Yuzuru Hanyu: 2015: The Road to 2018
2018 is so far away. So much can happen in the next 3 years. It’s hard to say who Yuzuru’s main competition will be in 2018, because as we all know, a skater can suddenly have an amazing development year, and emerge as a contender, and there are always surprise retirements, as we saw this year. This is a point in time blog entry one year after the Olympics. I think I’m going to refer back to this post each year, compare and update my thoughts on the list of skaters below. It will be neat to see how close my thoughts are today to what actually happens on the road to Pyeongchang, and if the development of any skaters over the next three years changes my mind about their chances. Without getting too technical in this post (I don’t want to talk about GOE’s, BV’s or Levels today), here are the skaters that have caught my attention over this post Olympic season, and my thoughts about their road to 2018. Who knows what skater will step up and grab the limelight. It sure will be a thrilling and fun ride, not to mention stressful as heck!!
Team Japan: In my opinion, the men’s field in Japan is the strongest in the world. Not only do the Japanese men lay claim to the Olympic Gold Medallist, they have an abundance of young talent that will no doubt rise to the forefront in the next couple of years.
- Yuzuru Hanyu (12/07/94) – Age 20: Reigning Olympic Champion. Reigning World Champion. Yuzuru has not peaked yet. By the time Pyeongchang rolls around, he will only be 23. The way his skating skills have progressed under the guidance of Brian Orser in such a short time, I’m super excited to see how Yuzu will develop each season leading to 2018! He is technically and artistically gifted so it’s a matter of Yuzu staying healthy! His natural jumping ability along with his long lean body style make his jumps very consistent. The jump technique is tight in the air and he doesn’t fight the rotation in the air like some skaters do. He is my 2018 gold medallist favourite, and barring serious injury, he should be a force in mens figure skating for the next 3 years!! Go Yuzu Go!!
- Shoma Uno (12/17/97) – Age 17: Shoma is a little jumping bean, but doesn’t get huge height on his jumps. While Shoma is nice to watch, I don’t think he has the same charisma on the ice that Yuzuru does. Like Yuzu, he has a deep knee bend on his landings, which sometimes helps him save jumps. Still lacking a bit of speed, I’m sure this will come as he matures and gets stronger. His body shape and skating technique reminds me of a young Elvis Stojko. Just starting to compete in the senior level competitions, I think Yuzu will need to keep an eye on Shoma in the coming years.
- Sota Yamamoto (01/10/00) – Age 15: Yuzu’s mini-me (or at least he wants to be). By 2018, Sota will only be 19, the same age as Yuzu when he won the Olympic gold medal!! I think Sota is a little bit star struck around Yuzu but who can blame him. He needs to develop his artistic side as his programs seems to be just focused on the technical elements, but hey, he’s still a junior. He has decent speed for being so young, reminiscent of Yuzu at that age. I love how his jumps look so effortless in the air, almost to the point where it looks like he thinks he is doing a single jump, but yet can land the triples easily. However, I really do not like his technique on his triple axel. They are going to have to fix that for it to become consistent. You can definitely see some Yuzu influence in his skating, his arm movements, and positions. Give him a couple of years…he will be another skater to watch in the senior ranks.
- Takahiko Kozuka (02/27/89) – Age 25: While I am a Takahiko fan, I don’t think he will stay in the competitive arena all the way to 2018. He has really struggled with his quad toe and overall jump consistency this year, but I’m super happy for him that he won a spot to go to Worlds! He has such smooth effortless edges gliding across the ice and I’m happy to have seen him skate live at Skate Canada this year. I suspect he may retire in the next year or so.
- Takahito Mura (02/11/91)- Age 24: He is also a bit older, but Takahito seems to be just hitting his stride. Isn’t is crazy when we say 24 is “older”? He is a bit of a wildcard for me, as he has struggled with consistency throughout his career. He has good solid jumping technique, yet for some reason struggles to put in two clean programs. I saw him with his amazing skates at Skate Canada, and for that reason, he has made this list. If Takahito continues to compete and tries for a place on the 2018 Olympic team, he’s gonna be in tough to win a spot. His inconsistency may be his downfall.
- Patrick Chan (12/31/90) – Age 24: I’m happy to hear that Patrick plans to come back next season, after taking the year off after the Olympics. In a recent interview he said that he still had some unfinished business. By 2018, he will be 28 and at his third Olympics. Patrick is going to have to get another quad under his belt to be competitive technically. His overall skating skills are still far beyond most of his competitors. I love how both Patrick and Yuzu can hit full speed in just a couple of cross overs!! If Patrick makes it to Pyeongchang, I don’t think it will be the Patrick vs Yuzuru show, however, he could be a dark horse in all of this.
