It’s finally over. Wait, what?? Already? It seemed like forever waiting for Worlds to happen, the waiting made longer by not seeing Yuzu at Nationals or Grand Prix Final. I chose not to travel to Japan even though I would have been able to get tickets, and I’m ok with that decision because I’m saving up for all the trips next season in hopes to see Yuzu’s quad axel.
So, with the help of the CBC stream, I was able to see all of the events that I wanted, albeit at 2-6am in the morning. Couple that with working full time during the day, let’s just say that this weekend has been about catching up on some much needed sleep. I never once pulled any all nighters during my years in university, yet here I am doing it every season for Yuzu. Crazy priorities I know.
Since the practices were not streamed, and the Japanese events do not allow photos or videos, I don’t have anything to say about practices other than the few photos that the official media released (out of the thousands upon thousands they took) were very nice.
Short Program: Let’s not forget that while Yuzu has said he is 100%, he means that he is 100% of what is possible at this time. He is not fully healed and well, his ankle will never be the same. Ligaments are the worst to rehab. So, anything that Yuzu puts out there is truly a miracle.
Let’s see. A popped quad salchow which netted Yuzu 0 points (invalid element) cost him roughly 12 points, as Brian confirmed. So, that would have put Yuzu roughly in the 107 range (in a virtual tie with Nathan). I don’t usually put a lot of technical analysis in my blog entries because I think that the Japanese media and fans on social media do enough of it. It’s a little “analysis paralysis” to me. Plus, I like my blog to focus on the fun things. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone back and read my old posts and said “oh yeah, I forgot about that!”, such great memories. Programs are always easy to re-watch (albeit harder now that all the youtube videos are being taken down), but the special moments are what I like to document.
The most memorable part of the short program, the best part for me, was the special look that Yuzu gave to Pooh. My heart just did a flutter when he did this, and my mouth dropped open and the audible “awe” sound escaped my lips. Shown here is the official photo and but the stream showed it from the opposite angle so we get the best of both worlds.
One other moment in the short program that grabbed my attention was Shoma’s triple axel. I have never seen such a gorgeous axel from Shoma. My reaction to Shoma’s 3A was the same as Yuzu’s reaction when he heard Shoma’s scores. “Wait, what”??? My stream died for about 5 seconds during the replay of Shoma’s elements, and I almost had heart attack. But, honestly, my first thought was, thank goodness it happened after Yuzu had already skated. Priorities, I know.
The new jump tracker analysis is interesting. I’m not as fascinated by it as some, but it’s pretty cool to see in the replays. I have only one request, perhaps they could show it once instead of 3 times for each skater, and show more time of the skater sitting in the Kiss and Cry? That is what I would enjoy more.
After the short program was all said and done, with the other skaters also making uncharacteristic mistakes, Yuzu still got a small medal with an invalid element. It really seemed to highlight the new scoring system (GOE values) that emphasizes bonus points for quality (a bit more discussion on this further down). So we thought.
I was very happy that the ISU streamed the press conferences as well. This is wonderful content that when they restrict it to the press, we only get one or two sound bites or quotes in the papers (and sometimes out of context) when the athletes usually have said so much more. This accessibility is great for all fans and for the sport! The best part of the press conference for me was after Yuzu complimented Nathan and the translator finished translating his comments, he turned to Nathan and gave him the patented nose wrinkle. You know you have hit the big time when you get one of these personally from Yuzu.
Long Program: The first thing I noticed were the spirals from Kolyada and Morisi! We need to get a couple of these from Yuzu in his long program!!
Some random thoughts:
Kolyada: very cute head nod at end, I was very happy for him
Vincent: had 32+ TES points after first 2 jumps. I like this program for Vincent. It really shows his growth as a skater. Jeff Buttle choreographed this program.
Shoma: looked tired before he even started
Yuzu on the ice. Queue the faster heart rate and the tension and anxiety. My favorite part of this program is the double head bob at the start. All Yuzu fans know what this photo is even if they see it out of context.
Well, it wasn’t perfect but it was pretty darn good. Under that kind of pressure, with a wonky ankle, there is no one that could have done better. Yuzu mouthing the word “tadaima = I’m home” at end of his program was touching.
Welcome back 200+ and 300+!!
Nathan had the unenviable position of skating after Yuzu. To skate like he did after hearing Yuzu’s scores took a lot of mental strength.
Not much to say about the medal ceremony other than Vincent looking like he was in total shock on the podium. It was unassuming and innocent. It was funny, he was a bit star struck and this continued in press conference (not that anyone asked him much)!
During the picture time afterwards, Yuzu pulled a Shoma!!! Yuzu is always so careful and meticulous in every little detail about everything. This moment was truly priceless! Yuzu missing Shoma (calling out for him when he was alone taking photos), and this moment really made me smile!!
This moment is the first and probably the last time we will ever see this!! Yuzu is holding his medal backwards, ala Shoma!!! When I saw the video, I wasn’t sure and hoped someone captured it and sure enough with all the press photographers on hand, here it is. On the video, I also saw Yuzu quickly discovering that he made this tiny booboo and he fixed it for the next photo that was taken. Nice little obscure shout out to Shoma! Haha.
Just putting this protocol shot here to record it. I don’t want to go into the whole judging debate other than to say once again that it’s not the scoring system that is faulty. It’s that the judges are making decisions on PCS marks that are purely subjective and not following the rules that govern what the scores (GOE bonuses) are supposed to mean. No amount of screaming online or arguing about it will change it. It sucks but the skaters deal with it, and I will too.
I will say though that if you look at the spirit of the new judging system, it is supposed to reward quality over technical quantity. Before this world championships, earlier in the season, I might have said that it appeared to be sort of working. However, what should have been an obvious PCS advantage for Yuzu has been nullified by subjective scoring. Just because a skater can land a technically difficult jump doesn’t mean that the PCS should increase accordingly. The point system is in place to make a difference, it’s just not being applied correctly. There really should not be only 1 point difference between Nathan and Yuzu in terms of quality of skating skills etc (PCS). That’s just crazy. Enough said.
