LAKE PLACID, N.Y.
Have you ever wanted anything so badly your teeth hurt? Your face fell? Your knees knocked?
Little Satoko Miyahara has that look on her face. When she comes to the boards for advice from coach Mie Hamada here at Skate America, her eyes are trained on her coach’s face and they radiate like headlights on full beam with earnestness and intent. There’s a sense nothing will stop her, not if she has anything to do with it.
The world silver medalist from 2015 is not a little girl anymore. She’s 19, but stands only 4-foot-11 in her socks. We haven’t seen her much lately.
She’s competed only once since December of 2016, when she was seen at Japanese nationals. In that one comeback event at NHK Trophy two weeks ago, Miyahara was fifth, 33 points behind reigning world champ Evgenia Medvedeva. She’s only been training full-on since October. In September, not so long ago really, she was training only one hour a day.
For six months, she didn’t jump at all.
Miyahara has been off because of injury. But not just one injury. Three. It’s a miracle that she’s back. The reason for all of her injuries has been deemed poor nutrition and lack of sleep, work being the obsession of her culture. And poor bone density was an issue, alarming because of her age.
Miyahara was under such a determined schedule, she was sleeping only five hours a night.
In January 2017, she suffered an injury to her left groin, most specifically a bone in her pelvic girdle. There was a crack in the middle of the bone, therefore not easily seen on x-rays. Because of this, she had to withdraw from Four Continents, Asian Games and eventually, the world championships in Helsinki.
Finding the crack didn’t end her woes. She suffered an injury to the top of her left foot in July.
In September, Miyahara developed inflammation in her right hip.
It was not enough to fix the injuries as they continued to pop up. Miyahara needed to overhaul her life. She hates milk, which is believed to help problems with bone density. So the skater had to learn how to eat and gain five to eight pounds, hopefully in bone strength. Her team members separated her enough from her work life to get eight hours of sleep a night.
So Miyahara took the challenge and focused on her body, adding five to six pounds to her tiny frame. She sees it as a challenge. She does feel stronger, she says. She takes medicine and calcium, drinks milk, eats fish and fresh vegetables.
As she has begun to train more diligently, is the weight coming off again? That’s the question.
Her training mate is Marin Honda. There’s much excitement about the young teen, but at Skate Canada, she bombed in the short program, finishing 10th after a fall on her triple Lutz-triple toe loop combo (underrotated), singling an Axel and not maximizing her levels on some spins and footwork. She did come back in the free program to be third.
Honda had no issues at Skate Canada other than the fact that she “doesn’t want to train,” said Hamada. “She’s not a hard worker. She found out at competition that she needed to work on steps and spins.”
Indeed, she is a talent. She already has lots of sponsors in Japan.
Too bad there couldn’t be a happy medium. There are many talented young female skaters in Japan, but perhaps we can look to Wakaba Higuchi, who skates with joy. And that’s half the battle. Maybe all of it. Sometimes wanting something has to be tempered with this.
Skating with joy makes you dangerous.
All about working smart
LAKE PLACID, N.Y.
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