Figure Skating

Exclusive: Benoit Richaud to choreograph for Moa Iwano

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

It sounds like a match made in heaven.

A promising young skater paired with the hottest choreographer in the business. The results could be dynamic.

Top Japan junior Moa Iwano, known for her artistry and musicality at the tender age of 15, will work next season with choreographer Benoit Richaud, the rising French star who is in great demand for his creative programs, The Japan Times has learned.

Richaud is making both Iwano’s short program and free skate for the 2019-20 season now in Beijing.

Iwano finished seventh at the Japan Junior Championships this season after being in third place following the short program. She has struggled with her jumps recently, but has received praise for her interpretative skills, and is believed to have big potential for the future.

Richaud has choreographed Japan champion Kaori Sakamoto’s innovative free skates the past two seasons. First was “Amelie” last season, which Sakamoto used on the way to making the Pyeongchang Olympics.

This season, Richaud put together Sakamoto’s program to “The Piano,” which helped her nearly make the podium at the recent world championships in Saitama.

Iwano said she is looking forward to working with Richaud.

“I’m very excited about the chance to work with Benoit,” Iwano told The Japan Times. “He is a gifted choreographer and his work is very unique.”

The 31-year-old Richaud also choreographed Daisuke Takahashi’s free skate to “Pale Green Ghosts” for his comeback this season. Bradie Tennell, the U.S. champion last season, works with Richaud as well.

Richaud told The Japan Times that Iwano made an immediate impression on him when he first saw her skate last year.

“When I first came to the Kansai University rink, my eyes couldn’t stop watching one girl on the ice,” Richaud recalled. “My first idea was to ask Daisuke directly, ‘Who is that girl over there?’

“When he told me her name, I asked him why I didn’t see her in big senior competitions,” Richaud stated. “Daisuke replied that she was only 14 years old.

“I travel a lot around the world and I know most of the famous skaters,” Richaud commented. “But what I really love is to go somewhere and find someone that I didn’t know who already has special talent that one day may be a famous skater. I am always attracted by special people and souls, and Moa is one for sure.”

Iwano is a teammate of Takahashi under coach Utako Nagamitsu at the Kansai University rink in Osaka, which is also the home base of Rika Kihira, Satoko Miyahara and Yuna Shiraiwa.

Iwano, a two-time Japan novice medalist, has represented the Hinomaru on the Junior Grand Prix circuit the past two seasons. In 2017 she was sixth at the JGP in Salzburg, Austria. This season she came in fifth at the event in Kaunas, Lithuania.