The impact of the worlds’ results will have more far reaching impacts. Now that Yuzu has seen what the judges are doing (right or wrong), it is now fuelling the fire in him to up the ante and add more technical content. Yuzu was already planning this with the quad axel but to hear him say in 2 different conversations that he will add the quad lutz back and add a quad flip really makes me stand at attention and say “wait, what?”
Yuzu was calm and very committed to his future plan (albeit indicating he will pay very careful attention to possibility of injury). I tend to believe that Yuzu is saying this using the facts that are presented to him (protocol sheets) and not just purely out of the emotion of the current event and results.
Yuzu pointed out that he lost both segments of the competition and therefore lost overall. Even if he had not popped that quad salchow in the short, he still would not have won. So many factors in this, it’s not just cut and dry, especially not for him.
Onto the press conference. Again, thankful they showed this part!
During the opening comments, Vincent made me laugh. He really is not used to these pressers yet. Love the use of the word “friggen”. I heard “fricken” but hey, we all know what he meant! Haha.
Press Conference quote (courtesy of @rockerskating): Zhou: This is the best result that I could possibly hope for. To share the podium with friggin Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu is absolutely incredible. To be able to compete and perform here in Japan is such an honor.
Press Conference quote (courtesy of @rockerskating): Hanyu: I would definitely like to do a 4A. I promise that I will do it in competition, otherwise there would be no meaning to it. I also need to monitor my injury and figure out what kind of training is needed. I want to do 4A, 4Lz, and 4F.
Awhile ago, Yuzu was asked if he would ever do a full quad program, and he pointed at Gogolev and said that it would be Gogolev to do it. Sounds like he is rethinking that answer.
The part of the press conference that will forever hold a special place in my memory is Yuzu throwing shade. This was awesome!! I know social media was divided about it, but I took it how it was intended by Yuzu. He wasn’t directing it at anyone and there was no ill will behind it. It was a normal part of sports folks!!
Yuzu: “Only when you win Olympics can you call yourself a true champion.” Oh Snap!! This was another one of my “wait, what?” moments when I heard it. You know when you don’t sleep for over 24 hours, you start to wonder if you heard correctly but sure enough, he said it (at least that’s how the translator said it).
I was proud of Yuzu for saying this. A lot of times, things get lost in translation and mis-understood by different cultures, but this was just the best diss I have ever heard from Yuzu. It’s nice to see a comment from an athlete that is not the standard media trained basic cliche!! Go Yuzu Go!!
Other priceless moments:
The “oh, shit!” moment when Brian supposed to be with Jason is one of the best moments in the competition. So glad the mic picked up on it!!
Yuzu hit another few milestones at Worlds. He became the first person to pass the 200 and 300 point thresholds, again!! He was the skater that accomplished this feat in the old scoring system too!! I would love to be able to say Yuzu was the first to hit the 100 mark in the new scoring system like he did in the old, but Shoma beat him to the punch in the new system by virtue of skating in an earlier competition.
So, in the first season of the new scoring system, Yuzu has broken 6 World Records which brings his total to 18 world records overall. Not bad for one seasons work. Yuzu still holds the World Record for the Short Program score (110.53) but Nathan is currently the Long Program and Overall Score world record holder.
I’m going to close off this blog entry with one more of Yuzu’s great quotes “Losing is as good as death” Because I am as competitive as Yuzu, I love it!!
This morning, I spoke to Nam on a press call about his preparation leading up to Worlds next week.
In between Canadians and 4CC, Nam was very ill and thus it severely affected his training time and results at 4CC. After the high of Canadians, he had a bit of a physical crash and was super sick. However since then, Nam said that his training has been very good and for the past couple weeks, he has had strong run throughs of his programs. He is mentally and physically ready to go.
I asked Nam what his goals for this Worlds were, and he replied, “I joke around with friends and say my goal is just to make it past the short!” referring to last years worlds results. This brought out a small chuckle from me as it was nice that he was able to joke and be comfortable about the past.
Nam then went on to say he wanted to skate 2 solid/strong programs and to finish in the top 10. He wants to keep the momentum he has been building going, and keep his positive mind frame, Good goals for a skater who has just reclaimed his National title!
When asked further about his top 10 goal, Nam replied that results were not his priority, they never were but he believes in his skills and if he skates a solid short and long program, the results will he there. He is focusing on things he can control.
I wish Nam the best of luck and really want him to crack the top 10 for himself and for Canada!!!!
With all of the one year Olympic Anniversary posts on the internet, I figured it was time to do an update on a blog entry I did about 4 years ago about Yuzu’s competition costumes. Each off season we all wonder what Yuzu will bring to the table the next season; what music choices he will make and of course what new costumes!! While I am not the fashion police, I have my own personal thoughts and preferences about Yuzu’s costumes so here is a rundown on the last 4 seasons.
2018-2019: SP Otonal and LP Origin
I have mentioned this before in my previous posts that I was a bit underwhelmed at the reveal of the blue Otonal costume at ACI. The initial costume was lighter (it did not have the darker blue highlights that were added after ACI). My personal take is that the bodice is cut too short and for me personally, it detracts from his long, lean beautiful look. I am not big on the fluffy details at the neck line or the peplum look at the bottom. Baby blue is ok, but I prefer strong, vivid colours for Yuzu since he is a “Winter” and is already striking to look at, so I want his costumes to match. The design and sparkle of the bling is beautiful, but this costume was a bit of a miss for me. I get that the colour goes with the music but we have seen a blue outfit for 3 versions of Chopin, so I was hoping for something non-blue. I would give this outfit a C+.
