Yurika Ando: "Skating abroad has changed my life"


Yurika Ando is 22 years old and grew up in Shiga, Japan. A year and a half ago, she left her family to live her dream in Germany. Back on her career and her experience with her new team, Team Berlin 1.

How did you start skating?

Yurika: In my hometown in Japan, there was an ice rink, and my mom took me there when I was 9. Until then, I had been doing ballet, but quickly realized that I preferred skating. So I stopped ballet and devoted myself to figure skating.

Have you skated in another team before joining Team Berlin 1?

I started with figure skating. Then, at 14, I discovered synchronized skating, and I liked it. So I started training with Team Kansai Synchro Lovers. I skated for 6 years with this team and won the Japan National Championship in the junior category 3 times.

Why did you choose to skate for Team Berlin 1?

I chose to skate for Team Berlin 1 because I was a big fan of this team. It has always been my dream. For one year, I was on an exchange student in Germany, where I continued to train twice a week individually. So, I already knew the country and the language, and it definitely helped me to make my decision to join this team.


What were the biggest changes between Japan and Germany that you faced?

Even though I was already able to speak German when I moved to Berlin, the vocabulary of skating was totally new to me. Sometimes I still have a hard time understanding our coach, but my teammates are always there to help me understand!

In my first season, I was living with a teammate who was also a foreign skater. Living with someone who was in the same situation and had more experience than me has helped me a lot to get used to my new life and the team routine.

Is it easy to immigrate?

To immigrate to Germany, I need a VISA, which I renew every year. It's hard to get one, and every year it's a stressful time. I still don't know how many years I would skate with this team, but I want to stay here to skate and learn as much as possible.

Tell us about your first season with Team Berlin 1. How are the training sessions going? Was the transition difficult?

We are training five days a week. When we aren't on the ice, we do ballet, dance, and physical training. The number of practices and the way of skating were probably the biggest changes between my old team and here.

It wasn't easy to start training with a new team. Most of my new teammates had a lot more experience than me. I had hardly experienced the senior level before. So there were so many new things that I had to discover and acquire. It was a new challenge, but I was excited to take it on.

However, I have to say that my first season was quite difficult. Mainly because training in a whole new environment made me uncomfortable, and I lost confidence in myself. I also experienced a serious injury for the first time in my life. Despite this, I really enjoyed my first season!

Do you have a good team bonding between the different teams of Team Berlin?

Yes! Some of our Senior skaters teach our Juvenile and Novice teams. Many of our skaters have skated in our Novice team, then Junior, and finally are now in our Senior team.

Now let's talk about Covid-19. How did you experience the announcement of the cancellation of the 2020 World Championships?

Obviously, this was such disappointing news. It should have been my first World Championship. But I fully understood the situation, and I think it was an inevitable decision.

Has the pandemic affected your preparation?

We weren't able to skate until the end of July. In the meantime, we did other workouts like dance lessons and outdoor sports. Fortunately, we were able to have our annual summer camp in the Czech Republic. That's where we create our programs every year.

Your team has announced that you will keep one of the programs from the previous season. Can you tell us more?

I can't tell you which of our programs we're keeping yet, but you'll find out soon! The reason why we are keeping one of our programs from last season is obviously linked to COVID-19. It was a disappointment for us not to show our program at Worlds because we really loved skating it. We have already made some adjustments to it; it has become even more creative and attractive. We can't wait to show it to you!

Did you have the chance to come back to Japan to see your family, or did you stay in Germany to make sure you can skate?

Our ice rink closed right after the World Championships were cancelled, so I immediately went home to Japan. It was a tough decision because I did not know when I would have the opportunity to see my teammates again. In fact, I couldn't even say goodbye to them. In the end, I ended up staying in Japan for three months, and it was nice to be able to spend time with my family.

Team Berlin 1 at the last Spring Cup in Italy. (Credits: Ru-Pho - 2020)

What are your personal and team goals for this season?

My goal this year is of course to skate at the World Championships. This is the competition I have dreamed of for a long time and I believe, I hope anyway, that it will happen this year.

As a team we want to be even better than last year and show our best performances at competitions. At the same time, we want to enjoy the most of our sport!

How do you stay positive about the situation due to COVID-19?

Honestly, I don't know if there will be any competitions this season or not. The only thing we can do is believe and hope that there are competitions to be prepared. I think the "live stream" competition might be the best solution.

I still remember how difficult it was not to be able to skate during the lockdown. Now, every time I step on the ice, I realize my happiness. This is how I remain positive, even though COVID-19 is not yet eradicated or at least under control.

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A message to conclude?

Leaving Japan and going skating abroad has changed my life. It is a great challenge and a great adventure. If you're thinking of skating for the team of your dreams, gather your courage, and go for it! Once you step into this new world, you won't regret it.

Since this interview, Germany entered a new month-long lockdown, and Team Berlin has announced that they can no longer practice on ice by the end of November. Yurika took the opportunity to return to visit her family in Japan.