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  1. #1
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    Yuka Sato: a puzzling career

    In threads, I often hear Yuka Sato praised as an excellent coach who has done a tremendous job of polishing her students' skating skills. However, did Yuka really ever have the chance to demonstrate her own skating skills during her competitive career? After winning her world title in 1994, she has stayed out of the spotlight by retreating to a pro circuit that didn't quite grant her the audience and name recognition she might have achieved had she continued as an amateur competitor. Lu Chen and Surya Bonaly both continued to compete and amass medals, which begs the question: why didn't Yuka do the same? How would have you liked to see Yuka's career turn out? Should she have competed more and why didn't she? Also, what were some of her best moments on the ice?

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    I did a podcast interview with her in January. You can listen here to hear her own words bout her amateur and pro career.
    In my spare time, I like to interview figure skating legends.

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    Because unlike Chen or Bonaly I don't believe Yuka ever really had a conistent 3lutz or 3flip? The only time she was consistent enough with it was when she won her world title. Those two jumps probably even had more significance in making a skater competitive back then.

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    I think Yuka made the right call. She went out on a high note, capitalized on her World title by skating professionally at the zenith of skating's popularity and probably made good money in the process. To continue on to the next Olympics would have required four more years of grueling training, and in retrospect, she probably would have gotten bronze at best.

    By contrast, Surya had to keep going -- she embarrassed herself on the 1994 World podium and probably felt the need to redeem herself, plus I'm sure she was hoping to win the World title and go out on a similar high note.

    As for Lu Chen, would the Chinese federation have allowed her to retire?
    "Marge, if you're going to get mad at me every time I do something stupid, then I guess I'm just going to have to stop doing stupid things!" - Homer Simpson in the Mr. Plow episode

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    I agree that Yuka made the right decision turning pro. The 3lutz and 3flip were not her friends, and also remember that Yuka won Worlds in a watered down year.

    My favorite Yuka's program is Spartacus at World Pro.

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    Yeah, Yuka had her problems with the 3lutz and 3flip, but her loop was

    Also, I still think Yuka had/has some of the best feet/blades in the business. I love watching her skate.

    O-

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cheylana View Post
    She went out on a high note, capitalized on her World title by skating professionally at the zenith of skating's popularity and probably made good money in the process.
    I agree. Bottom line I think money was the deciding factor.

    For any elite skater competing in 1994, deciding *not* to turn pro must've been a very difficult decision to make.

    Skating was a bleeding goldmine in those days for pro skaters. It was a phenomena unlike anything the sport had ever seen before...and no one knew how long it would last.

    A chance to make millions of dollars doing what you love (with less work and training)...or continue intense training and breaking your body for a couple thousand bucks (assuming you placed well in competitions). Tough call.

    I'm actually in the minority in thinking Yuka could've continued competing another couple of years, but I never got the sense that she ever enjoyed competing like Michelle, Chen, or Surya did.

    So, it made perfect sense to turn pro. I'm sure it was a no brainer for her.

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    Yuko said in her interview with Manleywoman that she had wanted to be a professional skater for her whole life, and her father told her that she had to become world champion first. So maybe that's the reason?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by DBZ View Post
    For any elite skater competing in 1994, deciding *not* to turn pro must've been a very difficult decision to make.
    But it was always the same group of 6 skaters or so that got invited to all of the made-for-tv competitions that popped up left and right back then. I'm not sure how lucrative it was for the no name elite skaters that turned pro.

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    Quote Originally Posted by orbitz View Post
    But it was always the same group of 6 skaters or so that got invited to all of the made-for-tv competitions that popped up left and right back then. I'm not sure how lucrative it was for the no name elite skaters that turned pro.
    True.

    But in the fall / winter of 1994, as one of the skaters who competed in this series, Josee Chouinard did very well without a world medal under her belt.

    She often placed first or second ahead of Sato or Denise Biellmann in these events.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by orbitz View Post
    But it was always the same group of 6 skaters or so that got invited to all of the made-for-tv competitions that popped up left and right back then. I'm not sure how lucrative it was for the no name elite skaters that turned pro.
    Which brings up the question - if opportunities weren't so lucrative for ineligible skaters in 1994, does that mean that Yuka Sato would have remained eligible through to Nagano in 1998? She would have been 25 in 1998, not a so far-fetched age in this era (Ando is 23, Kostner and Czisny 24).

    Who else from that era (other than Baiul or Kerrigan or any of the re-instated pros) would have also remained eligible under different circumstances?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cheylana View Post
    I think Yuka made the right call. She went out on a high note, capitalized on her World title by skating professionally at the zenith of skating's popularity and probably made good money in the process.
    Quote Originally Posted by OliviaPug View Post

    Also, I still think Yuka had/has some of the best feet/blades in the business. I love watching her skate.

    O-

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    Yuka wasn't "out of the spotlight" as a pro skater. Back post-'94, professional skating was much bigger and more visible than today. The SOI and COI tours thrived, and there was a ton of pro skating on TV, including many pro competitive events. She's a skater who really came into her own in her pro skating and she was always one of the highlights for me, particularly any time I got to see her in a live event. Given all that, and the fact that it was a great (and bit surprising) accomplishment to get that world title, it was definitely the right decision at the time for her.
    Disclaimer: The post contained herein represents the opinions of a fan and may or may not bear any relation to reality.

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    Yuka was a huge star as a pro. Way bigger than as an amateur. She overtook Yamaguchi as the best pro skater for periods, and was probably the most visible given that Kristi only did the World Pros, Challenge of Champions, and Ice Wars, while Yuka went around and did nearly everything.

    As an amateur she was great but lacked both the name value, intangible it factor, and the jumping ability to do more. If she had continued I am not sure if she could have won another World title or been a contender at the 98 Olympics. She wasnt ever going to be as strong a jumper as people like Kwan, Chen, Lipinski, or Slutskaya. As others said she had problems with the lutz and flip, usually missing one, and barely hanging onto to them when she landed them.

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    Sato, I think, is a good example of a skater's skater. She didn't pile up a whole bunch of medals but she won worlds as both a jr and a sr skater. And she had very good all round skills. She was good at figures (still part of the mix when she started) became a great free skater (despite some issues with a couple of jumps) and was not very shabby at pairs as a pro.

    Compare her with Witt, a great competitor and champion, but never really a skater's skater.

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    What is a "skater's skater" ?

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    Yuka Sato once told me: After winning Worlds in her hometown, how could she possibly top that experience?

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    A skater's skater is a skater that other (elite) skaters (and coaches) look up to in terms of technique (apart from competitive accomplishments).

    Young elite skaters might look up to Witt's accomplishments but how many want to emulate her kind of awkard crossovers or not-so-great spin positions? On the other hand, I can totally see a young skater wanting Sato's wonderful edges or versatility.

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    Witt is an original. I dont think any modern skater would want to copy her. Grossmann tried to be a Witt clone and we see how that worked out for her. She had an intangible factor and insanely strong competitiveness and charisma which allowed her to rise to the top with so many technique and stylistic flaws.

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    I hardly ever thought of Yuka Sato while she was competing as an amateur, but many of her professional programs are among my very favorites.

    She has such a great smile, easy connection with the audience, the very softest knees, and great edge quality. She pushes herself choreographically, and skates with such lightness and ease. She may not have been the greatest competitor, like Witt, but she was and is a total joy to watch.

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