The initial reveal for Origin was better. The design and cut of the costume were much better suited for Yuzu’s lean body. The black with gold accents are very intricate and beautiful. Yuzu definitely cannot go wrong with black. Of course the slick back hair style adds a bit of “cool’ to the look. I could do without the feathers but since they are just accents and not overdone, it’s all good. Yuzu came back with the asymmetrical line along the bottom (consistent with his choices throughout the years) and it works well for him. This outfit ranks a A- with me.
2017-2018: SP Chopin 3.0 and LP Seimei 2.0
To be honest I was a bit disappointed when it was announced that Yuzu was going back to Chopin again. For Yuzu and the Olympic year, it turned out to be an amazing decision for Yuzu given the circumstances but for me, the Yuzu fan, it was one less new and unique masterpiece (both in terms of program and costume). As we all know, there are a finite number of new Yuzu competition programs left, so the greedy me wanted a new short program. But as it helped Yuzu win the Olympic gold, I’m good with it. As for the costume itself, Yuzu always finds a way to make what is old, NEW again. I am happy he took the gold panel out of the sides and sleeves and managed to incorporate “gold” into the costume in a subtle yet exquisite detail in the collar. I love that Yuzu kept his signature waistband!! And of course, it’s gold. I give this outfit an A-.
As for Seimei, what can I say here. When I first saw Seimei 2.0 costume live at ACI, I simple fell in LOVE!!! I have documented my thoughts on both Seimei costumes earlier in my blog but basically, version 2.0 was truly a masterpiece, simply perfect for the Olympics! I could not have asked for anything better! The previous Seimei design was fined tuned, the white colour became vibrant, and the outfit is now simply historic! Everything I didn’t like about the original Seimei was corrected (small things like the shade of white and the over detailing of the swirls). It was as if Yuzu read my mind. I remember when this outfit was first debuted at an ice show and it looked a bit like Buzz Lightyear being green and purple, but it evolved into brilliance. Love the gold band waist as usual. This costume is an A+++++ (max +5.0 GOE).
2016-2017: SP Let’s Go Crazy and LP Hope and Legacy
The moment Yuzu came out at ACI, and I looked down and saw white pants, it was one of those wide eyed moments and I remember the feeling of shock. The words out of my mouth were “omg, it’s white”. After the shock of the white pants, I then noticed the slicked back hair style and wow this was going to be a FUN Yuzu!! When Yuzu proceeded to take his warmup jacket off, the audience was blown away. People later complained that they couldn’t see Yuzu’s body lines against the white ice on tv, however, in person the white outfit was stunningly beautiful. After 2 events, we saw Yuzu change it to purple/lavender and I recall my thoughts vividly. I thought Yuzu looked like a purple easter bunny. I wish he would have stayed with the white as I give the white costume an A and I give the purple costume a B.
Hope and Legacy. This costume choice was a bit safe. It was simply too familiar to Etude and also like Notre-Dame de Paris in the design and material, however this time, Hope and Legacy had matching gloves. Yuzu definitely has a flare for the ruffle on his left shoulder. I actually don’t mind that accent piece as it dresses up the costume just enough without being frilly. I will never complain when Yuzu stays with black bottoms. I give the Hope and Legacy outfit a B+, maybe an A- depending on the day you ask me.
2015-2016: SP Chopin 2.0 and LP Seimei 1.0
Chopin 2.0: I remember sitting in the stands watching Yuzu take off his jacket through my camera lens and thinking “oh, it’s the same” but then I noticed the gold patch on the sides and arms. The Chopin 2.0 costume was just ok for me, nothing special. It was like Yuzu wanted it to be something it wasn’t yet, not quite at it’s full potential (of course I am saying that after we saw what Chopin became in version 3.0). The gold panels were a miss for me. I will always love Yuzu’s waistbands and this season he changed it from black (Chopin 1.0) to the gold. I rate this costume a B-.
Seimei: I wrote my thoughts about the Seimei 1.0 outfit in a different post when it debuted at ACI and my impressions still remain the same after all this time. Under certain lights, the white seemed a bit on the yellow side (not vibrant) and all of the detailing was a bit busy. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the Seimei outfit, definitely!! At the time, I was comparing it to the version Yuzu wore at the ice show so I preferred the simpler ice show version. But, from what I recall, Yuzu said that the original material was too heavy and hot to be used in competition. I gave this costume an A-.
So, from all of the competition costumes Yuzu has ever worn, here are my top 5:
Parisian Walkways 2.0
Romeo & Juliet 1.0
Lets Go Crazy 1.0 (white)
Phantom of the Opera 1.0 (red/black) – Honorable Mention
How many more new costumes will we get to see?? As Yuzu has stated, his intention is to compete next season, hopefully we see at least 2 more new costumes and after that, everything else is gravy.
What do I want to see in the future? Well, I’ve made no secret that I would love Yuzu to do a serious rock/heavy metal beat program (Let’s Go Crazy does not count as rock and roll for me). Hey if Reynolds and Brezina can do AC/DC and Metallica, why can’t Yuzu?? Yuzu is so good with strong notes/beats in music that I want him to get out of the same old “soft” programs. We know he is very lyrical, now let’s set him free to be wild and crazy and see what he comes up with!! I want to see the true power of Yuzu with music to match! We have already seen Yuzu go from Boobskirt to simply Regal (and a lot in between), so now I would love to see him go from frills and feathers to jeans and a t-shirt (white or black). He’s already done the jeans/t-shirt combo in some of his older ice shows, so let’s see it when it counts! Something so simple would be so powerful and FUN, no it would be EPIC!!!
It has been 4 years since I started this blog. When I first started out I thought I would be lucky if my family read my posts and I would maybe get half a dozen hits per entry. This journey has now brought me close to my one millionth hit!! (current: 987,200)
According to the wordpress site stats, I have readers from 177 different countries, this is truly amazing!! I am really overwhelmed that enough people enjoy what I write to come back and continue reading more. To all of you, thank you so much!! This is a clear demonstration of how far and wide the name Yuzuru Hanyu is known throughout the world!!!
