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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Olympic Special: Chris And Cathy Reed Represent Japan

If you ever needed proof that the world is getting smaller, I hope you all tuned in to watch some of the events of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

I know not everyone is a sports nut, but these Olympics have shown some excellent skills, drive and yes, dare I say it, sportsmanship.

While I freely admit to being a huge fan of the long-track and short-track speed-skating, half-pipe snowboarding and hockey, I pretty much love every single sport in the winter games… even curling… but only women's. Yes, I am sexist.

The other events: downhill snowboarding, skiing (moguls and downhill), biathlon (shooting between heartbeats?!), cross-country, ski-jumping (insane!), luge, skeleton (insane fun!), bobsleigh, hockey, and figure skating. I love'em!

Admittedly, the only winter sports I have actually participated in, are: writing my name in the snow in cursive; cross-country skiing; and if you include going down hills on a plastic sheet the same as luge or skeleton, then that's another; but I have also watched a lot of hockey on TV for some 40+ years and I like to pride myself on my knowledge of the sport.

Aside from the aforementioned curling, I don't give a hoot if it's men or women competing. My beef against curling, however, is that I'm not convinced that it is an athletic event. Any sport where you can perform it with nachos stuffed in your mouth and a beer in one hand - I'm not sure that qualifies as an athletic event. Granted, the curling folks at these Olympics don't do that. But to me, curling is like darts and poker. Exciting, but not athletic. Again... I'm not saying the folks performing at this high level are not athletic... I am saying the game isn't athletic.

Okay... let's look at figure skating and Japan... but first through a woman I used to know, because, like it or not, that's how I got there and that's why there is this blog.

Stephanie Lovie was a woman I really, really liked while I was back in journalism school at Humber College in Toronto… and it was she that told me about her desire to go to Japan on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme (I had never heard of it, and since there was no Internet per se, I had to read up on it the hard way - at a library… and I only applied because I had hoped we could go together.

I don't think she even applied, and I obviously got in, and, as such, I got MY life-changing event.

Anyhow, Stephanie was a figure skater back when she was younger… and I recall marveling at the muscle she packed on her beautiful thighs that pressed tightly against her jeans.

I had played a lot of soccer and done a lot of leg weights, but she… she had thighs bigger than me… which she found embarrassing, but I found sexy.

Of course, in the years after I came back from Japan, I worked my ass off at the gym 6x a week, and probably ended up with thighs more muscular and larger than hers. Hell… my tibialis anterior and peroneos longs are so muscular that I've dared people to punch the front of my shin's muscle area and watched them come away shaking their knuckles in pain. You can try your luck even now. Don't worry. There is no pain. For me.

Anyhow… enough ego blow… until later, of course…

I just wanted to say how much I admire figure skaters - yes, because of Stephannie, but since then because of the amateur athletes involved in competitions like the Olympics.

Now… back to the 2014 Sochi Olympics. I was watching the Ice Dance competition - by the way, I can skate… sort of, but my eight-year-old son, Hudson, is 10x better - and the very first team I saw was a duo from Japan.

My jaw dropped.

While looking every bit as Japanese as any Nihonjin (person from Nihon... Japan) I have ever met, these two - a brother and sister team - have gaijin (foreign to Japan) names:

Cathy and Chris Reed.

Yes… Cathy and Chris Reed of Japan.
Cathy and Chris Reed at the 2013 ISU Grand Prix.  That... is a lovely outfit on Cathy! Kimono-like, but not so much.
I suppose that shouldn't have confused me as much as it did. After all… I am a Canadian of Indian decent born in England. If I was good enough, I could probably have represented Canada or India or England in a sport at these Olympics as its oldest competitor. Is there a sporting event for ego mania or back ache?

Would people have been confused to see a brown guy with the name of Andrew Joseph representing India? Probably. How about a brown guy representing Canada or England. Maybe. Maybe not.

So… why was I surprised to see two Japanese-looking people with western names representing Japan?

Because it's Japan.

I supposed that some gaijin with the surname Reed married a Japanese woman - and presto - two Japanese-looking kids with American names growing up as foreigners in the land of the rising sun.

But that wasn't it.

My bud Matthew married a Japanese babe - Takako… and while in Japan, they had their first kid… who recently turned 20… but when she was born, she was known as Miki (pronounced "Mickey"). Nowadays, with the family living in the U.S. (with brother Alex), Miki is now Michelle and is about as all-American as one can possibly be.

