Miki Ando, 21, recently won the gold medal at the Cup of Russia ISU Grand Prix figure skating event in Moscow, her first victory in three years. Despite changes made to her short program only four days before the performance, Ando skated with grace and confidence – showing the trust between skater and coach, according to a sports reporter.
The personal relationship between Ando and Nikolai Morozov, reported on earlier by Shukan Post, seems to be going well. But rumors have been picked up that the Belarusian coach is causing uproar among figure skating fans.
An incident happened in the evening of Oct 16 when Mao Asada, 19, finished third in the short program. Morozov, also coach to Japanese skater Nobunari Oda, was in Paris for the French Grand Prix, accompanied by Ando who was there to continue her training.
At a restaurant where some Japanese were dining, Morozov, in a tipsy state, walked over to the table to announce that “the Japanese are stupid, coming all the way out just to see this kind of competition” and further added, “I hate the Japanese. If I could, I’d push a button to do to Tokyo and Osaka just like they did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
The episode was reported on the blog of Hiro Yoshida, a writer who resides in Europe and contributes articles to sports magazines. According to the blog, a friend of Yoshida happened to be dining at the restaurant and argued with Morozov, pointing out that he is coaching several Japanese skaters. Morozov’s reply was: “Miki is an exception.”
Yoshida declined Shukan Post’s request for an interview, stating he would not elaborate other than what he had stated in his blog. However, Morozov is known for openly criticizing the Skating Federation, and there may be serious repercussions if the reported incident is a fact. The federation has so far refused to comment on the matter.
Problems involving foreign coaches of Japanese figure skaters are not limited to Morozov. Asada scored poorly in the Grand Prix series, and now with a very slim chance of entering the GP Finals, she is not receiving support from her Russian coach, Tarasova. Apparently, Tatiana Tarasova has chosen to be with her Russian skaters during the Moscow competition rather than travel to Japan for Asada, who may have to perform in the upcoming national championship without her guidance. It is said that Tarasova coaches Asada three months a year and the rest of the training is delegated to an assistant. In view of her recent performance, the Japan Skating Federation has expressed its intention to discuss the matter with Tarasova, as the skater’s performance will affect the Vancouver Olympics.
Sports journalist Gentaro Taniguchi comments on foreign coaches who fail those in their charge, citing as an example former soccer manager Philippe Troussier, whose verbal outbursts had an adverse effect on the Japanese national team. “Occasionally foreign managers or coaches become uncontrollable from the Japanese perspective. When such problems emerge at a crucial moment, though, the outcome is irreversibly damaging.”
While Ando’s outstanding performance has much to do with her professional and personal relationship with her coach, the question is whether his influence will be limited to not just her skating skills, but her personality, as well.