I am not a professional journalist, nor am I a professional photographer. I am just someone who loves talking sports and enjoys following her favourite athletes! I am willing to go toe to toe with anyone that trash talks Johnny Hockey or Ovie, and I am willing to battle my way through the crazy figure skating fans when event organizers that have Yuzu attending aren’t smart enough to have assigned seating.
This blog started out as a way to document my thoughts on the sports I enjoy, my favorite athletes and make it kind of like a diary so that when the memories fade, I have something to go back to and re-read years later. It has become a place where, even when I read some of my older posts now, I really have a good chuckle to myself and think, did I really write that or do that?? It’s been a super fun experience!
Without this blog and being a Yuzu fan, I probably never would have:
Had the thrill of watching Yuzu skate and practice in person, this is truly priceless.
Travelled to places I never thought I would go
Meet so many new people from all around the world.
Started up a new hobby; sports photography, my dad would be proud.
Hit Aeroplan Elite status again
Drank 12 hot chocolates in 4 days (2018 GPF)
Sat outside an ice arena at 4am for consecutive days in the winter waiting for the doors to open
Pulled all nighters to watch Yuzu skate in events half way around the world if I wasn’t there
Gone to an ice show in Japan and visited Yuzu’s Ice Rink Sendai
Known how to sing an entire Japanese song phonetically, not knowing the actual words!
So, thank you to the person who inspired me to start this blog, and many thanks to anyone who reads it! It’s been an interesting ride, and it’s not about to stop yet!!
PS: In case you didn’t notice, I selected photos with Yuzu’s facial expressions that mirrored mine during specific thoughts of the writing in this post.
Boy, 2018 went by fast!! The Olympics finally arrived and after 4 years of waiting, it was over just like that!!! The absolute highlight of 2018 was Yuzu’s 2nd Olympic GOLD medal!! Yuzu could have called it quits right there but he not surprisingly announced he was not done yet. Oh boy.
Here are the links to my previous Yuzu: Year in Review posts if you want to take a trip down memory lane:
2018 started out with Yuzu fans anxiously waiting for any tidbit of news on Yuzu’s ankle condition. Yuzu’s rehab and recuperation/training in Canada was a blessing in disguise since he did not have to face the glare of the media day in and day out as he would have in Japan. With such a serious injury, no one knew if Yuzu’s Olympics were in jeopardy or not. Jan 2018 was not a good time for Yuzu fans.
TV Asahi Sports Award. Jan 11, 2018
For the 3rd year in a row, Yuzu won a sports award at the Annual TV Asahi Sports Award show. Yuzu was not present to accept the honour at the awards show but they showed a message from Yuzu:
“I’m spending every day with strong determination towards the Pyeongchang Olympics. I will continue to go beyond myself through extensive efforts.” (translation by @echotpe on twitter)
OLYMPICS!!!! Yuzu Hanyu, 2 time Olympic Gold Medalist!!!!
The event everyone was waiting for, for the last 4 years!! What a thrilling ride this was!! All of the pain, the tears, the emotions, the hard work came together in the best scenario we could have dreamed of!! Personally, the icing on the cake for me was that the win happened with Seimei. This is my all time favorite program and it was simply one for the ages.
I won’t recap history here again, as fantastic as it was, other than to put a link to all of my Olympic posts here, otherwise this blog entry will be 20 pages long! Suffice to say, Legendary and GOAT status was achieved!!
This is one of my all time favorite photos of Yuzu. The pressure was off, and he could just enjoy himself. He is just so adorable here. After his butt spin he just flopped on the ice like a kid and laughed at himself, pure unadulterated fun!! He just loves the ice like no one I have ever seen.
I’m sure February ran right into March for Yuzu. With all of the media interview requests and sponsor commitments following the Olympics, Yuzu had to figure out how to juggle rest/rehab with all of his other responsibilities.
Worlds: After winning the Olympics, the next question on everyone’s minds was Worlds. Yuzu ended up withdrawing from Worlds in Milan to focus on his recovery. His priority after the Olympics was to take 3 weeks of off-ice rest, which meant he could spend the month of March refining the details of his own ice show!!
In April there was a huge boom of Yuzu activity!!
Yuzu Photo and Memorabilia Collection:
A special travelling Yuzu photo and memorabilia collection show was organized which saw lineups of fans over 8 hours long to get in. Yuzu-mania was in full force. Photos of the exhibit were not allowed, but there was Yuzu merchandise flying off the shelves!
Once Yuzu had to announce his withdrawal from the Grand Prix Final, my brain immediately went into relaxed mode. Sure, it was a HUGE disappointment for me, and even more so when I saw the view from our Row 1 seats which I whined about each day (ha ha) but I was also much more relaxed about the trip. I wasn’t worried about my flight not getting there on time, I wasn’t worried about having to show up at a crazy hour of the morning to get a seat (even though they were assigned seats for the event and practice), you know, the normal Yuzu event things people have to worry about.
Since I love the sport and not just a specific single skater, I knew I would still enjoy the event and I was sure that it would hold many incredible moments, and shocking moments, just like Worlds in Milan.
Starting off with my thoughts on the juniors. I was really excited for the chance to see the depth of the Russian junior women and to see if Trusova was everything she was advertised to be. She did not disappoint!! Trusova is all about technical prowess and well, she’s about 50 lbs soaking wet. Albeit she’s got pretty muscular legs for her size, I didn’t find her to be overly fast, but she sure is spunky! She has speed, but not powerful speed like I saw with Radionova when she was smaller. I also wondered how it is that she gets all of that long hair into that tight little bun on her head!! That’s impressive!!
