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Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009

ICE TIME

Unhappy alliance: Reeds' mom blasts JSF over funding


The Japan Skating Federation, which has been found wanting in its support of skaters in the past, is once again being called out for its lack of commitment.

Jack Gallagher

This time, the mother of ice dancers Cathy and Chris Reed — who will represent Japan at the 2010 Vancouver Games — says the JSF has ignored her repeated requests for financial assistance to help prepare them for the Olympics.

"It appears the JSF is only concerned with singles skater," Noriko Reed said last month in a telephone interview from her New Jersey home. "JSF executives have told me, 'We don't know ice dancing well. This seems to be their excuse for not helping Cathy and Chris.' "

The Reeds, who have been competing for Japan since 2006, train with Nikolai Morozov, the renowned coach who also has Miki Ando and Nobunari Oda in his stable at the Ice House in Hackensack, N.J.

Noriko Reed says that not only has the JSF not stepped up to help its own athletes, but that it has had a crass manner in dealing with them.

"You would not believe some of the stuff they have done," she said. "The first year Cathy and Chris skated for Japan, they covered the airfare and accommodations for them at events. But at the end of the season they tried to present me with a bill for some additional costs, which I ignored. This is the mentality we are dealing with."

Noriko Reed claims that the extent of the JSF's backing is usually saying "congratulations" after an event.

"They didn't support us last season. It was ridiculous."

She says that the Japan Olympic Committee doesn't even rank the Reeds, who are the two-time defending national champions, which makes obtaining funding for them even tougher.

"There are singles skaters ranked higher than 100th in the world who are certified by the JOC, but not Cathy and Chris. I don't get it," she adds.

News photo
Out in the cold: Ice dancers Cathy and Chris Reed have qualified to represent Japan in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but their mother says they are not receiving the financial backing they need from the Japan Skating Federation. AP PHOTO

She notes that the JSF even promotes its junior skaters more than her kids.

"They hype up these young kids who still have not done anything. It just isn't right," she continues.

It would appear that one cause for the JSF's seeming indifference to the Reeds, is their lack of fluency in Japanese. This would likely limit their marketability in the JSF's eyes.

One need only harken back a couple of seasons, when we contacted the JSF for comments about their lack of promotion for Yukari Nakano, who was without sponsorship at the time. The reply was about as icy as could be.

"The reality is that she (Nakano) has failed to promote herself."

If this is the attitude you are up against, you know you have a problem.

The cost of having children skate at the elite level can be prohibitive. When you have two of them, the costs multiply quickly. Noriko Reed says that her family spends ¥6.5 million a year on skating.

"Cathy and Chris need four costumes per season. We have double the expenses of singles skaters," she says.

She notes that last summer when she asked the JSF for more financial support it seemed sympathetic. But before she knew it the season was over and she had to push JSF officials just to get what they had promised.

Despite contacting the JSF several times over a period of weeks for comment on Reed's claims, Ice Time was unable to obtain a statement.

The Reeds' results have been affected by two knee surgeries that Chris has undergone in the past couple of years. They finished eighth at the NHK Trophy the last two seasons, and 16th at the past two world championships.

Morozov remains confident that they have potential.

"If they can stay healthy, they will move up the rankings," he predicted.

Even more disturbing are some of the details Noriko Reed revealed about the way the JSF operates, lifting the curtain on skating's dark side.

"They take 20 percent of the appearance fee when skaters take part in a show — even if they had nothing to do with arranging it," she claims.

She said it gets even worse.

"There was a case earlier this summer where the kids were scheduled to participate in a show for what I thought was a very low fee," she adds. "When I asked the JSF why, they blamed it on the promoter. When I called the promoter on it, they blamed the JSF. This is what we have to deal with."

When one adds up the number of shows that the likes of Ando, Mao Asada, Daisuke Takahashi, Oda and all of the other Japanese skaters headline each year, that 20 percent cut would seem to be a windfall for the JSF.

Only a few years removed from a financial scandal, this can't be the kind of news the JSF wants to get out.

The United States Figure Skating Association has no such policy.

"U.S. Figure Skating does not take funds away from the skater," Julie Schmitz, the U.S. Teams Coordinator, wrote in a recent e-mail. "We do, however, have a processing fee of 10 percent of what the skater is being compensated or $150, whichever is less, but this comes from the contractor."

Which means the maximum cut the USFSA takes is $150. Contrast that to what the JSF rakes in for Mao appearing in a show at Saitama Super Arena, and it would appear that the percentage is excessive.

"Cathy and Chris have quality. They have potential," Noriko Reed says. "Nikolai believes they will be in the top 10 in the world soon. Why can't the JSF help us?"



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