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[ICE TIME] Mie Hamada and Hana Yoshida Honored at the ISU Skating Awards Ceremony

Choreographer Benoit Richaud and coach Brian Orser, who have both worked with top Japanese skaters, also received accolades at the annual skating awards gala.

Japan has had great success on the ice during the 2023-24 season. It continued that run off the ice on Sunday, February 11 when it came away with two trophies at the annual ISU Skating Awards.

Veteran mentor Mie Hamada was voted the Best Coach, while Hana Yoshida was selected as the Top Newcomer.

The gala ceremony was held in conjunction with the annual Art On Ice skating show before a live audience in Zurich. Other winners included Ilia Malinin (Most Valuable Skater), Benoit Richaud (Best Choreographer), Adam Siao Him Fa (Most Entertaining Program), Loena Hendrickx (Best Costume), Deanna Stellato-Dudek (Special Achievement Award) and Brian Orser (Lifetime Achievement Award).

Hamada, who currently coaches Yoshida, world junior champion Mao Shimada and Four Continents titlist Mone Chiba, among others, beat out Sonoko Nakano and Stephane Lambiel for the honor. The 64-year-old Hamada was not able to attend the ceremony but sent a video message of gratitude.

"I never expected to be chosen," Hamada stated in English. "It is a great honor to be awarded Best Coach. I'm thankful to everyone who has supported me. My dream didn't come through as a skater, but my students make my dreams come true."

Added Hamada, "I hope to keep improving myself as a coach and as a person. Thank you."

skating awards
In her successful season, Hana Yoshida claimed the bronze medal at the Grand Prix Final in Beijing on December 9, 2023. (KYODO)

Yoshida's Budding Talent Recognized at Skating Awards Show

The 18-year-old Yoshida, the bronze medalist at this season's Grand Prix Final, edged out Belgium's Nina Pinzarrone and Switzerland's Kimmy Repond for the newcomer honor. She skated her routine to "Firebird" during the gala and was asked by show co-host Kurt Browning in an interview afterward how she feels on the ice.

"Both the short program and long program characteristics are so different," Yoshida remarked in English. "It was difficult for me. But I concentrated in practice and now I am able to perform from my heart and feel the music."

Browning questioned Yoshida about her ability to communicate with her eyes while performing.

"I like competitions more than practice, so I like to be seen by the judges and audience," Yoshida commented. "Really enjoy the competition with the audience."

Browning went on to inquire about Yoshida's triple axel, wondering if she would ever do two in her free skate.

"I first want to land one in both the short program and free skate," Yoshida replied.

Choreographer Benoit Richaud and skater Kaori Sakamoto in a file photo. (Courtesy of Benoit Richaud)

Richaud's Noteworthy Impact on Skating

The 36-year-old Richaud bested Shae-Lynn Bourne and Stephane Lambiel for the award in choreography. Richaud, who has worked with many Japanese skaters during his career including Kaori Sakamoto and Daisuke Takahashi, was moved by his triumph.

"This means a lot to me. Figure skating is not just my job, it's my passion, it's my life," Richaud commented after accepting his trophy. "I feel very lucky to be able to express my creativity for this beautiful sport."

Richaud was asked where his creativity emanates from by show co-host Elma Smit.

"Creativity comes from so many things, but the majority of my creativity for figure skating comes from my beautiful skaters," Richaud noted. "I'm very lucky. They inspire me a lot and they help me to create something special."

Added Richaud, "Every year I gain more experience, different ideas, and with time I have more time to express them."

Skating awards
Longtime coach Brian Orser (right), two-time Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu and coach Ghislain Briand pose for a photo at the Pyeongchang Games in February 2018. (ⒸSANKEI)

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Orser a Legend as Both Skater and Coach

Orser, a two-time Olympic silver medalist as a competitor, is best known to Japanese fans as the coach of two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu. The 62-year-old spoke about his broad background in the sport after accepting his trophy.

"You think about lifetime achievement and so many things kind of come to mind," Orser commented to Browning. "Of course, I think about some of those (video) clips they showed from the actual skating and competing and that was all fine and great. But I was also a judge in skating, I did that, so I kind of know that side of it.

"I was a performer and got to perform with you and many others," Orser continued.

"Directed a lot of shows and choreographed a lot of shows, so I wore a lot of hats and then I got into the coaching," Orser said. "I have done a lot and I did everything with passion and maybe that's why this (his trophy) is here."

skating awards
Brian Orser (ⒸSANKEI)

Orser Recalls Childhood Inspiration

Orser cited former Canadian world champion and Olympic medalist Donald Jackson as being an inspiration for his skating early on.

"Donald Jackson was the skater that helped me a lot and I looked up to him as a youngster," Orser recalled. "He came and did our skating show up in Midland [Ontario] sometime in the late 1960s. I remember just being in awe over him and I still see him from time to time.

"I'm still grateful for what he did for me because he was so nice to me as a young, budding athlete," Orser added. "I kind of took that with me every time I went to do a show, whether it was a club show or Stars On Ice or a meet and greet, and somebody wanted to come up and talk to me about their own skating, like an 8-year-old. 

"You take the time and you look them in the eye and you ask them questions and you take a real interest in their passion."

Japan Championships
Yuma Kagiyama (KYODO)

Kagiyama Speaks About Using Quad Flip in Free Skate

In a recent interview with Web Sportiva after his victory at the Four Continents Championships in Shanghai on February 3, Yuma Kagiyama discussed his addition of the quadruple flip, which helped him achieve a season-best score in the free skate, on the way to the win.

"Compared to the salchow and toe loop, the flip is still performed carefully, paying attention to speed and strength," Kagiyama noted. "It's a bit challenging to coordinate these aspects, but since the flip is the second jump in the free skate, I need to land the first salchow firmly.

"The flow is quite challenging, but I believe I've practiced it well enough."

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Author: Jack Gallagher

The author is a veteran sports journalist and one of the world's foremost figure skating experts. Find articles and podcasts by Jack on his author page, and find him on X (formerly Twitter) @sportsjapan.

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