Surprising me at this event was Alena Kostornaia! I had only heard bits and pieces about her but had never watched any of her programs. Her double axel was right in front of me, and wow, it’s impressive!!! The height, the distance covered and the flow out of Kostornaia’s 2A is really stunning! The natural ease she has with the double axel is very comparable to Yuzu’s axel. I have no doubt she will have a triple axel soon as she is already working on it. The choreography of both her programs were excellent for her and she was a very unexpected but exciting surprise for me. Tack her on the list of skaters that I will follow more closely. I did not have this reaction when I saw Zagitova win JGPF in Marseilles.
One thing I did notice about the junior girls, more specifically about the 5 Russian girls. Not one of them had a water bottle at any of the practices, lots of special tissue cases, but no water bottles. Unless they were hidden behind the boards and I never managed to see anyone take one sip of water the entire 4 days I was there.
Junior men. I was happy to see Koshiro but super surprised to see how tall and lanky he was! And of course, seeing Joubert and Lambiel both at the side of the boards was kinda cool! At least Joubert got to carry cookie monster!!
I guess if you are a coach and your name is Brian, you are destined to have to carry stuffie Kleenex boxes for your students! My attention during practices was primarily focused on Gogolev. He’s pretty small and I would expect a growth spurt coming for him but I hope it’s a nice slow one so that he doesn’t go through all the challenges growth spurts present to skaters. Gogolev changing his official primary coach prior to this event was a bit of a shocker but hopefully this is temporary until Brian has more time for him personally. This kid is super talented, and I am super happy that he is skating for Canada so that we know we have something fantastic coming down the mens pipeline. I’m sure the team at TCC will manage his development properly.
The best parts of the junior mens awards ceremonies for me was watching Gogolev trying to get onto the top step of the podium, that was a really tall step!! During the victory ceremony, I got to high five Petr Gumennik. Can I just say that I have never felt a hand so soft before in my life!! I mean, he’s still a kid but gee, nice hands!
Fun fact from: Massimiliano Ambesi
The Canadian Stephen Gogolev, aged 13 years and 351 days, became the youngest skater to win a Junior Grand Prix final. The previous record in men field belonged to Yuzu (14 years and 362 days). Gogolev and Hanyu won the Junior Grand Prix Final in their native country.
Onto the senior women. Things that stand out in my mind. Zagitova’s cheeky smile when she bobbled the entry into her final spin. One thought about Zagitova that struck me when we saw her in full costume and makeup was that with her hair pulled back tight and slicked, and the dark makeup and bright red lips, she reminded me of the girls that are in Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love music video!! Just a stunning look.
The arrival of Rika Kihara wasn’t a huge surprise to anyone but she did usher in a new technical norm in the women’s event. Hopefully the craze that is the Japanese media won’t eat her alive and put too much pressure on her.
And finally, my personal highlights on the mens event. Did I mention how bummed I was that Yuzu wasn’t there? Ya. Because of this I didn’t bring my camera to the event. My hands were empty so I decided I wanted to join in on the stuffie craze. I went and bought 4 emoticons. Top left went to Shoma, top right went to Jun, bottom left went to Gogolev and bottom right went to Nathan.
My first thought was that I was going to be able to watch all of the guys practice since normally, I am focused on Yuzu only. However, what tended to happen with me, was that my eyes were drawn to the shiniest new toy (Jun). I tried to focus on Shoma a bit but I found that he simply didn’t stand out during the practices. My eyes kept wandering around and ended up watching a lot of Jun and Nathan. During Jun’s long program run through, I was looking forward to the fans screaming “Juunnnliettttt” at the appropriate time in the music, but I didn’t hear it this time (like I did in Helsinki). I did say it aloud myself but oh well, maybe it will happen again at 4CC if he goes.
Of course it was also Yuzu’s birthday during the GPF and the big thing this year was to bake a cake and post it for Yuzu. Well, since we were in a hotel, we didn’t have that option so my friend and I tried something else. We ordered room service and I posted a video of the delivery on my twitter account. It was fun to do something. The room service guy was such a good sport!! He said it was fine to post this video on social media.
We got to see a new reveal in the FP practice, Jun’s new costume. Yet, when it came time to the event, we didn’t get to see it. Jun reverted back to his purple top. During the press conference afterwards, not one reporter asked about it. Later on, we found out from Brian that Jun decided that it didn’t fit and feel quite right. Another small thing that stands out in my mind after Jun completed his free program and was headed to the kiss and cry. The fans all waited before throwing their gifts in our corner since they wanted to see if he would pick up their gift. As he got closer, the fans barraged the corner with stuffies and flowers and the reaction on Jun’s face was priceless!! He took a quick look and quickly zeroed in on the one Soorang stuffie was that dressed like him!! Good choice!! A fan captured the moment.
You know, I always talk about the way Yuzu’s stroking style is so smooth and his hips have a swag all onto itself, well, after watching Jun, I noticed that he has a unique bouncy type of cross overs when stroking around a corner, his own unique style.
As much as Shoma seemed to be out of the spotlight during the event, he was back to his normal sleepy goofy self during the medal ceremony and gala. Looking totally lost on the podium without Yuzu to guide him through, and looking to Nathan for the lead, we saw Shoma posing for photos holding his medal backwards (just like he did at Olympics with holding the mascot facing the wrong way). This is just such classic Shoma!! I hope he never changes, it makes him so endearing.
Shoma’s fall during the gala and the subsequent total wipe out when someone tried to help him up, classic!! Then there was the shimmie between Shoma and Kaori. The awkwardness is something to behold and gives everyone a reason to smile. Here are a couple of small clips that fans posted on twitter for you to enjoy these classic Shoma moments.
