The skater Mervin Tran was born in Regina to a Vietnamese father and a Cambodian mother. A good skater in singles, he doubted, however, that he would be able to break through in Canada and was considering returning to school when Montreal coach Bruno Marcotte contacted him in 2007.
“A young Japanese skater, Narumi Takahashi, had contacted him about coming to train with him,” said Mervin, Friday in Quebec City. “She was ready to move to Canada, but there was one condition: find a partner for her! Bruno thought of me because I’m Asian, and we are a ‘good match.’”
“He then offered to come to Montreal to meet Narumi and see if we could skate together. I was not really interested to skate pairs, but the idea of spending a week in Montreal, a city I had never visited, tempted me. I accepted, and that’s how I was first lured to pairs skating.
“In the end, Narumi’s dedication and how quickly she was able to trust me – she was ready to let me lift her after only a few hours of training – convinced me to keep at it.”
Takahashi and Tran now represent Japan in international competitions. This weekend, they are in Quebec City as one of six couples who have qualified for the ISU Grand Prix Final, evidencing their ,remarkable progress in a just few seasons.
“My first pairs competition was a Junior Grand Prix,” said Tran. “I still remember being impressed to find myself there before a big crowd, even though I had no experience. However, I have learned more quickly by having the chance to face the best so quickly.”
The two live and train in St. Leonard, and Tran quickly regained a good command of the French that his parents had taught him. “My girlfriend [literally, 'my blonde.'
Don't you just love these French archaisms?
] is from Quebec, and she helps me a lot,” he said. “I had a good foundation, especially in writing, but it is nice to live in Montreal.”
Tran cannot speak Japanese, to the dismay of many journalists in the country diligently covering every major figure skating competition. Yesterday, an interpreter translated his words from English to Japanese.
The couple, however, has significant financial support from the Japanese skating federation, which is delighted to have the talented couple represent it. “It is thanks to them that I am able continue my career, and I am very grateful.”
Tran would also have to give up his Canadian citizenship if he wanted to have the opportunity to participate at the Olympics one day. “It’s impossible to have dual citizenship in Japan, and the switch raises a number of administrative issues,” said the skater, who is 21 years old.
“It’s a big decision, which obviously affects me personally, and Narumi assured me that she would understand my decision whatsoever. We still have time, especially since it will not affect our participation in World Championships or other ISU competitions.”