For figure skating fans, the off-season may be a small break from the excitement of competitions, but for most athletes, it is a high-intensity time. New programs are being developed, new choreography is being rehearsed, and jumping techniques are perfected in training camps. However, the focus is not only set on last season’s top athletes, but also on the newly-turned seniors, who will compete with the best from next season onwards. Among them is Japan’s Hana Yoshida, currently training under Mie Hamada and Hiroaki Sato at the renowned Kinoshita Academy in Kyoto alongside Mao Shimada.
This past season, Yoshida competed in both the junior and senior categories and took first place ahead of Mai Mihara at the Western Japan Championships (sectionals) by landing the triple Axel in both the short and long programs. However, the highlight of Yoshida’s 2022-23 figure skating season was her debut at the 2023 Four Continents, where she finished a solid eighth. The skater said she learned a great deal and will bring this experience with her going into next season.
“If I take a deeper look inside myself, I think that (sectionals) felt the best for me,” she said, in terms of her self-confidence. “I managed to land the Axel in both the short program and the free skate. My performance was close to my ideal, so I want to move up a gear next season.”
The skater admitted to not feeling overly confident at sectionals but was able to give it her all and “reach a high score” on her short program.
After finishing first in her free skate in Kyoto, Yoshida was more than happy.
“I would never have expected to win,” she said, “so I tried not to even think about the final result. I gave it my all and feel much more confident now.”
Yoshida also debuted on the Junior Grand Prix circuit, taking gold at both events in France and Italy. She finished sixth at the Junior Grand Prix Final.
“To be honest, it was very disappointing,” she said of her free skate in Torino, “but I didn’t give up until the end, so it was good. I did it with strong feelings until the end, but the fact that I made one mistake where I couldn’t land is very painful.”
The skater learned in Torino that you can’t win if both the short and free skate isn’t “up there.” However, she was happy that she had the opportunity to skate there as it has been a dream for her.
“I wasn’t really nervous and wanted to enjoy this event from the bottom of my heart,” said Yoshida. “It was a good kind of excitement, but I felt my weakness.”
A few weeks later, she finished sixth at Japanese Nationals.
“In this competition, my condition wasn’t too good, and I showed some weak spots,” said Yoshida. “So, I’m happy that I was able to give a strong performance until the end. I wanted to reach a higher score. I had a few mistakes, but I did everything that was in my might.”
Like many other skaters, Yoshida had the opportunity to observe other competitors throughout the season, and said she felt all the female athletes were “incredible” in terms of technique and expression. Haein Lee from South Korea stood out for her, in particular.
“We are the same age, but her expression already seemed so mature that I didn’t even think I was in her age group at first,” recalled Yoshida. “That’s when I realized that if I want to fight in the senior class and move up from the juniors, I definitely need to work on my expression.”
Yoshida wants very much to improve her own artistic expression but admits that she’s “a very impatient person.”
“As soon as I do one thing, I immediately think about the next,” she explained. “I’m often told that. That’s why in the next season I want to take it one step at a time and consider every little detail.”
Yoshida recently finished the choreography for her new free skate, working on her spins and jumps in preparation for next season. She’s keeping the music for both new programs under wraps for now.
“Right after Four Continents, there were still competitions taking place, but it already felt like the off-season to me, so I was trying out new jumps and jumping techniques,” said the 17-year-old.
While Yoshida hasn’t been actively training quadruple jumps, she shared that she is working towards the quad toe.
“I also want to incorporate two triple Axels into next season’s free skate,” she shared. “The idea, of course, would be to have both the quad toe and a triple Axel up my sleeve, but I know that’s rather difficult. As for landing the triple Axel, I became quite confident by now, so it’s realistic for me to jump two Axels in my free skate and one in the short program.”
The skater draws much of her inspiration from movies and literature.
“I’m not an avid reader, but I read a lot of books with the aim of getting into the emotional state (of the characters) and improving my expression,” Yoshida explained.
Yoshida recently finished performing for Bloom on Ice in Japan where she skated to “Princess Leia’s Theme” from Star Wars. She will now begin training to compete as a full senior next season. Her main goal is to be able to compete with the “top athletes” and “give everything that lies within my abilities.”