- Nam Nguyen (05/20/98) – Age 16: The Canadian mens’ skating future looks bright with Nam emerging as the heir apparent to Patrick Chan! I think Nam is very naturally talented and benefits from training alongside Yuzuru and Javier Fernandez at the Cricket Club in Toronto. I think Nam needs to develop strength and speed. While he has his mastered a quad salchow now, and is technically pretty sound, there is a lack of overall speed in his programs. Nam’s jumps do not go across the ice like Yuzuru or Han Yan’s do, they are more straight up and down, and he spins the rotations fast. It would be nice to see him increase the speed going in and coming out of the jumps. I think this will come over time since he is still only 16. I think winning his first National Championship will give him some confidence, and look for some very quick improvements in the next couple of years. He is already working his second quad in practice, a quad toe. Next year the Canadian National championships should be fun to watch with Patrick and Nam going head to head.
- Javier Fernandez (04/15/91) – Age 23: World bronze medallist. Javier has charisma coming out of his ears. He is always a fan favorite, and plays to the crowd. Yuzu admired him for his quad jump ability and wanted to train alongside him. I think this close training situation has helped them both!! Javier has always been a skater who confuses me. He has all the jumps, has all the artistry, yet hasn’t been able to put it together for the “big competitions”, except for Europeans which he seems to own. Not sure if it’s a mental block, maybe deep down he is intimidated by Yuzu if he has to compete against him? I think the only time that Javier has placed ahead of Yuzu is 2013 Worlds when he placed third, and Yuzu was fourth. I’m excited to watch Javier and Yuzu go head to head over the next few years.
- Maxim Kovtun (06/18/95) – Age 19: I am not a big fan of Maxim’s skating. I find his style and jumps very forced, almost robotic. He doesn’t seem to feel his music selections. His technique looks like he is fighting to stay tight while doing the rotations in the air. On the choreography front, I find his programs are very boring and emotionless. While Maxim is still young as well and will definitely improve in the next few years, I don’t see him as a strong contender.
- Adian Pitkeev (05/16/98) – Age 16: I think Adian is the future of Russian mens skating. Watching him skate, I find myself thinking that he reminds me of Alexei Yagudin; quick feet and same charismatic skating style. The only thing that bothers me a bit is that on all of his jump landings, he breaks at the waist, and it’s like he is just lazy on the landings. That can be fixed pretty easily. While I think he will be the key player in Russian men’s skating in a few years, I think he needs to develop mental strength. When he makes a mistake early in his programs, you can see the effect throughout the rest of the program.
- Jason Brown (12/15/94) – Age 20: Jason has just won his first US National title this year. In my opinion, Jason is a better show skater than a competitive skater. He seems to have a natural connection with the audience and can draw them into his programs, but I find his skating style very stiff. He has just added a quad into his program at the 4 Continents Championship this season, however was not successful with his attempts. He will need these jumps to be competitive. He will probably make it to Pyeongchang, however, i don’t see him in the hunt for a medal.
- Max Aaron (02/25/92) – Age 22: I find Max’s skating style to be a bit on the wild side. He’s a little bit out of control, at least thats the feeling I get when I watch his programs. He has been inconsistent in the last few years, so I don’t really see him challenging for an Olympic medal in 2018. He was not named to the World team this year, but is a first alternate.
- Joshua Farris (01/06/95) – Age 20 I must admit, I haven’t followed this skater much at all, however his recent success at the 4 Continents warrants him a mention. CBC just showed his performance at 4CC, and I was impressed! Based on the current US field of skaters, I hope Joshua will lead the US team to 2018. His skating is very smooth and I like his clean body lines. Based on only seeing a couple of his programs, he seems to have good jump technique. He appears to be a very classical style of skater.
- Denis Ten (06/13/93) – Age 21: The Olympic Bronze medallist. Denis is a very elegant skater. He has very clean body lines, and is a very good skater technically and artistically. He has also struggled with his consistency and until recently hasn’t been able to put two good programs together in one competition. His Grand Prix Series this year was not impressive, however I think he is one of those skaters that will quietly go about his business and if other skaters falter, he will come in and steal the moment. I think Yuzu needs to keep an eye on Denis.
- Han Yan (03/06/96) – Age 18: Han has solid jumping technique, and his artistry is improving. He just needs to put the whole package together. His jumps are not that high but they travel far across the ice, so they look huge. Han has struggled since his crash with Yuzu at Cup of China. He seems to have nagging injuries that I hope will just heal themselves over the off season. I think Yan is a wild card, and could potentially be a spoiler in many competitions in the next few years. Once he puts the technical and artistic pieces together, he could be a strong player. You can already see the progression of his skating in his music selections and programs this year.
I think it’s a bit early to make crazy 2018 Olympic predictions….maybe next year at the half way point I will do it for fun. Until then, I’m going to sit back and stress out about competitions and watch with extreme nervousness. Hope everyone enjoys the wild ride with me!!