For a short while before I left home for this Grand Prix event, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it on time!! My first flight was delayed 6.5 hours for what we have to assume was an electrical fire since the fire alarm went off inside the airplane after we left the gate. I had never seen the flight attendants heading up the aisle carrying the fire extinguishers before. The smell was like a chemical metal burning smell, not paper burning smell. After sitting on the plane in the middle of the tarmac for one hour we returned to the gate and then we had to de-plane. I missed my connector by a lot!! Just when you think it couldn’t get worse, the hours ticked by as they tried to fix the issue and then of course, the pilot and crew timed out!!! Due to union and safety rules, they were beyond the hours in their shift due to the delay and a new crew needed to be assigned. Well, the new crew had to be flown in from Vancouver, so there was yet another 1.5 hour delay. Since our flight was the last departure of the evening from the terminal that night all the food places had already closed down. Our 6:55pm flight finally left at 1:30am. Tired and hungry was not the way I wanted to start this journey.
Well, they finally fixed the issue, we got a new flight crew and we left on the same plane. I didn’t want to think about it. I had a mad dash to make in Frankfurt and still had to figure out what connector I was re-rooted on but they wouldn’t tell us until closer to landing. Trying to get to the gate on time in Frankfurt was not fun either. I had to sweet talk my way through to the front of the massive security lineup not to miss my new connector, the last flight for the evening. A special shout out to the guard who let me jump the line. Thankfully I made it and the rest is history.
Onto the competition!!
Looking through my camera lens, before Yuzu took off his jacket, I sensed there was some kind of costume change. I had hoped for a big change. The end of the costume sleeves peaking through the jacket sleeves appeared to be darker somehow. I was kind of disappointed when Yuzu revealed the same costume but happy that at least he listened to me when I said in my ACI recap post that the colour was not vibrant enough. His designers added some richer colour to the outfit to make it stand out more, and now he has coloured gloves to complete the costume. I still don’t like how short the bodice is in the front but I guess this is it.
During the warm up, Yuzu popped a jump in front of me and smiled ever so beautifully afterwards in spite of himself. It was good that he was relaxed and confident enough to just shrug it off. This photo was taken right after the pop. I thought about posting the pop photo as well, but well, he was too close and in the photo, Yuzu’s head is cut off, and you just see his legs in a familiar popped position in the air. So, we get “laughing at himself” Yuzu instead!
I was very sad to see the change in choreography that took out the straight line spread eagle that had the sharp turn on the piano note and replacing it with a curved one. It wasn’t as iconic as Yuzu’s backwards step sequence in Seimei, but it was one of the elements that I loved at Autumn Classic.
While the short program wasn’t technically perfect it was a great step forward. The landing on the triple axel was kind of a mess and when I looked at the protocol sheets afterwards, my basic thought was that it doesn’t matter a single iota what the rules are for skating, the judging is always going to be the main problem in this sport.
Best quote from Boyang: “I felt like I even wowed myself with how cool I am”. Translation by axelsandwich.
Yuzu being consistent with his “bears going back to the forrest” comment is pretty adorable.
I hope all of the grand prix events take a queue from Finland and stream all press conferences. The media gets to attend and they usually only print one or two single quotes when there is just so much great content that fans would love and hearing it directly from the skaters is best.
Yuzu’s Results: World Record #1 under the new scoring system!!
With a hefty lead after the short, the only pressure Yuzu felt was from his own desire to skate perfectly. The save on his opening quad loop was something that Yuzu fought hard for. That determination cannot be taught.
The crowd went crazy with a huge roar when he landed the quad toe/triple axel sequence. Too bad the landing on the triple axel wasn’t perfect like the ones in practice but it was fully rotated so it counted! Of course since Yuzu only considers a jump successful when it achieves a positive GOE, we know it’s just a matter of time before we see it executed perfectly. You really had to be there in the arena to feel how incredible the atmosphere was once Yuzu landed that sequence.
When the music was done, Yuzu stayed crouched in his final position, and I have frame by frame of Yuzu doing three punches to the ice with his right fist.
Once he got up, Yuzu took a moment and didn’t do anything. He just stood at center ice and took a moment for himself to let it all soak in before he started his bowing. It was a cool moment for both him and us. The program wasn’t even perfect, it didn’t need to be.
While Yuzu was waiting for his marks in the Kiss and Cry, poor Brezina had to cover his ears in order to muffle out the giant score.
After his marks were announced and Yuzu left the Kiss and Cry area, he stayed out to watch a bit of Brezina’s program. Here is Yuzu’s reaction to Brezina’s first quad. Pooh never got to see it though.
Before getting to Helsinki, I stopped in at Moscow and attended the Bolshoi Ballet. It was my first time at the Bolshoi and the first time ever watching live ballet. As I watched the male dancers jump up and rotate their jumps (doubles), I couldn’t help but make figure skating comparisons in my head and mentally assigning GOE’s to each of their elements. It was a very unique experience.
After the Cup of China was unexpectedly cancelled, Helsinki stepped up to the plate and agreed to host the Grand Prix event. It was well organized and well run. As an added bonus, the schedule gave us an additional mens practice. Yay!! What a nice treat to receive after the initial ticketing nightmare!!
Instead of just going through and listing all of the jumps that Yuzu did or did not land in each practice, I am focusing on the cute Yuzu moments that happened each practice.
First of all the PA announcer kept calling Yuzu – Yuzuru Hanuwwee. At first I thought it was the jet lag affecting my ears but no, she continued to do this for every practice. Oh well, I chalk it up to her excitement over being around Yuzu! Ha ha. At least it wasn’t as bad as the press conference lady and her “Yuzuri”.
So watching Yuzu peel layers of clothing off as he got warmed up was like opening a Russian Matyroshka doll. The black jacket would be the outermost layer, then you would find the white jacket underneath that. Once the jackets layers were off, we would see a long sleeved UA training shirt. Then, you guessed it, there are still more layers!! Finally we get to see the UA short sleeve. I have started to see the fun in these matyroshka dolls!!
With Yuzu, any time you allow fans to take photos, you will get to see every angle of the same shot. From where I was sitting, from my angle, it looked like Brian was holding Pooh up so Yuzu could give Pooh a little kiss here. I saw this same moment taken by another fan at a different angle and sadly, there was no cute little kiss. Ha ha.
