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[ICE TIME] For Tomoki Hiwatashi, Move to Japan to Train with Mie Hamada Paying Dividends

Explaining his decision to move to Japan, Tomoki Hiwatashi says, "Mie is a great coach and I wanted to work with her and learn what she teaches."



Tomoki Hiwatashi
Tomoki Hiwatashi in a file photo from the 2019 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Zagreb, Croatia. (Ⓒ ISU)

Read the full story on SportsLook - [ICE TIME] For Tomoki Hiwatashi, Move to Japan to Train with Mie Hamada Paying Dividends

The words of the late, renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow succinctly describe the predicament that Tomoki Hiwatashi faced in the spring of 2023 after his second straight season of disappointing results on the ice.

"In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety," Maslow famously observed.

At the age of 23, the American skater from a Japanese family was at a crossroads. Hiwatashi knew he had to do something major to try and reverse his results or watch his career slowly fade into the ether. So he decided to step forward.

The 2019 world junior champion packed up his apartment in Colorado Springs, where he had been training for several years, and flew to Osaka to start a new life in Kyoto training with Mie Hamada at the Kinoshita Academy.

"I made the decision to train with Mie in April or May," Hiwatashi stated in an exclusive interview with Ice Time. "Just wanted a change in environment. Mie is a great coach and I wanted to work with her and learn what she teaches. I wanted to learn her technique and also thought it would be a nice way to get myself more motivated with my skating."

The 2022-23 season was an especially difficult one for Hiwatashi as he was dealing with a significant physical issue.


"I had a major injury in my back during nationals. It was a stress reaction," Hiwatashi recalled. "I had some pain there and I was skating with pain there and had to recover from that, and I wasn't able to do that until around June or July. That is when I was able to get back on the ice and skate more and jump more."

Details of the Back Injury

Hiwatashi, who was born in Englewood, New Jersey, in the United States, gave the background on how the injury developed.

"At the NHK Trophy last year [2022], I had probably the worst result (12th place) I could have gotten," Hiwatashi stated. "After the Grand Prix Series, I was very motivated. I wanted to redeem myself and show that I could do better. On the way toward nationals, I started to have some back pain. Because it was nationals, I just decided to let it pass and do my best.

"Around the end of December, the beginning of January, I started to have severe pain in my back," Hiwatashi continued. "I wanted to compete at nationals, which I was able to do in the short program (coming in third), and I tried to do my best in the long program. But I was nervous and also trying to deal with the pain and it didn't work out for me."

He ended up in 10th place in the final standings.

Confronting Results That Were Not Satisfactory

It is often tough for an athlete to admit that their performance hasn't been up to par. But Hiwatashi looked in the mirror and acknowledged that he just hadn't been getting the job done the past few seasons.


"Throughout the whole season last year, I wasn't doing well in the Grand Prix Series," Hiwatashi said. "I didn't do too well before the Grand Prix (season) either. The whole season last year was just kind of a mess. I felt like I needed to change something and wanted to make a drastic move, rather than just trying to change something small."

Hiwatashi, who was third at the US Championships during the 2019-20 season, confessed that the past few seasons have been challenging.

During the 2021-22 GP campaign, he was ninth at the NHK Trophy and 11th at Skate Canada. Not much changed in the 2022-23 season, as Hiwatashi was ninth at the John Wilson Trophy and last at the NHK Trophy.

"I felt like in the past two or three years I wasn't doing too well. Since the pandemic hit, I wasn't doing too hot," Hiwatashi commented. "I was going up and down. The results were just kind of waving. Sometimes it was alright, sometimes it was terrible. I felt like I needed a big change. Last year was the year that pushed me to make a move."

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.


Author: Jack Gallagher

The author is a veteran sports journalist and one of the world's foremost figure skating experts. Find articles and podcasts by Jack on his author page, and find him on X (formerly Twitter) @sportsjapan.


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