Ice Network

Kuchiki takes pride in mentoring aspiring skaters

Former U.S. pairs champion brings valued experience to coaching
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Natasha Kuchiki relishes the opportunities to share her professional insight with young skaters like Chloe Hsu. -Courtesy of Natasha Kuchiki

After achieving considerable success as a competitive skater, Natasha Kuchiki decided it was time to seek outside opportunities.

Upon retiring from competition in 1994, Kuchiki -- who earned pairs gold at the 1991 U.S. Figure Skating Championships with partner Todd Sand and competed at the Olympic Winter Games the next year -- opted to pursue a career in show skating. Following two decades as a performer, Kuchiki concluded that chapter in her life in 2015 and immediately turned her attention to coaching.

Now living near Houston, the 1991 world bronze medalist is coaching at three rinks and following the path her father, Sashi Kuchiki, carved as an expert skate sharpener.

"It's interesting how life evolves and works out," said Kuchiki, who skated her final performances with Disney on Ice -- where she performed the roles of Jasmine and Mulan for the 100 Years of Magic show -- in April 2015.

"You can never take the performer out of the person," she added. "I definitely miss it, but I know what's right for my body. You know when it's time. I was very happy with my decision. I traveled all over the world, more than 40 countries, and put smiles on people's faces. It was very fulfilling."

Throughout her performing career, Kuchiki was asked to do pairs/adagio work, but she preferred singles skating because it provided her with independence and stability. As a coach, however, she's happy to put her knowledge of both disciplines to good use.

"I am about wanting to help the skaters become better," Kuchiki said. "There's nothing better for me than getting someone to accomplish their goals, whether I'm secondary or primary coach. I have a lot of clientele, and I love working with them."

At the Sugar Land Ice & Sports Center, Kuchiki co-coaches with fellow Olympian Kitty Carruthers Conrad, working on everything from spinning to moves in the field, choreography to skate sharpening. In addition to the Sugar Land rink, Kuchiki works at two other locations, and the rhythm of constantly moving about feels familiar.

"I feel like my father," the 40-year-old said. "My dad used to go everywhere in Los Angeles. He would go up to Lake Arrowhead, then Torrance, Paramount, Pickwick. He would even drive to Phoenix to sharpen skates. I find myself driving to different rinks around Houston and thinking about him."

With the Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, on the horizon, Kuchiki reflected on her Olympic experience in Albertville, France. Although she was only 15 and a bit overwhelmed at the time the 1992 Winter Games began, the memories still bring a great source of pride.

"I remember everything," Kuchiki said. "There was a lot of pressure.

"[I remember] going through the big warehouse as a team and getting all of our gear and uniforms," she continued. "The camaraderie and the Olympic spirit were there as well. I tell my students, it awakens you. When you walk out into the opening ceremony…the energy goes through your body and you realize where you are."