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Watanabe became Japan’s sweetheart following those World Championships and “Emi” was the most popular first name for baby girls born that year.
Then came Midori Ito, who completely revolutionized ladies figure skating in Japan.
Born to a Filipino mother and Japanese father, Watanabe was fluent in both Japanese and English. to work with Felix Kaspar, and later with Carlo Fassi.
Her coach, Etsuko Inada, recommended that she to go to the U. to train, a move that was considered highly unusual at the time. Those factors made Watanabe’s successful path a hard act to follow.
There is no one simple answer, but the result is a combination of various factors that have contributed to that nation’s rise on the global stages.
One of the first skaters to represent Japan in the modern era was Nobuo Satō, who dominated the sport domestically for a decade, winning 10 consecutive national titles from 1957 to 1966.
That was the generation — everyone was pretty much like that at the time.”Yamada could not wait to quit competing and when she did, she turned to coaching.
Decades later Yamada, now 73, still works out of the same rink in Nagoya where she coached Ito to international glory so many years ago.
“When I started coaching, it wasn’t like I had a big ambition, but I decided that I would make sure my students enjoyed skating.”She remembers the day she first spotted a tiny 5-year-old Ito skating tirelessly around the rink. Ito mastered four different triple jumps while she was still in elementary school. When Ito’s parents separated and her family situation became complicated, she began spending more time at Yamada’s home, moving in permanently at age 10.
Yamada said her initial goal was for Ito to be able to financially support herself in the future through her skating.