Daisuke Murakami: “To pop up on the top of the podium was like a cherry on top”

Daisuke Murakami (23) surprised everyone including himself when he won the gold medal at NHK Trophy.

Q: Has it sunk in yet? How do you feel?

A: Not yet! I honestly didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. I had doping (test) and that took a real long time and when I finally got back to the hotel I ate, had a shower. The first thing I did after I took a shower was watch myself on youtube and then I fell asleep and I came back here.

Q: While watching you fell asleep?

A: Yes.

Q: But your performance wasn’t that boring.

A: Yes… it happens so fast. I actually couldn’t believe what happened.

Q: So you couldn’t remember your performance? What were you thinking at the end?

A: At the end I was wanting to finish the program to I kind of got ahead of myself, but I’m glad that I competed the way I was in practice. This whole week and previous weeks before this I was skating programs like what I’ve put out at this competition. So for me to do that here was a blessing.

Q: How were you able to do that, finally? This probably was the best you’ve ever skated in competition.

A: It was the first time mentally that Frank told me everything positive. I always came into competition doubting myself, I always had a cloud in my head. This time he really helped me focus on doing each element one at a time. He was making sure that I would breathe throughout my program and not let go of any points at the end of my program, because I’ve been a skater that threw away points at the end of my programs. His advice really helped me this time to push through the competition.

Q: How does this experience now maybe change your approach for the next competitions?

A: Obviously this is my only GP event. Coming off this just gives me more drive to work harder for my Japanese Nationals next month in Nagano. I will hopefully fully prepare just the way I did here to Nationals.

Q: During the summer, how did your training go? What maybe was different than before?

A: I definitely was a type of skater that would start the program during practice and if I fell or popped, I would kind of stop and redo the whole thing and Frank Carroll is one of the coaches that doesn’t tolerate stopping in the middle of the program. So his words were, I coached Michelle Kwan, Evan Lysacek, Timothy Goebel. None of my students ever stopped in their programs while they were under my instructions. So it doesn’t give you any excuse for you to stop during your programs. After that talk that we had I just started doing run throughs, and whether or not I fell or popped, I just kept pushing through. I feel like that really helped especially my stamina, pushing through the whole program as a package. I feel like that was the most different training that I’ve done this past summer.

Q: That’s interesting. You’ve been with Frank for a while, so why did it change only now?

A: I don’t know. It was more about focus. We needed an area to focus on and before we were focusing more on doing two jumping elements together and making it a package, but obviously that wasn’t working for me. So we needed some different approach. This running through programs from start to end every day really helped.

Q: Earlier you competed in SLC Classics.

A: It wasn’t the worst opening of my season, but it wasn’t the best. Coming to NHK I wanted to put two quads in my free program. We decided to change the short program, because I didn’t feel like I was connecting well with my previous program. I had a different short program. Everything just fell into pieces clearly. I’m pretty happy.

Q: You were not in the spotlight so much before. Do you feel more attention shifting towards you now and how do you deal with it?

A: Tatsuki (Machida), (Takahito) Mura and Yuzuru (Hanyu), we all competed together in juniors and we all came up in the rankings together. We are like that generation of skaters. It’s just unfortunate that I hurt my shoulder two years ago and it kind of held me back for a little bit. I obviously felt… everyone else was winning titles, going to Olympics and I thought about retiring at one point, but at the same time I wanted to have (skated) my best, (see) how far I could go, without regrets. Especially this season all the Japanese men have great results on the Grand Prix circuit. Tatsuki won one, Mura won one, now I won one. I honestly didn’t come here to win this competition, because I definitely knew that I was against very stiff competition with Olympic skaters. I just wanted to put out a seasons best score, that was my whole motif. Just to pop up on the top of the podium was like a cherry on top.

Q: You said you felt especially motivated when you heard that the announcer talked about your injury.

A: It was very motivating. It kind of added fuel to my fire in my short program. I actually wasn’t listening (to the announcer) in the free skating (warm up), because everybody was doing quads from left to right and I knew I had to do my job. I wasn’t really paying attention to anybody except myself.

Q: How did you go into free skating, still relaxed, although you stood in third place?

A: Actually, no, I was very tense. I didn’t know what was going to happen in the free skate. But Frank pulled me aside off the ice and he gave me a lecture about being positive and to breathe and to take each element one at a time. One thing that really helped me this time was – he was telling me not to focus on the judges, the audience, the cameras especially, just skate for yourself just like practice. Honestly, once I got out I didn’t really look around in a way. I didn’t really think too much about being pressured or being watched all at once and that was my weakness. I felt like that was a very big positive for me in this competition and especially with his words it really helped to calm my nerves.

Q: I remember you when were skating in juniors for USA. When and why did you decide to make the switch to Japan?

A: I started competing for the US. I was actually going up really fast in the ranks, I was in novice and juniors. I was given a lot of Junior Grand Prix and then Junior Worlds right off the bat pretty much. There was a year where I didn’t make it out of sectionals. That was the year when I was considering switching only because the Japanese Federation had approached me before and it wasn’t something new. The second point was at the time I was training in Lake Arrowhead, California with Mao Asada. Mao Asada’s mom Kyoko was a really big impact on my life, because she always would give me advice. She was kind of the one that really pushed me to compete for Japan, because she really felt like why (I am not competing for Japan) - I am Japanese, I have been raised as a Japanese person, I have a Japanese passport. It is just that I started skating in the U.S., that was the only thing. At that moment I really felt that I wanted to compete for my country (Japan). It was more my decision at the end of the day and it is not the fact that Japan is a weaker country, because obviously it is one of the strongest countries in this world right now.

Q: How were you accepted when you came to Japan?

A: They’re always welcoming, the fans here are welcoming.

Q: How old were you when you moved to the USA with your family?

A: I was nine, to San Diego, California. I was actually going to attend school and then I got into skating and that’s how I started. I actually started skating when I was ten. I moved to Tammy (Gambill), she was my first main coach.

Q: You started skating quite late. How did you make such quick progress?

A: Honestly, first of all I never heard about figure skating at all when I was younger, before I moved to the U.S.. The first time I ever saw an ice rink was in the U.S.. I did a lot of sports when I was younger, I did gymnastics and I liked roller skating. I think that kind of helped me into figure skating I didn’t really have a hard time gliding on the ice. I just started public session, because I wanted to try it. Then I started public skating and I took maybe a few learn to skate classes. Tammy Gambill came to San Diego to give a seminar and she pulled me aside and told me that, you are very talented. You should consider training in a real training facility and that’s when I decided to give up everything and start skating.

Q: Are you still studying?

A: I actually graduated from a university here in Japan. I have a degree in business. I am not really sure what I want to do yet, but at least I got my school out of the way. So I’m happy about that. It was very difficult. I would juggle literally. I would fly back and forth from America to Japan to just take tests. But they were very supportive of my skating. They would let me pretty much home school in the U.S. and the only requirement was for me to fly back for my finals. I graduated in 2012.

Q: Thank you very much for the interview and all the best!