The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

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A synchronized skater seeking to become the world's number one "ice cheerleader"

Ms. Ayako Uchida

"Even if I don't see it in their faces, the moment we join hands I know if they aren't at their best," said Ms. Ayako Uchida, speaking about the bonds she shares with her teammates. Synchronized skating, for which Ms. Uchida has moved to America in order to undergo training, is a competitive sport that can be thought of as coordinated figure skating. One type of performance involves her team, composed of sixteen members, joining hands and rotating in a circular formation to demonstrate their superb timing. In that instant she says "I can understand the feelings of my teammates as if those feelings were flowing out from their hands and into mine." The appeal of synchronized skating is that sense of trust. "When I had been skating solo, I never felt that way" she said with a smile.

Ms. Uchida had originally been a singles skater. She made her start at the age of five during her time living in Michigan after she watched an ice show and thought to herself "I want to do that!" She continued her training even after returning to Japan, but the skating rink was far away and she was prone to fall behind in her practice. "People that had started later than me were perfecting their jumps. I felt pressed to make up for lagging behind." She continued to have days with less than satisfactory results. Then, one day, her outstanding footwork was pointed out and she was asked, "Would you consider changing to synchronized skating?"

During high school, she participated in a club at Tokyo Women's College of Physical Education and devoted herself to synchronized skating. As a result, she even placed first at the All Japan Championships. Asking herself, "Why can't I put on a solid performance at the World Championships?" she decided to study abroad at the University of Miami. While there she constantly watched competitions and team performances, thinking to herself, "I'll rise to the top. I want to become a top team member." After training for a year in America, she passed the screening process of the Haydenettes, a team that boasted the top talent in the country, with outstanding results. "Japan places heavy emphasis on cooperativeness, but America places emphasis on the power of expression, drawing out the beauty of each and every person. Once I became aware of this I set out to preserve the 'essence' of myself."

Seeking a university to broaden her perspectives, she went on to study at Waseda University. She was able to make friends and find instructors who understood and encouraged her. "Just like America, Waseda is a precious and irreplaceable place to me," said Ms. Uchida with a sparkle in her eyes.

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)

Ms. Ayako Uchida

Born in 1986 in Ibaraki Prefecture and graduated from Senshu University Matsudo Senior High School. In September 2009, she graduated from the School of Sport Sciences. In Mr. Yoshio Nakamura's seminar she majored in Marketing within Health and Sports. In 2009 she placed first in the Colonial Classic (America). She placed second in the All America Championships and placed a solid forth in the World Championships. Since August, she has been undergoing training in America. She plans to continue expanding her activities in America.