So… if these two Japanese ice dancers were representing Japan, wouldn't they have a Japanese sounding first name rather than Chris and Cathy? A Japanese version? Or bastardized Japanese sounding versions of their American names Ku-reesu and Gaso-reen?
Nope. Old stereotypes die hard… even with open-minded assholes like me.

My apologies to Cathy and Chris.

Cathy Reed (born June 5, 1987) and her brother Chris (born July 7, 1989) were born in the great city of Kalamazoo in the fantastic state of Michigan in the United States of America, a country mostly south of the true North American country of Canada.

Their dad is an American and mom is Japanese.

Both Cathy and Chris grew up in Michigan - so why would they need Japanese names?

But how the hell did two Americans come to represent Japan, a country with elite level winter athletes?

Well... because of the dual nationalities of their parents, Cathy and Chris were able to maintain dual citizenship (Japanese and American) until Cathy turned 22.

Since Japanese law does not allow for dual citizenship past the age of 21, Japan forces people to make a decision about which country they want to belong to.

Cathy gave up her American citizenship.

Why? For the love of her sport. At the age of 22, Cathy and Chris were excellent ice dancers, but at that time they were not part of the elite levels of the U.S…. but Japan… Japan wasn't yet as high up in the world rankings with ice dance… perhaps they would be able to make a mark by representing Japan?

And… Chris did the same, of course, renouncing his American citizenship so he could compete alongside his sister for Japan.

But… younger sister Allison… as an ice dancer, she got her Georgia (the former USSR satellite) citizenship in 2010, and represented that country with Otar Japaridze. Why do I think that is a cool name? Otar.

Career-wise… Cathy and Chris are the five-time Japanese national champion (2008–2011, 2013) in ice dance. I'm unsure what happened in 2012… and, they are representing Japan at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Uh… they also represented Japan at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

Here's what the Reed's website says about their own skating style:
(Their) "main goal is to give captivating, eye-catching and memorable performances. they are performers translating movements and maneuvers into emotion and feelings; making the music come alive. They are extremely passionate about ice dancing and want to pursue their career as far as it will take them, to many mow international events, World Championships and the Olympics representing Japan." 

(Ed. Note... there should be a Capital "T" to start the second sentence. That last sentence is structured clumsily. I should know.) 

As of this date, the Team event of Figure Skating has already been held at the Sochi Olympics. This is the first time a team event has been held - and to be honest, this seems like a waste of time… it's just an extra series of skates for everyone: pairs short, men's short, women's short, ice dance short, pair free, men's free, ice dance free, women's free. Everyone is judged on this, and a team winner is selected based on the high score.

And then... days later the actual individual events (I'm including pair and ice dancing here) will take place, where one can win an individual medal...

Why not just provide a team medal based solely on the efforts of the individual results and not have a special section for team skating... it just wears a person out, with added pressure to win a team medal that is not as cool as winning one in your own discipline.

Anyhow... for the Team Competition of Ice Dance, it was won handily by Russia, followed by Canada, the U.S., Italy and with Japan coming in 5th.

So... the real figure skating competition is still to come.

While stranger things have happened, I do not have high hopes for the Reed's to medal in either the short or free programs—which will be held on February 16 and 17th, respectively.

During the Team competition, I watched them skate to some music that was heavy on the taiko drums, and to be honest, they lacked flair… which I blame on the music as taiko drums are too heavy in sound to be appropriate for ice dance music unless you are overly aggressive - and these two were not.

I know that they will dance to different music (actually, I don't know that) for the non-team skates - but still...

I believe the chief difference, by the way, between Pairs figure skating and Ice Dancing is that in ice dancing you are not allowed to perform any jumps. Hops and skips, sure... just no triples or quads.

That's just my two-cents. Get better music… have more lifts with more speed. As well… and I know this is tough for a brother-sister duo, but when the dancers are an actual couple… you can feel their love when they dance. I actually think that ice dance couples who are actually a couple show emotion better than siblings.

The above YouTube video is from November 2013, and is their Free Dance program at the 2013 ISU GP - NHK Trophy. I'll be honest... even though this was the dance they performed for the Team event, I think they danced better in this video than they did at the Olympics, but I also still stand by my comment that the music was a bit over-powering.

Anyhow… that's the story of how two Americans who look Japanese, but have American names came to skate for Japan at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.

Regardless of their performance - just getting to the Olympics blows my mind. And I mean every single athlete.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

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