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Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008
Competing for Japan a challenge for ice dancing Reeds
Cathy and Chris Reed lived a nomadic life growing up. Just when it looked like it had finally settled down, they found themselves back on the road again.
Born to a Japanese mother and an American father in Michigan, the sibling ice dancing duo currently skates for Japan via their dual nationality. They are scheduled to compete in the Four Continents Championship next month in South Korea and the world championships in Sweden in March.
Cathy, now 20, and Chris, 18, began skating at around the same time — when she was 7 and he was 5. Their mother, who was born near Tokyo, provided the inspiration.
"Our mom loved the sport of ice skating," Chris said during last month's NHK Trophy in Sendai. "She never skated, but she loved watching it. We just kept skating for fun and entering local competitions."
"We started with singles skating first, and it wasn't serious at all," Cathy noted. "We were living in Michigan at the time, and my mom just put us on the ice for fun."
Growing up, the pair lived in Australia, Hong Kong and Japan, before moving back to the United States. They moved nearly a dozen times over the years.
When the family relocated from Michigan to New Jersey, the skating became more serious.
"When we moved to New Jersey, when I was 12, we started skating together because singles skating wasn't going so well," Cathy said with a laugh.
"We were still doing it for fun, but then we just started getting more serious and training harder, and two years ago, we went to Shae-Lynn Bourne, and that is when it really started taking off," Chris said.
Bourne and partner Viktor Kraatz won the ice dancing world title in 2003. She later married Nikolai Morozov, who coached Shizuka Arakawa to the gold medal at the 2006 Turin Olympics and Miki Ando to the world title in 2007.
Though Bourne and Morozov later divorced, the pair continues to coach the Reeds together in Hackensack, N.J., where Morozov also trains Ando and Japan's top male skater, Daisuke Takahashi.
"We actually approached Shae-Lynn Bourne first, and she decided to take us on," Cathy said. "They were working together, so they took us on, but Shae-Lynn was our head coach at that time, and Nikolai choreographed our program, and we won (U.S.) nationals that year (2006 — in the novice ranks)."
The past year was a tough one for Chris Reed, who underwent knee surgery twice (once in March and again in July).
"I was injured 'hydroblading' in training," Chris said. "This involves bending more than a 90-degree angle on one leg and suspending the other leg toward the side above the ice.
"I didn't have enough strength at the time, and I was holding Cathy for two hours. I tore the meniscus behind my knee. Then I reinjured the meniscus at a different spot, tore the medial collateral ligament and bruised a bone. I was off the ice for five months."
This was an especially trying time for Cathy. With her partner sidelined, it was difficult to work on anything.
"I was just training on the ice for a long time by myself," she noted.
Following their U.S. novice title, the Reeds were faced with a dilemma.
"I was too old to compete as a junior internationally," Cathy said. "So we decided to skate senior for Japan. We had that in mind because we had dual citizenship and there are so many great teams in the U.S."
"We thought it would be a great way to compete internationally and gain more experience," Chris said.
"It was a great move," Cathy said with conviction. "Especially considering Japan's lack of pairs and ice dance teams."
The Reeds used to come to Japan infrequently, but now that they are representing the country, that has changed significantly.
"We used to come here about once a year, but we come a lot more with the competitions," Cathy said.
Figure skating on the elite level presents financial challenges for most skaters, including the Reeds.
"Right now we don't have any sponsors," Cathy said. "We are still really new. We are getting great support from the Japan Skating Federation.
"Since we are working with Nikolai, we have a pretty good chance of getting great sponsors," Chris said.
"The JSF pays for international competitions. Our parents pay for our coaching. Hopefully we can start making money from shows and pay for ourselves," Cathy stated.
The Reeds were the only team entered in the ice dance competition at the Japan nationals in Osaka last month, where there was no pairs event at all.
When asked why Japan is so strong in singles skating, but can't find teams in the other two disciplines, Cathy attributed the reason to physiology.
"It is primarily because of body structure. Most Japanese people are short and have shorter legs. In ice dance, long lines look better on the ice.
"Luckily we got our dad's genes," she said with a smile.
Cathy is 167 cm, while Chris stands 183 cm.
When they are not skating, the Reeds concentrate on their studies. She is a student at Montclair State University in New Jersey, while he is a senior in high school.
"I major in graphic design," Cathy said. "I am really interested in that. I take my education as seriously as my skating.
"I am definitely thinking about turning pro and skating in shows," she said. "I also want to teach (skating)."
In fact, the Reeds have already got a head start on that.
"We are teaching kids and adult dancers in the New York City area," Chris pointed out.
With just over two years to go until the 2010 Vancouver Games, Chris makes no secret of he and his sister's ambitions.
"We are looking forward to the Olympics," he said. "Nikolai has great plans for us. We are looking forward to creating more new and interesting programs with him."
Morozov is confident the Reeds have a promising future ahead of them.
"Once his knee gets back to 100 percent," Morozov said during the NHK Trophy, "they have great potential."