Morozov says Asians naturally suited to skating

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TOKYO (AP) — Russian coach Nikolai Morozov says the recent dominance of Asian skaters in women’s figure skating is due to bodies that are suited to the sport and disciplined training.

Morozov helped Shizuka Arakawa win the gold medal at the 2006 Turin Games for Japan’s first Olympic figure skating victory and has resurrected the career of Miki Ando, one of three women who will represent Japan at the Vancouver Olympics.

South Korean Kim Yu-na is the gold medal favorite for Vancouver but will be challenged by rival Mao Asada and Ando. An Asian sweep of the podium is not out of the question.

“Asian skaters have a very good body structure for skating,” Morozov said Friday. “They have a lower center of gravity so it’s much easier for them to jump.

“They also have very good discipline, when you tell them what to do they just listen and do it.”

Morozov, 34, was in Tokyo on Friday to promote his new book “Kiss and Cry,” a Japanese-language account of his coaching career.

When Ando finished a disappointing 15th in Turin, many felt it might be the end of her competitive career, even though she was only 18. But in stepped Morozov, and one year later Ando was the world champion in Tokyo.

Under Morozov’s guidance, the 22-year-old Ando has flourished this season, winning two Grand Prix events and earning a silver medal at the Grand Prix final in Tokyo last month.

Ando is the only woman to complete a quadruple jump in competition, hitting one at the 2002 junior Grand Prix final. While there has been speculation she will attempt one in Vancouver, Morozov said it’s unlikely.

“She is capable of doing it anytime,” Morozov said. “I’ve seen her do four in practice but she isn’t 15 anymore and has so much else to work on in her routine.”

Morozov also coaches Nobunari Oda, one of three Japanese men who will compete in Vancouver, and American-Japanese ice dancers Cathy and Chris Reed, who will also represent Japan at the Olympics.

Japanese fans are desperate for another figure skating gold following Arakawa’s win in Turin. Figure skating is one of the few sports where Japan is expected to medal in Vancouver.

“Everyone wants a gold but it won’t be easy,” Morozov said. “Japan got spoiled with Arakawa and wants it to happen again.”

Morozov competed in the ice dancing event at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. After his retirement from competitive skating, he became a coaching assistant to Tatiana Tarasova, who now coaches Asada.