Connect with us


[ICE TIME] Talented Skater Naoki Rossi Inspired by Visit to His Ancestral Homeland

Teenager Naoki Rossi talks about the challenges of becoming an elite skater, his skating inspiration, his bicultural upbringing and much more.



Naoki Rossi
Naoki Rossi competes in the men's free skate at the 2023 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Calgary, Canada, on March 4. (Leah Hennel/ISU/via GETTY IMAGES)

Read the full story on SportsLook - [ICE TIME] Talented Skater Naoki Rossi Inspired by Visit to His Ancestral Homeland

World junior silver medalist Naoki Rossi is in Japan for the next few weeks for a bit of vacation and to work on his free skate for the coming season. The 16-year-old Rossi is the product of a Japanese mother and Swiss father and has an Italian grandmother.

In an exclusive interview with Ice Time in Tokyo, Rossi discussed the challenges of becoming an elite skater, his skating inspiration, his goals for next season, his bicultural upbringing and much more.

"For me, Japan is like home," Rossi stated. "So is Switzerland. But I prefer to live here for the future. The people here are very polite and honest. They are very kind and it is safe. I really like the city and the culture here."

Rossi was effusive when talking about the birth country of his ancestors.

"The best things about being in Japan [are] the environment, the people and the food," Rossi continued. "I am always excited to come here."

Rossi was born in Zollikon, Switzerland, a suburb of Zurich in 2007. He is a gifted young man who speaks five languages (Japanese, English, German, French, Italian) and also plays the violin at a high level. But that only scratches the surface of his interesting life story.

Rieko Ikegami Rossi and Naoki Rossi stand in front of a statue of former Osaka Mayor Shiro Ikegami, her great-grandfather, in Osaka's Tennoji Park. (RIEKO IKEGAMI ROSSI)

Rossi's Family Background

Rossi, who has been visiting Japan since shortly after he was born, is a distant relative of Crown Princess Kiko and her son Prince Hisahito. Rossi's mother, Rieko Ikegami Rossi (the guest on the latest episode of the Ice Time podcast), is a second cousin of Kiko. Rieko's great-grandfather was Shiro Ikegami (1857-1929), a three-term mayor of Osaka, who is the great-great grandfather of both Naoki and Prince Hisahito (also 16).

Shiro Ikegami, who became mayor in 1913, opened the Tennoji Zoo in 1915, and also founded the country's first public daycare center in 1919. A statue of him stands to this day in Osaka's Tennoji Park.

A statue of Shiro Ikegami, who was a three-term mayor of Osaka. (RIEKO IKEGAMI ROSSI)

For the past three years, Rossi has been living and training in Egna, Italy, as a student at the Young Goose Academy, a school for aspiring skaters and other athletes. At the age when most kids are in junior high school, Rossi was thrust into adulthood with the move from his home in Switzerland to Italy.

"It is pretty difficult to tell what my ethnicity is because I was born and raised in Switzerland until I was 13, then I moved to Italy," Rossi commented. "I started a new life there. I concentrated more on skating and I also changed schools. That was difficult for me."

Adjusting to a New Life

Rossi described the realities that came with the new environment.

"There were between 3-5 of us living together and we had to clean the apartment and prepare our own meals," Rossi noted. "I had to cook by myself and go to the grocery store by myself. That was really difficult for me for the first time. I had to push myself to the limit to see where I could go and reach my goal."

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 Twitter @sportsjapan.