Kazuki Tomono: “Maybe I’ve been too fixated on having a flawless performance, and should have focused more on how to score points even when I make mistakes.”
Interview with Kazuki Tomono about preparation for World Championships.
Kazuki Tomono: In short, my free skate was pretty rough (at the JPN Winter Sports Festival). It was a competition where I was feeling really good, but the performance itself was quite disastrous. I think because I was in a good shape, I didn’t practice enough for when I would make mistakes. Additionally, the difficulty and weakness of skating last have probably contributed to my 7th place finish.
Since the end of the Japanese Nationals, I had been focusing on practicing my quadruple jumps, especially toe loop, which had been going really well. I know it may seem like I’m just making excuses since I didn’t actually land them during the competition, but I spent so much time on them that my overall practice became unbalanced. When I didn’t land the two quadruple toe loops at the beginning of my free skate, which I had confidence in, I panicked and made more mistakes later on.
So, I’ve been practicing with the mindset that anything other than a perfect skate is bad. Maybe I’ve become too fixated on having a flawless performance, and should have focused more on how to score points even when I make mistakes. Despite feeling disappointed, I still see this as a big learning experience and hope to apply it to my future training.
After Japanese Nationals, I practiced the triple flip-double axel sequence and for the first time, I tried it in competitions. Although it was not a perfect jump, I had practiced it enough to not miss it during practice, so I plan to use this sequence in future matches and improve my scores.
There are two competitions remaining until the World Championships in March: the All Osaka Championships and the Skate Hiroshima. I wanted to have a major competition before the World Championships, but there is no particular meaning and this time we decided to adjust domestically. This way, we can secure more practice time as there is less travel time, and I will try my best even in domestic competitions!
About The National Sports Festival
Kazuki Tomono: The National Sports Festival is one of my favorite competitions. As it’s a team event, it has a different atmosphere compared to regular competitions. This year, cheering and shouting were allowed for the first time in a while, and the event became a mix of tears and laughter. I realized that the essence of figure skating, and sports in general, is all packed in the National Athletic Meet.
For me, The National Sports Festival used to feel like a festival at the end of the season, but this time, the participants were all serious (laughs). As a representative for the World Championships, I wanted to give a good performance and approached the competition with a serious attitude. Looking back, I thought maybe I should have approached it more relaxed.
But the performance itself was so much fun, and despite making many mistakes, everyone welcomed me with an atmosphere that made me feel like I had no mistakes. I was happy about that and my heart felt warm.
There were many retiring athletes in this competition, and in particular, Taichiro Yamaguma’s performance had a heartwarming quality to it. He skated with a happy expression, enjoying each element, and the final choreography and step sequence seemed to be a reflection of his skating life. I felt grateful to have witnessed Taichiro’s wonderful performance in the end. Honestly, it’s really sad, though.
After The National Sports Festival, we all went karaoke together!
About dealing with tension and nerves
Kazuki Tomono: The important thing is to prepare in advance and turn that tension into something good.
First and foremost, it’s impossible to completely eliminate tension. Tension is not necessarily a bad thing, and it’s better to have it than not. In fact, in my case, not having tension would be worse (laughs).
If tension is unavoidable, then I think preparation is the key. You need to work towards the actual performance to the point where you’re not scared of the tension anymore. The effort you put in will become your confidence during the actual performance. So, there’s no shortcut to dealing with tension. You just have to practice and do imagery training.
It’s also important to accept yourself when you’re feeling tense. That may be the most effective way to stay calm. People often say “stay calm, stay calm!” but thinking that way won’t help you stay calm; it may even make you more nervous (laughs). In those moments, try to imagine yourself as another person and observe yourself objectively. Just look at yourself and think “I’m feeling this much tension right now.” Doing so can naturally turn bad tension into good tension.
The most nervous I’ve been recently was during the free skate at the 2021 Nationals. However, at that time, it wasn’t bad tension; it was good tension where I could feel my own heartbeat. So, I think that the best way to deal with tension is to prepare and accept your current state honestly. Take a deep breath, and breathe slowly and steadily. If you do that, everything will be okay.
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