All-Japan Figure Skating Championship (Published in January 14, 1997 issue of Shinano Mainichi Shimbun.)
There will be four figure-skating events held at the Nagano Olympics, the Men's Singles, Women's Singles, Pairs, and Ice Dancing.
In the Singles event, a skater skates alone, and competes in various skating techniques including steps, jumps, and spins, as well as in artistic ability. Before, there was also the Compulsory program, where skaters skillfully used the skate blade edges expertly to draw circles and arcs to compete in accuracy, and, in fact, this was the source of the term "figure skating." However, today's emphasis is on "showing" and "appealing," so it was discontinued. In its place, skaters perform a short program (SP), and the score for this and for the Free Program (F) are combined to determine their ranking.
In Pairs, a male skater and a female skater skate together, making symmetrical movements, doing lifts where the male skater lifts the female skater above his head, and slow jumps where the male nearly throws off the female partner, and pair spins where the two spin together, and other dynamic movements. The key point here is that the two skaters are able to perform in unison, to produce harmony. They compete in both a Short Program and Free Program as well.
Ice Dance can be thought of as a form of social dancing on ice. And example of differences from the Pairs event is that jumps, spins and lifts above the shoulders are all not allowed.
There is hardly any time where the two skaters come apart and skate separately. It is a competition in which the two skaters skate in step and in harmony with the music, and create a very special atmosphere. The skaters do compulsory, original dance, and free programs.
In all of these events, even though the skaters may be skating with smiles on their faces, a great deal of energy is required, and there is a tremendous tension as well. Actually, it is probably only in the Exhibition program that we will see genuine smiles on the faces of skaters. In this event, we can see the medal-winning skaters on ice in novel and unusual costumes, and see them skating the kind of performance that they do not do in the regular events.
At the Nagano Olympics what kind of skaters will emerge on top, and with what kind of records and performance? How much will younger skaters from Japan come close to the world level? Let's begin by watching the NHK Cup competition at the White Ring in November, which will be a pre-event to the Nagano Olympics. (originally run May 17, 1997)
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