We’ve heard about “tiger moms,” but overzealous Japanese mothers may also the driving force behind the success of the figure skaters representing their country at the Olympics.

Olympic newcomer Kanako Murakami put it most bluntly, saying that “scary moms” are the reason behind Japan’s achievements in figure skating.

The three women representing Japan at Sochi all hail from Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, the same region that produced the country’s first Olympic medalist, Midori Ito.

“The mothers in Aichi are very enthusiastic,” the 19-year-old said. “Some of them are very scary actually. It’s not just the coaches who crack the whip but those mothers.”

Murakami will compete at the Winter Games along with figure skaters Mao Asada and Akiko Suzuki. Both are in their second Olympics.

“I’ve heard a lot about Ito,” Murakami said. “We have the same coach … She’s my idol and the person I respect the most.”

Ito won the silver in 1992, becoming the first Olympic medalist for figure skating in Japan and the first Asian woman to win a world figure skating title.

Murakami says she has nothing but respect for Akiko and Mao. “They are like my big sisters. I feel very relieved and happy to be here with them. My coach told me to enjoy my first Olympics and that’s what I’m doing.”

“There are some scary mothers,” agreed Suzuki, 28, the oldest competitor on the Japanese figure skating team. “But because of that kind of support all of those people create a positive atmosphere so that we can practice.”

Asada, 23, said the skating culture in Nagoya had been a strong influence.

“When I was a child there were so many people skating, so many I admired and who I was able to skate with. The experience I had as a child is the reason I’m here today.”

Asada became the first woman to land the triple axel three times at one event in Vancouver but said she was not planning to attempt three in Sochi.

Suzuki said she was just happy to be back at an Olympics which will also be her last. “I had to overcome a lot to get here,” she said. “I don’t want to leave with any regrets. I want to leave with a smile.”

By Maesie Bertumen

Image of Akiko Suzuki, the senior member of the team: theiceandtheedge.com