as a choreographer.”

Goals for coming campaign

Iwano detailed her aspirations for the 2018-19 season to Ice Time.

“First of all, I want to make the Junior Grand Prix Final in Vancouver, Canada,” Iwano said.

“Second, I want to finish in the top six at the Japan Junior Championships so I can skate in the All-Japan Championships with Daisuke.”

(Takahashi said that one of his goals in returning this season was to make the final group of six skaters at the Japan nationals.)

Iwano was 11th at last year’s Japan Junior Championships in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture at the age of 13. She came in 15th in 2016 at the age of 12 in Sapporo.

“Also, I want to participate in the world junior championships,” Iwano concluded.

Buttle remembers Ten

Buttle offered his thoughts on the late Dennis Ten, clearly still deeply affected by his friend’s tragic death just a week earlier.

“I have performed with and known Denis for quite a long time,” Buttle told Ice Time last weekend. “I did a show with him in December in Stars on Ice.”

Buttle reflected on the Kazakh’s decency and love for skating.

“Anyone who knew him, anyone who had ever spoken to him, would say he is the kindest person. He had a great sense of humor,” Buttle recalled.

“To share the ice with him, he was just phenomenal,” Buttle commented. “He was a true artist and had so much respect for the sport. I have so much respect for the change that he brought, the popularity he brought of skating to Kazakhstan, and how much he wanted to progress it.”

Ten’s sudden passing clearly impacted Buttle as much as it did so much of the global skating community.

“It’s just devastating. It’s awful what happened,” Buttle said. “I’m sure many of us are still angry.

“It’s definitely a huge loss for the skating community, but my heart goes out to his parents and his close friends.”

Buttle hopes that Ten’s memory will continue to serve as an inspiration for the sport in Kazakhstan.

“He was this beacon in the skating community, especially in Kazakhstan, but I hope that his memory will inspire future generations to become figure skaters,” Buttle stated. “But it is a devastating loss for Kazakhstan.”