just over a decade Asian Americans have become a force to be reckoned
with in figure skating. Champions Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan may
very well be the most recognizable names in the sport from the 1990’s.
Poised to follow in their path are Ellie Kawamura, Dice (Daisuke) Murakami
and Dennis Phan. These three skaters train in Riverside, California and
have had much success in their season thus far.
typical day for Phan, Kawamura and Murakami begins with an early morning
freestyle session that takes place before most people wake. Their dedication
could be perceived as extraordinary, but in this group of skaters, this
Under the watchful eye of their coach, Tammy Gambill, each is able to
express themselves and continue to improve their skills.
year old Dennis Phan is enjoying the best year of his skating
career. After winning the U.S. National Junior Men's title,
Phan won the Gardena Spring Trophy in Italy, and recently
brought back a silver medal from the Junior Grand Prix in
Tran Phan’s skating career has taken him from the California
Desert, to the mountains of Lake Arrowhead and all the way to the
depths or Bulgaria and Slovenia. He’s done more traveling
than most people five times is age, but still counts last year’s
National Championships in Dallas (Where he won the junior national
title), as one of his favorite journeys. In fact, Dallas is the
place of his birth and he hadn’t been back to visit since
he moved to California in 1986.
mother Tina was born in Bien Bhoa, Vietnam and owns a beauty salon
in Palm Desert, the city her son began his skating career in. The
Palm Desert Town Center was the place Tina first brought Phan, now
18, to skate and his skill flourished from there. Soon after, the
rink was turned into Westfield Mall and Dennis began skating at
Icetown, Riverside and Ice Castle in Blue Jay.
working with Gambill and choreographer Phillip Mills, Phan has been
to five consecutive National Championships and has medaled twice.
Because of his National’s win last season he was selected to
represent the US in Italy at the Gardena Spring Trophy, a very prestigious
He took the title there over many skaters with
much more experience, proving his ever-growing command of the sport.
This season Phan is competing at the Senior level for the first
time and recently finished 2nd in a Junior Grand Prix event in Bled,
Slovenia. His next competition is Pacific Coast Sectionals in November.
year old Diasuke "Dice" Murakami has only been skating
for 3 1/2 years. Dice took first place at the SouthWest Pacific
Regional at the Novice level.
Murakami says he’s lucky to be in the US, but the reality
is, the US is lucky to have him. His bright, charismatic personality
and vast talent make him a crowd favorite at any competition. Murakami
has only been in America for less than three years. He and his family
visited San Diego when he was 9 years old and when they returned
to Tokyo they won a green card through a lottery and decided to
move here. He is still a Japanese citizen.
It isn’t surprising that Murakami is so athletic. His mother
Mutsuko was a gymnast and his father, Yukio was involved in karate.
Dice has tried both of his parent’s sports, but states, “If
I do karate, I’ll break my bone,” making skating a better
sport for him.
After only three years on the ice, this twelve-year old is headed
for his second National Championship if he performs well at the
upcoming Pacific Coast Sectionals, this year at the Novice level.
Earlier this season he competed in his first international in a
segment of the North American Challenge in Edmonton, Canada.
misses the snow in Japan, but is enjoying southern California. He
is in 7th grade at the private school La Sierra Academy and plays
the trumpet in his school’s band. He now lives in Corona.
His advice to all skaters is don’t put pressure on yourself,
just go out and have fun. “I just go out and skate like in
practice.” He says. But the most compelling aspect of his
personality is his awareness of what he has been able to do. Speaking
about is NAC experience, “It was fun representing Team USA
to have that opportunity to represent our country.”
has lofty goals in the sport, but judging by his quick rise through
the ranks, his goal to be on the 2010 US Olympic team might not
be that far-fetched.
Landing three double axels in one competition is impressive at any
age, but accomplishing that at the age of 10 is quite a spectacular
feat. Not only did Ellie Kawamura manage that, but those three double
axels helped her win every phase of the recent Southwest Regional
Championship at the Juvenile level.
Dice Murakami took 2nd place at 2004' Pacific Coast Sectionals that
earned him a trip to the U.S. Nationals in Atlanta, Georgia in January
is Japanese-American, and the daughter of Satomi and Yasu. Her parents
are originally from Japan and currently live in Hacienda Heights.
Ellie’s mother once competed in motor-boat racing, quite different
than her daughter’s training on the ice. Ellie’s father
recently opened his own dry cleaning business.
beginning work with Gambill in January of this year, Kawamura trained
in Pasadena with Victoria Stratton and the renowned Sondra Holmes
(who recommended Gambill’s coaching).
old Ellie Kamawura took first place at the SouthWest Pacific
Regional to qualify her for her first trip to Junior Nationals.
the ice, Ellie is serious and hardworking (as her competition record
attests to), but off the ice she is carefree and full of smiles-
as the average 5th grader should be.
of her title, Kawamura will be part of the team sent to Arizona
in Dec. to compete at the U.S Junior National Championships.
will be her first trip to a competition of this caliber and her
goal is to skate clean programs.
New England Amateur Skating Foundation has established a tax-deductible
fund for nationally ranked skaters.
can be made in the skater's name to help cover his or her expenses.
P.O. Box 6881
Providence, R.I. 02940
accomplishments of Dice, Dennis and Ellie are not only an inspiration
to Asian Americans, but to everyone. Unfortunately
continuing in skating is forever a challenge. While no one can question
the dedication of the skater’s, finding the funds to keep them in
expensive skates and securing them adequate training time with renowned
coaches is a struggle for most families.
of these costs, promoter Dawn Morgan has organized Celebration of Champions
at Icetown in Riverisde, an annual show where the proceeds go to fund
skater’s who are on the road to National’s. Murakami, Kawamura
and Phan will all be participating in this show.