One notable person missing in Helsinki was Kikuchi-san. It was left up to Yuzu to prepare Pooh in advance and have the double sided tape already attached to Pooh’s bottom before entering the ice surface. Yuzu had to show Brian that Pooh had been pre-taped and was ready for practice. Normally we see Kikuchi do this very important task at the beginning of practice!!
During the first practice Yuzu was pretty chill. He was laughing and joking with Brian and Ghislain, and ending up on his butt a few times more than we usually see. On one of his quad loop attempts, he fell and slid into the boards ala Shoma style. A large audible gasp went through the arena but like the energizer bunny, he just keep going and going.
The next memorable moment on Yuzu’s bum was during an 4T-3A attempt. Yuzu ended up flat on his butt again and the fall was reminiscent of his earlier senior days when he would fall and all his arms and legs were splayed everywhere.
Many times during the first practice, when Yuzu unexpectedly ended up falling on the ice, his reactions were priceless!!!!
During this practice, Yuzu noticed a large hole in the ice. He went and poked at it and from his entire finger going into the hole it looked pretty deep. This was a different moment than what was posted from Day 3 practice. It gives you an idea of how brittle the ice was.
The thing that made fans go wild during practice #1 was close to the end of practice, Yuzu took his gloves off and actually tucked them inside the back of his training pants. During his cool down, you could see the fingers of the gloves flapping up and down when his jacket flew up in the breeze.
Photo source: Permission granted by and photo credit to @koron00314.
For cool down, we got squats and gorgeous spirals again. He could do this for an hour and it would still be thrilling to watch.
When Yuzu went to center ice to do his bow, when he turned towards our side, he put his right skate forward and it kind of got stuck in a rut so he bobbled his usually smooth presentation. He had a great time laughing at himself.
At the end of the practice as Yuzu was doing his normal routine of touching the ice before leaving, he had Pooh in his arms and as he reached for the ice with both hands, Pooh was in a free fall. Oops!! Fortunately for Pooh, Yuzu caught him before he hit the ice thankfully. I love how it looks like Pooh’s right paw was trying to hang onto Yuzu’s jacket here in this photo.
This day was the “getting into the zone, competition mode” practice, where Yuzu had his game face on and was more serious. Well, Yuzu had a tough start to this practice. He looked to be a bit frustrated at the beginning but then started turning it around. He was struggling with his quad loop. Yuzu went over to Brian and Ghislain. Ghislain showed Yuzu a video of himself landing the perfect quad loop and sure enough the next one Yuzu tried he landed beautifully. The power of mental imagery.
Yuzu then did a 3A with crazy never ending twizzles tacked onto the end to save the landing all the while, laughing while doing it. Here he is mid-twizzle.
My friend and I kept noticing that Yuzu kept a watchful eye on Boyang during practice. It was interesting because it appeared as if they were sizing each other up in a fun competitive way. However, Yuzu definitely had the intimidation factor down pat.
When Yuzu wasn’t popping jumps, he was still mopping up the ice with his butt. It wasn’t quite as funny as Day 1 practice that is until Yuzu goofed up a spin near the end of practice and started laughing at himself. The crowd laughed with him.
While watching Yuzu, Jun’s music run through was on. I was totally focused on Yuzu when half way through his program, I heard the scream “Juullliieeettttt” however it wasn’t just the soundtrack, it was fans screaming “Junnllliieeettt” at the same time!! Again, just a funny moment I wanted to mention here so that years down the road I can read this back and have a good chuckle at the memory. I am not sure if practices were streamed or not, so I don’t know if the fans screaming “Junnllliieeettt” could..
For four years I have been attending the Autumn Classic event. Each year it gets a bit more insane and seriously Skate Canada needs to change their strategy and use assigned seating to prevent the madness that was this year. Having said that, this year’s event did not disappoint!! The photos in this blog were shot through plexiglass so some are not as crispy as I would have liked (frustrated).
Practices were once again, a real treat and a highlight!! On Thursday, Yuzu’s first practice, you could feel the tension in the air, the excitement building up as time slowly ticked by and we eventually got to the men’s groups. As soon as Yuzu stepped onto the ice, it was the most surreal 45 minutes of my day.
Yuzu opened the practice with a triple loop, then a triple flip and then the highest, largest triple axel anyone has ever witnessed!!! What was once large and beautiful has become cosmic!! Simply out of this world! Yuzu now has a bit more hang time in his triple axel, most assuredly from practicing the quad axel. Having seen a thousand of Yuzu’s triple axels before, this one truly made my jaw drop. Later on in the practice he did another HUGE triple axel again and it was just as stunning as the first. There are simply no words to describe the size of Yuzu’s triple axel now.
During the off season I think I got a little complacent about Yuzu (if that’s possible) and went into Autumn Classic just relaxed and chill, but when Yuzu hit the ice I had a serious renewed sense of WOW, OMG!! All throughout the practice, Yuzu appeared very happy to be on the ice again in front of the crowd. He joked with his team a lot (Brian, Tracy, Ghislain) and was very relaxed. Yuzu did a run through of Origin and we saw the first glimpse of his new free program. There were some new interesting choreographic moves which were super cool (ie: more Kodak moments). When the first practice was done, my heart beating million beats per minute. It was simply thrilling!
The photo above is so adorable, I had to crop it some more. (sorry it is a bit grainy due to lighting and shooting through dirty plexi-glass)
On Friday’s practice before the short program, we saw Yuzu do a lot of gliding and thinking through his program elements and his jump entries, basically his normal practice habits. He skated this practice with a lot of confidence. There is a brilliance in Yuzu’s body movements that I struggle to find the words to describe. You have to see the way his lower body sways and how quiet his upper body is when he moves. It’s just WOW! It was hard to distinguish whether my shaking was from being ice cold in the rink (I was frozen) or if it was due to being in Yuzu’s presence. During cool down, Yuzu did a beautiful spiral sequence that was so breath taking! Can we make this a mandatory element in the short program??
