From Skating to Coaching: a Japanese experience


Kyoto-Uji Synchro Team showcased the beauty of synchro as a team sport. (Credits: Roy Ng - 2023)

In 2020 we had the pleasure to interview Yurika Ando and learnt about her experience skating in Team Berlin 1. Fast-forward a few years we happily met her again in a local competition in Kyoto, Japan, as she was coaching a Junior team. Interested in knowing how she has been doing? Keep reading.

Hi Yurika! Thanks for the interview opportunity. Mind introducing yourself again to newer readers of Jura Synchro?

Yurika Ando: I was born in Japan and it's been almost 11 years since I fell in love with synchronized skating! There was a synchronized skating team at the ice rink where I was learning single skating. As soon as I joined the team, I realized that I enjoy skating a lot more when holding hands with teammates!

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Surely lots of exciting things happened in those years, right?

I won the Japan National Championship in the junior category 3 times with Team Kansai Synchro Lovers and after those amazing experiences, I got dream of skating at the World championships! To achieve that dream, I joined Team Berlin 1 which was my favorite team since I started synchro in 2019. My dream was fulfilled in 2022 finishing in 7th place! Then, I decided to go back to Japan and start coaching. I am coaching "Kyoto Uji Synchronized Skating Team" located in Kyoto, Japan.

Read our previous interview
when Yurika was in Germany
I heard "Kyoto Uji Synchronized skating team" is a rebirth of "Kansai Synchro Lovers". Tell us more about your team.

The team was established in 2021 so we are quite a young team. We practice synchro twice a week and also practice single skating a few times a week. Our home rink "Kinoshita Academy Kyoto Ice Arena" opens all year round and I really appreciate that we are able to practice the whole time a year.

Currently, we have 18 skaters on the team. The youngest skater is 7 years old, and the oldest one is 19 years old. In the last season, we had an intermediate team and a junior team. The intermediate team competed at Japan Open while the Junior team focused more on exhibitions. At the end of the season, Junior team had an opportunity to skate at an ice show called "Bloom On Ice" and that was such an amazing experience!

There is also a synchronized skating hobby class at the ice rink and the team "Kyoto Uji Enjoy Synchro" also competed in the Open age category at Japan Open.

Kyoto Uji Synchronized Skating Team competing in the 70th Kyoto Prefecture Figure Skating Championship Junior category. (Credits: Roy Ng - 2023)

"I find coaching much more difficult than skating or performing"
You have been coaching a team for a while. How do you find it?

It has been almost a year since I started coaching and I find coaching much more difficult than skating or performing. I think it is hard to verbalize how the elements should be done and how they should feel when holding hands with another and so on.

But I enjoy helping skaters improve themselves on and off the ice and seeing them skating at competition with a lot of joy on their faces :) One thing that has surprised me is seeing my team performing makes me more nervous than skating myself.

At the end of the season Yurika skated in the team too! (Credits: Yurika Ando - 2023)

What do you look forward to in the coming season?

For the next season, we are planning to have a Juvenile team, then either an Intermediate or Novice team, and Open age team. Our goal is to compete at Japan Open and get medals!

Best of luck to you and your skaters! We look forward to seeing your teams in your home prefecture Kyoto where the next Japan national synchro competition will take place on 3-4 Feb 2024. Since you have skated for Team Berlin 1 before, how do you compare skating/coaching cultures between Japan and Germany? 

There are many ice rinks in Germany, which gives the team more ice practice time, whereas there are not that many ice rinks in Japan. Often it is a little difficult to get enough ice time, and it is pretty common to have practice until midnight. While Germany has more opportunities for synchronized skaters, I am happy to see that synchro culture in Japan is growing stronger, and this gives me hope for building an even stronger team in the future.

Indeed it is important to have more skaters trying out synchro. What do you think can be done to attract more athletes?

I want skaters of other disciplines to know that synchronized skating consists of many kinds of elements. We do elements like group lifts and pair elements that you can only experience skating with other people. And also we do spins and jumps too! I personally think that skating with many people offers many other ways to express the music through interesting choreography. As a sport, it is a great alternative to single skating for those who are looking to participate in a team activity.

Yurika (second from right) and her skaters (Credits: Yurika Ando - 2023)

Thank you, Yurika, for sharing your experience with us.

Waiting to see your teams develop in the upcoming season, we look forward to the 19-20 August 2023 Tokyo Summer Figure Skating Competition, where hopefully at least a synchro team or two will participate.