Gold Medalist Offers Joy of Figure Skating through Ice Shows

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Figure skater and Olympic gold medalist Shizuka Arakawa hopes “many people” will enjoy her upcoming ice shows.

Olympic gold medalist Shizuka Arakawa hopes the ice shows she produces give spectators as much joy as ice skating has given her over the years.

Arakawa shot to fame when she became the first Japanese to win gold in figure skating by gliding her way to the medal at the Turin Winter Games in February 2006. About three months later, she announced her retirement from competitive skating at a press conference and, the following day, took her “first step” as a professional skater at a one-off ice show. Since then, her “Friends on Ice” show has been held almost every year, with the latest being the 17th edition.

“Each year, I look back with a feeling of satisfaction that I couldn’t have done anything more,” said Arakawa, 41.

The performances featuring collaborations between skaters are a highlight of the show, and one aspect that gets her production juices flowing. “I like to think from the fans’ perspective what kind of performance these skaters could give together,” Arakawa explained.

This year’s show features performances from skating stars including recently retired ice dancing pair Daisuke Takahashi and Kana Muramoto, and Stephane Lambiel, who won silver in the men’s figure skating at the 2006 Winter Games.

The skaters also freely bounce ideas off each other, which can create a performance that exceeds imagination. “At these shows, every skater reveals an expression or a technique that they don’t display during competitive events. I hope spectators will enjoy this point of difference,” Arakawa said.

While 17 years have passed since Arakawa launched Friends on Ice, her determination to “give something back” to skating has remained constant. Each year, she offers a few children and young skaters the chance to demonstrate their skills at the event.

As an athlete, Arakawa tasted Olympic glory and also won gold at the World Figure Skating Championships. Her involvement in ice shows and exhibitions as a professional draws on many of those same skills, but Arakawa insists the two chapters of her career are distinct. “They’re completely different worlds,” Arakawa said. “I’m not tied down by any rules, and it feels nice to skate however my heart desires. That’s fun. I hope many people will feel this at my show.”

This enjoyment is why the now mother-of-two will keep skating for some time yet.

The 2023 Friends on Ice show will be held at the Kose Shin Yokohama Skate Center in Yokohama for three days from Aug. 25.