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Upcoming Asian Americans in Ice Skating

Stories behind Ellie Kawamura, Dice (Daisuke) Murakami and Dennis Phan
Written by Sylvia Rodemeyer

 

In 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.

A 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 is normal.
Under the watchful eye of their coach, Tammy Gambill, each is able to express themselves and continue to improve their skills.
 
18 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 Bled, Slovenia.
 

DENNIS TRAN PHAN

Dennis 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.

Phan’s 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.

  LINKS
  Dennis Phan Day
  Website
  Article

Since 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 international competition.

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.

 
 
12 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.

Dice Murakami

Dice 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.

He 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.”

Murakami 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.

Note: 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 of 2004.

Ellie

Kawamura 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.

Before 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).

   
 
9 year old Ellie Kamawura took first place at the SouthWest Pacific Regional to qualify her for her first trip to Junior Nationals.
 
   

Kawamura

On 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.

Because of her title, Kawamura will be part of the team sent to Arizona in Dec. to compete at the U.S Junior National Championships.

This will be her first trip to a competition of this caliber and her goal is to skate clean programs.

 

The New England Amateur Skating Foundation has established a tax-deductible fund for nationally ranked skaters.

Donations can be made in the skater's name to help cover his or her expenses.

Send to:
NEASF
P.O. Box 6881
Providence, R.I. 02940

Because 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.

In order to help out with expenses Southwest Airlines donated two airline tickets, Starbucks is donating coffee, and America’s Tire Company, Del Taco, Arrowhead Credit Union and Rancho Physical Therapy and Capezio all donated money to the event. The event is also sponsored by the Riverside Press-Enterprise, and Charter Cable. It will air on Charter Cable in December.

If you are interested in seeing these and other Asian American skaters in action, A Celebration Of Champions will be held November 9 at 8:00pm, there are still tickets and sponsorship available.

Contact Dawn Morgan at IceTownPR@aol.com or (909) 637-3070, ext. 56 for more information. Without this public support these skater’s futures would be in jeopardy.

After this fundraiser the skaters will be head off to their different competitions to continue on their quests for National glory.

 

 

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