“Training in Montreal is truly amazing, there are people with incredible expressiveness, exceptional edge work, and various role models for us.” Japanese ice dancers Sara Kishimoto and Atsuhiko Tamura

Posted on 2023-09-30 • No comments yet


Translation of the interview with Japanese ice dancers Sara Kishimoto and Atsuhiko Tamura.

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A post shared by Sara Kishimoto / Atsuhiko Tamura (@sara_atsu)

source: number.bunshun.jp dd. 27th September 2023 by Yoshie Noguchi

The names of these two echoed through the Kansai Ice Arena. In response to the call of their names, numerous Japanese flags swayed in the audience. As fans shouted, “Sara Atsu,” Kishimoto instinctively turned to the audience, waving both hands. It was a sight rarely seen, with athletes greeting the audience even before their actual performance.

“I was looking forward to the free skate because I love the program, and seeing the audience waving their hands made it even more enjoyable. It felt like I was performing in a show, and I couldn’t help but wave back,” said Kishimoto.

This was the fourth stage of the Junior Grand Prix, held in Japan. Kishimoto (16) and Tamura (19) made their international official debut with a performance filled with smiles.

commonly known as ‘Saraatsu,’ this young ice dance couple might not be widely recognized yet, but they are steadily making their presence felt in the race for a spot at the 2026 Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo Olympics. Sara Kishimoto hails from Mie Prefecture and is currently affiliated with Chukyo University’s Chukyo High School. Atsuhiko Tamura, on the other hand, has been involved in ice dance in Tokyo. The two formed a partnership in the summer of the previous season and have been based in Montreal, the holy land of ice dance, as they aim for the world stage.

Montreal is where renowned ice dance team from around the world, including Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, the gold medalists at the Beijing Olympics, and last season’s world champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the United States, train at a single location.

“Training in Montreal is truly amazing, and we experience the aura of ice dance every day. There are people with incredible expressiveness, exceptional edge work, and various role models around us, so we watch and aspire to be like them one day,” says Tamura.

“All the other pairs around us are so incredible, I’m so fascinated by them that my mouth keeps hanging open. My coach often tells me, ‘Sara, your mouth is open’ (laughs),” adds Kishimoto.

In this stimulating environment, the duo has steadily grown. At last season’s Junior Nationals, they secured second place with 133.82 points. In February of this year, they earned 140.00 points for a fifth-place finish at the Bavarian Open. In August, at the Quebec Summer Competition, they claimed victory with 142.52 points.

“Those who participated in the Beijing Olympics are always on the ice with us, so I think while trying not to disturb them, our speed and skating skills have improved,” says Tamura.

This Junior Grand Prix Japan event is their first ISU-sanctioned competition, marking an important milestone where personal bests and official records are achieved.

For this season’s rhythm dance, they chose a unique program where they portray robots. They appeared in grey pantsuits, embodying the image of robots. Their opening twizzles were executed perfectly. They secured fourth place with a score of 56.97 points, and both of them seemed relieved.

“It was great that our first Junior GP event was in Japan. We had a lot of fun performing in front of the audience,” Kishimoto says. Tamura adds, “There were a few bumps along the way, but I think we enjoyed it to the fullest.”

On September 16th, the final day of the competition, despite being a junior event, the tickets were sold out. The ladies’ free skate took place in the evening, but the arena had been packed since the afternoon during the free dance event. What Japanese fans were eagerly anticipating was Kishimoto and Tamura’s free dance to ‘Misirlou/Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon/Pump It.’

This program has been kept from the previous season. Filled with playfulness and featuring acrobatic elements more reminiscent of pair skating than ice dance, every choreographic moment demands your full attention.

One particularly memorable moment is in the middle of the routine when Tamura does push-ups on the ice. It’s a scene that once seen, you won’t forget. Interestingly, when they initially choreographed this sequence last season, it involved Tamura lying down on the ice after doing the push-ups, and Kishimoto stepping on his stomach in a unique twist. However, this was deemed a violation of the rule against lying on the ice, resulting in a score of zero at a regional competition in Canada.

To address this, in this Japanese competition, they replaced the stomach-stepping scene with a dynamic move where Kishimoto does a 180-degree split instead.

Throughout the routine, choreography that fully utilizes Kishimoto’s high flexibility is interspersed, drawing applause from the audience with each segment. Towards the end, there’s a choreographic lift that Kishimoto proposed—an intricate and somewhat risky move where the male partner holds the female partner’s hand and leg, swinging her around.

While such moves are common in exhibitions and ice shows, they are rarely seen in competitive performances. The audience responded with enthusiastic cheers as they executed this move flawlessly and struck their finishing pose.

“I was still nervous, but I think we synchronized better than in the rhythm dance,” says Tamura.

“Our main goal today was to have fun, and I’m glad we achieved that. I think we showcased the fun aspects of ‘SaraAtsu’ today,” adds Kishimoto.

They earned a score of 87.81 points in the free dance, resulting in a total of 144.78 points, securing a fourth-place finish. While their impressive showmanship and performance skills received high praise, they encountered challenges in technical aspects like one-foot turns and diagonal step sequences, with levels remaining at 1-2.

“Ice dance places the most importance on step sequences and pattern dances, and that’s where we struggled. We’ll work on achieving higher levels in the next Junior Grand Prix event in Poland,” says Kishimoto.

When asked to describe their team in a single word…

Two individuals who radiate limitless potential. When questioned about how they perceive each other’s skating, they responded:

“Sara-chan is excellent at dancing, so I learn from watching her every day. Since I’m not naturally flexible, I stretch every day to dance more fluidly like Sara-chan,” says Tamura.

“Before today’s competition, I asked Tamura-kun if he was nervous, and he replied, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine!’ Hearing that from him helped calm my nerves. He’s reliable,” adds Kishimoto.

Throughout the interview, they exchange glances, confirming each other’s feelings.

When asked, “How would you describe your team in a single word?” they exchange glances and burst into laughter.

“It feels like we’re always laughing together,” says Kishimoto.

“Yes, that’s right. We’re always laughing, so let’s go with ‘smiling duo!'” adds Tamura.

A truly close-knit junior pair, and their potential for growth is highly anticipated.


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