A few days ago, Akiko Suzuki won the ladies' event at the World Team Trophy for the second year running. This is not a major title, but I love seeing her do so well on home ice, especially after a disappointing Worlds and some rather unfair results this season (she should have won both her Grand Prix events). Actually, I just love seeing her do well any time, because she's just that lovely.
Most skaters face difficult times in their careers, but Suzuki has probably dealt with more than her share of challenges over the years. A promising junior skater in the early 2000s, Suzuki dropped off the map as she struggled with an eating disorder. In a sport in which disordered eating is sadly all too common, things must have been really bad for her to have been forced off the ice for so long.
Suzuki as a teenager.
After her return to competition, it took years for Suzuki to get noticed amid the many talented Japanese ladies, and it wasn't until 2008-9 when she really began drawing attention again at the international level. A year later, she beat eventual Olympic medalist Joannie Rochette at the 2009 Cup of China and won silver at the 2010 Four Continents Championships, but was only 8th at the Olympics and finished outside the top ten at her first Worlds (at age 25!).
Suzuki has been really good in the current Olympic quadrennial, especially in the past two seasons. And she has done so despite never being considered her federation's top skater, which has probably hurt her scores many times. But it's never stopped her, and she continues to be a delightful skater, giving some truly fantastic performances - including at the most recent World Team Trophy.
A winning performance
There is a lot to like about Akiko Suzuki, and probably at the top of the list for me is how joyful she is: she clearly enjoys skating, competing and performing, and it comes across when you see her on the ice. Although there isn't any technical area in which she truly excels, there are many things she does well, and her skating appeals to me because it is greater than the sum of its parts. She also has very good programs, and has made some original music choices (case in point: her gorgeous O program this season) along with fresh and interesting takes on more conventional pieces, such as her West Side Story program from some years ago. I like her style and enjoy seeing herself challenge herself in this way. I also enjoy her many lovely costumes ;)
Having fun at the 2012 World Team Trophy, in yet another fabulous costume
Akiko Suzuki is talented, lovely to watch, and has achieved so much against the odds. How is it possible not to cheer for her? I hope she'll have a wonderful final season next year, and that maybe she can leave skating with an Olympic medal. Fingers crossed!
Obviously this glorious screencap had to be included in the post.