Goku Endo: Recentered, refocused, realized

By Lindsay Wang, Team FSO contributing writer
Photos by Robin Ritoss and Audrey Lu

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles on skaters who are competing with their colleges or universities in U.S. Figure Skating’s Collegiate/Intercollegiate Skating. 

Goku Endo, 21, a student at UCLA, has medaled from 2021-23 at the U.S. Collegiate Championships, including gold in 2021. He represented the U.S. at the 2023 World University Games, where he finished 12th. He also skates with the UCLA Skating Club at intercollegiate events and competed with them at the National Intercollegiate Final from 2022-2024.

Outside of collegiate and intercollegiate skating, he has also competed at two senior U.S. Championships (17th in 2023, 10th in 2024) and competed at the ISU Challenger Series event, Golden Spin of Zagreb this past December.

Endo, who trains with Ivan Dinev and Angela Nikodinov in Los Angeles, recently spoke with his training mate, Lindsay Wang, the 2023 U.S. Collegiate silver medalist.

Maybe it was the bright lights, maybe it was just an off day, but Goku Endo “crumbled” under the weight of a home-state U.S Championships in San Jose in his debut senior season in 2023. “Horrified” from his performance, the then-college sophomore couldn’t hang up his skates for the season just yet, with the Intercollegiate Championships Final approaching on yet another home turf. “My best friends from LA drove up to San Jose to come support me, so they joined my car on the way back (home). We started the drive with tears of devastation but in just five hours of talking, laughing and singing in the car, I felt refreshed and ready to keep practicing for the next competition.”

Redirecting the disappointment into motivation, Endo and the UCLA Collegiate Skating team were able to repeat as High Team Maneuver National Champions at the 2023 Intercollegiate Championships Final in Anaheim, a great “high” to finish off his “difficult season.” Endo dedicates the quick turn-over to his friends, who he refers to as his “greatest support system,” many of whom he met through U.S. Figure Skating’s Collegiate and Intercollegiate skating programs. Collegiate skating is a rebirth of opportunity for athletes to continue skating past high school, which Endo says revitalized his love for the sport. “Without collegiate and intercollegiate skating, I don’t think I would’ve had the motivation to keep skating in college as I’d initially made a decision to focus on my education when I got accepted into UCLA.”

Attending the University of California Los Angeles with a major in PsychoBio, Endo balances an intense academic workload and schedule, commuting through LA traffic to campus as well as to his training base in Lakewood, California, where he skates and recently began coaching the next generation of young talent. “It’s still a work in progress and I struggle a lot with getting enough sleep.” However, Endo wouldn’t trade anything for it- and is rather “relishing the joy of watching his students improve and working through any obstacles. It’s weird, seeing a mirror of my younger self in these young skaters.” 

For his programs of the 23-24 season, there were several tributes to young Goku. His short for the 23-24 season was a reinvented version of the “Roxanne” free program that earned him the Novice National Champion title in San Jose back in 2018. Bringing back the piece also brought back the associated good memories, which “remind(ed) himself of where he started.” Once redirected away from Romeo and Juliet for its intense theme, when he returned to the free skate idea in early Spring of 2023, his coaching team supported him in the mature look for his sophomore senior season. These programs and his consistency throughout a series of competitions, including earning the inaugural Kings Cup International title and the Pacific Coast Sectional Final title proved that he was ready for more- A Team USA jacket and a Challenger series assignment to Zagreb, his first-ever since his last international appearance on the 2017 JGP circuit. “Being recognized for an international at the highest level has really been fun to experience.” There, Goku finished with a top-ten placement, and was “optimistic” moving into preparation for the 2024 U.S. National Championships in Columbus, Ohio. 

“I tried to work on trying to stay present in every competition I participated in,” he describes the mental lead-up to the 2024 U.S. Nationals. Goku describes himself as a skater who “gains experience and learns from competitions,” and putting himself through the trials and tribulations of three qualification series (Collegiate, Intercollegiate, and National Qualifying Series) he was able to reassess his “attitude, approach, and consistency,” figuring out what worked and what didn’t. Columbus, to Goku, was “a big step forward” in terms of overall performance and program content. It was a “180 from San Jose,” where he put out a personal-best short program, a solid freeskate, and reached a top-ten finish amongst the top Senior men in the country. Where Goku’s skating has always been a delight to the audience, his performances in Ohio stood out to him as ones where he truly felt like he could “have fun and skate freely on the ice.” 

Rallying from a redemptive season, Endo is heading into the next with an immense amount of “growth and experience in all fields,” he recounts. While set to graduate from UCLA next spring and looking forward to all of his exciting next steps, Endo keeps his eyes steady on the incoming season and all that is to come with goals to “land a quad, perform it successfully in competition, and continue to deliver solid programs consistently.” He will be gearing up for his final Intercollegiate season, which will be “incredibly difficult to part with,” being something that gave him incredible fortitude, resilience and “camaraderies of a lifetime.” 

It’s clear that to Endo, a small hiccup in the road may just be a redirection, a chance to re-center, re-focus, and realize all your biggest goals and dreams. 

Stay tuned to our next feature in our U.S. Figure Skating’s Collegiate/Intercollegiate Skating series.