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Life of Oi: Japanese skater reports from Osaka

Former U.S competitor takes readers behind the scenes at Four Continents

Bryna Oi and Taiyo Mizutani are in their second season competing together.
Bryna Oi and Taiyo Mizutani are in their second season competing together. (Getty Images)

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By Bryna Oi, special to icenetwork.com
(02/07/2013) - Bryna Oi is a former U.S. ice dancer who now competes for Japan. She kept a journal for icenetwork.com at the 2013 Four Continents Championships.

Sunday, Feb. 10

Following a much-appreciated chance to sleep, we were off to the practice arena in the morning. Afterward, we missed the bus back to the hotel that we were planning to take, so we decided to walk over to the main rink instead of waiting the extra half hour until the next one from the practice rink left. Although the directions between the two rinks are incredibly short and simple, I still managed to almost miss a turn that would have taken us on a detour and caused us to miss this bus, too. Luckily, my partner, Taiyo Mizutani, has a better sense of direction than I do, and we made it with a few minutes to spare.

With well over an hour before the start of the ladies short program, we started driving away, only to see an insanely large line of people waiting for the front doors of the arena to open. Seriously, it's amazing how much fans here love skating. And they were right to be so excited for it: There were a lot of great programs, with the Japanese and American skaters covering six of the top seven spots.

With the love of skating from the crowd so obvious, it's always great to see skaters so clearly enjoying themselves as well, which was definitely the case with Misha [Ge]'s program, in which he had a built-in deduction for lyrics. It was pretty impossible not to smile during that footwork sequence, and I'm glad he gets to skate in the exhibition, where he's actually allowed to use lyrics.

Saturday, Feb. 9

Today was a painfully early morning, with my alarm going off at 4:30 am. I was still half asleep as I got myself ready, until I accidentally burned my finger on my curling iron. I don't think I function properly until I've had a cup of coffee. Or two. But after that, I was certainly more alert, and the rest of the morning and practice went smoothly.

Although we didn't skate our best short dance when it came time to compete, the audience was so enthusiastic, and it was such a joy to get to perform for them. It's one of my favorite things about skating here in Japan. We actually made it to the draw this time and drew to skate fourth. Hopefully, we'll skate our free dance a bit more like we do in practice.

For the rest of the day, I got to rest and watch some of the pairs and men's events. It was so exciting to get to watch everyone skate! It's pretty amazing to see how many fans hold up flags for the countries of skaters from all over, not just Japan. Getting a bit nervous as I watched some of them skate, I was reminded that sometimes I think it's almost easier to be on the ice than in the stands watching.

It's been a long day ... good night!

Friday, Feb. 8

Walking through the back hallways of the practice arena, my partner, Taiyo, and I noticed that it smelled a bit like chlorine. It turns out that it doubles as a swimming pool for part of the year. There are even diving boards hidden behind a curtain on one end of the ice surface!

As we started to warm up, we jogged through an area that has floor-length windows that let us see outside. We ended up passing a couple of older ladies practicing martial arts right outside the building. It was really interesting to watch, and even more tempting to join them and have that be our warm-up for the practice session. But we kept with our normal routine, which I guess was a good choice because our practice went well.

Clueless about the draw later in the day, we missed it. Turns out we get to skate first tomorrow; I guess that's what happens when we're not there to draw for ourselves!

Also, it seems that competitions always happen to coincide with everyone's birthdays, and this one is no exception. Our warm-up group alone for short dance has two skaters celebrating birthdays this week: Marien De La Asuncion's was Wednesday, and Danielle O'Brien's was yesterday.

Can't wait to start off the competition tomorrow!

Thursday, Feb. 7

Konnichiwa!

After a wonderfully uneventful day of traveling, my partner and I finally arrived here in Osaka late Wednesday night. My flights have a tendency to get delayed or cancelled -- once, my luggage even managed to travel around the world for a couple months before finding me again -- so I was especially appreciative of the lack of notable happenings during our 13-hour flight into Nagoya or the series of trains we took to get from there to Osaka.

On our way up to our rooms, we ran into Yuzuru [Hanyu] before passing out.

Following a surprisingly good night's sleep, considering the 14-hour time difference, we had a couple of practice sessions today. They both went well, and since they were too close together to go back to the hotel in between, we got to stay and watch some of the men's practices. The practice rink and main rink are only a few minutes walk apart, and both are absolutely gorgeous arenas.

On another note, I was disappointed to find that I'm still having difficulties getting my phone to work here. While it has been perfectly fine in other countries, including Japan last year, for some reason it just decided I shouldn't be texting or calling people while at competitions here anymore. Technology and I don't always get along so well, so I figured it was just my own ineptness that was causing this issue. I was a bit relieved then to hear that Ross [Miner] has also been having the same problem with his phone service here. I guess this time it might not be my fault after all.

Everyone looks great, and I'm excited to get to watch all the events this weekend!