Skating NJ siblings represent Japan, Georgia 

If the ice dancing teams from Japan and Georgia wind up sharing the rink during warmups at the Olympics, watch out. Some fierce trash-talking is bound to break out.

The three Reed siblings of Warren, N.J., burst into laughter at that image. Joking aside, they'll feel only pride when a journey spanning four continents finally brings them together — on their sport's biggest stage, and in the first time they've competed against each other.

Cathy, 22, and Chris, 20, will represent Japan in Vancouver; their mother is Japanese, and they have dual citizenship. Allison, 15, will skate for the former Soviet republic of Georgia, the home country of partner Otar Japaridze.

"It's amazing how it all worked out," Cathy said.

Nine years ago, she and Chris certainly didn't seem destined for the Olympics. Both competed in singles figure skating, but never advanced beyond local events.

"My jumps, my spins were just not working," Cathy said.

Then a coach suggested ice dancing. Cathy had done ballet growing up, but Chris had no background in dance; soccer and karate were his activities of choice.

"When I first saw it, it's two people just skating," he said.

"What is this?" he thought. "This is so easy."

Not really. Chris was much shorter than his older sister at the time, so their lifts were more like him briefly throwing her in the air.

But the sport certainly proved more natural to the Reeds than those jumps and spins, and before they knew it they were finishing 10th at junior nationals.

Still, they were a long way from the sport's highest level.

In 2004, the pair just missed qualifying for nationals, and their family had a decision to make. Should they go all in on this skating dream?

The chance to work with coaches Nikolai Morozov and Shae-Lynn Bourne meant the kids would have to be home-schooled. That was actually an appealing prospect to Cathy and Chris, who had moved around a lot as kids because of their father's job at a pharmaceutical firm before the family settled in Warren in 1998. The Reeds had lived everywhere from Kalamazoo, Mich., to Hong Kong, from Cincinnati to Australia.

Their improvement was quick and dramatic under their new coaches: The Reeds won their division at nationals in 2006. They had the right personalities for the sport, Morozov said.

"You have to work really, really hard and be really, really patient," he said.

Still, the Reeds had little chance of competing internationally for the United States anytime soon because of the country's depth in ice dancing. Enter the Japan option: The Reeds found themselves good enough to almost immediately be the top team in Japan, yet not good enough that U.S. officials would try to block the move.

They hope to increase the popularity of ice dancing in Japan, where they are often asked in interviews which elements fans should pay attention to. They try to explain that there isn't really the equivalent of a jump or spin, that what's important is the overall impact of the performance.

Their original dance may help make that point: It's a Japanese folk dance complete with authentic kimonos and fans.

Unlike Cathy and Chris, sister Allison got an early start in ice dancing simply by following them into it. By age 11 or so she was already an elite ice dancer, but there was one problem. She didn't have a partner.

Her height — or lack thereof — had a lot to do with that. In a sport where the partners must look right together, she was just too short at 4-foot-10. For a while, she didn't skate much.

"It wasn't as motivational for me to keep doing ice dance because I had nowhere to go at that moment," she said.

Then Allison found out that Japaridze, who also trained in New Jersey, was seeking a new partner. It's not unusual in ice dancing for a skater to team up with a partner from another country and compete for that nation.

In September, they went to an Olympic qualifying event in Germany that would determine the final five teams in Vancouver. It was Allison's first international competition — and first competition with a partner. They nabbed the fifth and final spot.

In less than a year, Allison went from not having a partner to going to the Olympics along with her brother and sister.

"It just came out perfect," said their mother, Noriko Reed. "It's amazing how things can change in your life."

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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