So, the most anticipated moment of this year was the costume reveal! Initially I mouthed the words “whoa”. My eyes were drawn to the sparkly design and I love the detailed design of the crystal bling down the front and back center. After staring at the costume for a bit, something started to bug me. I finally figured out that it was the length of the front that bugged me. It seemed like it was a bit too short for his upper body by an inch or two. For me personally, I think the costume would look nicer with a different edge cut on the front (not a huge fan of the ruffle cut top and bottom). I do like the bling design though, it’s very nice. Another thing that struck me was the colour. The center areas down the front and back are a nicer dark blue but the dusty blue didn’t pop out and wow me. I like the gradiant idea in the colour but I would have liked to see it transition into a more brilliant blue (not dusty) for the wow factor. But, as history shows us, this may not be the final version, who knows.
The short program itself was ok. I was hoping for something other than more piano music from Yuzu but I can appreciate that he wanted to perform this piece. Yuzu’s skating in the short program was beautiful, but I just sort of tuned out the music in my head as the music didn’t grab me. However, I must say that the straight edge spread eagle down the side of the ice, and the turn of direction on the single piano note was a beautiful piece of choreography!
The reveal of Yuzu’s Origin costume was crazy, the screaming and pure pandamonium (hanyu-monium) that took place was crazy loud. I love Yuzu’s look for Origin! First off, the slicked back hair is a super cool look for Yuzu. I like this music better and the costume is stunning. The total black outfit is powerful and the design and bling is quintessential Yuzu. It is elegant and I love that Yuzu went with the angled design front as he has in many of his previous outfits. Even with a couple mistakes, Yuzu’s performance was powerful. I can’t wait until this program is fully developed. In my mind, this will not eclipse Seimei but it will be a memorable program in its own right.
I did not shoot any photos this day, so I do not have any photos with the new Origin costume (sad about that). So, here are a couple of the Kodak moments from Day 1 practice where he did his Origin run-through.
During the awards ceremony, it struck me that while there was an obvious height difference for all the winners, Yuzu for the first time, finally “looked” older that the other skaters on podium. One thing about the ceremony – I hate the reverse order change that was implemented!!! I believe that the winner should be announced first. This changes Yuzu’s tradition of jumping on the podium as well!! He did jump but a very small hop this time as Jun and Roman were already there.
The BEST moment of the ceremony was the announcer!! “IN FIRST PLACE, FROM CANADA…………… YUZURU HANYU” We finally adopted Yuzu!!!! Fantastic!!!! I gave a double high five to my other Canadian friend sitting close to me. Ha ha…..apparently someone has a video of the announcer laughing at herself for making the mistake but I haven’t seen it yet. And of course there were the screen shots of Yuzu on the stream with a Canadian flag by his name. Love it!!!
Not a great event for Yuzu in terms of skating his programs clean, and his marks were in ranges we have not seen for a very long time for Yuzu, but the fact it re-lit the fire inside of him to compete again bodes well for us fans. Such a privilege to see him skate in person!!! Thanks for a brilliant weekend Yuzu!!!
Each year for the past 3 years Yuzu has participated in the 24 hour TV charity event. This event is promoted to raise funds for disaster recovery. With every appearance, there is more Hanyu mania and fans rush to buy the t-shirts and watch his performance. But, are people missing the point?? It’s not about Yuzu, it’s about the charity and their cause.
When I was thinking about this, given the hysteria about Yuzu merchandise and seeing many twitter posts of fans buying the t-shirts, I thought it would be nice to see what kind of monetary effect Yuzu’s participation in this event has had.
After seeing the figures of total amount of money raised, I was quite surprised!! The numbers were not going up, they are in fact going down.
Year over year, with Yuzu’s participation in 2015, the amount raised has not increased, it actually decreased quite a bit last year. This could mean one of many things:
Any extra people that are tuning in are only interested in just seeing Yuzu skate and don’t really care about the charity. Unfortunately this is very typical of special guests on charity events. Fans get to see their favorite person participate, but Yuzu’s participation does not actually motivate the fans to open their wallets and donate to the charity itself.
If Yuzu did not participate in the event, would the sales of the event t-shirt still be as strong? I suspect the total amount raised would most likely decrease even more dramatically than it already has, if Yuzu wasn’t participating and modelling the charity t-shirt. **My assumption is that t-shirt sales revenue is included in the figures above.
Perhaps the economy has something to do with the amount of dollars raised. 2017 experienced quite a significant drop. Times are tough everywhere. People can also get charity fatigue.
I thought of taking a look at this from another angle. Since Yuzu’s participation, has the show viewership increased? Again, the numbers surprised me. The first year that Yuzu participated (2015), the viewership was on a decline and it stayed the same for the following year. The site did not have the numbers for this year (2018) yet, but at least there was a small spike for 2017. I wonder how much Yuzu’s preparation for the Olympics had to do with that? Was Yuzu even responsible for the viewership spike or was it other guest appearances?
Obviously these numbers do not reflect those fans watching youtube video clips of Yuzu’s performances however those views shouldn’t be included because those are not fans that are watching for the “charity” event, but rather just watching videos to see Yuzu skate.
An english article came across my desk about the tv show that talked about the show’s perception of having paid celebrities, poor money management etc. The article is quite the eye opener.
We have the same problem with charities where I live. I won’t name the charity but when people found out that the management team was being paid ridiculously high 6-figure salaries for managing the charity, it turned many people off donating to that charity. When I give money to a cause, I want to know that the people who need the money are actually receiving it.
I applaud the work Yuzu does for the disaster recovery efforts in his home region. He was directly impacted and his support ensures that without the news headlines, people don’t forget that the re-build is still continuing even though years have past.
Special thanks to @yuzueco for helping me obtain the background statistical information.