Hey sports fans!! Thanks for stopping by my blog! I am a self admitted “rink rat” so a lot of this blog will be about figure skating and hockey, however as an ex-figure skater, ex-varsity athlete and a sports fan in general, I usually have thoughts and opinions about alot of different sports I follow, so visit often!

Brian Orser: The Legend, Building Another Legend

I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to meet Brian Orser twice; once 25 years ago at a rink that I trained at, and then again only 4 months ago at Skate Canada 2014.  Both times were wonderful memories I will cherish forever.

Brian is a two time Olympic silver medalist (1984, 1988).  He and Brian Boitano famously went head to head in the Battle of the Brians in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  Brian won a World Championship title in 1987, and is a 4-time World silver medalist.  He is also an 8-time Canadian National Champion.

Brian became the 2nd man to ever land a triple axel in competition in 1979 (Junior Nationals) and the first man to ever land the triple axel at an Olympics (1984 Winter Olympics, Sarajevo).  Brian is Mr. Triple Axel, he is a legend.

When Brian retired from competitive skating, he turned professional and started skating in ice shows.  Years later, Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson (1988 Winter Olympic Bronze medalist, Ice Dance) were hired initially as consultants for three months in 2006 to help set up the skating program and find a head coach for the Toronto Cricket and Skating Club.  Instead, they hired choreographer David Wilson and decided to stay on and build the program at the Cricket Club themselves.  This overwhelmingly successful program has now produced 2 Olympic Gold Medal Champions (Yuna Kim, Yuzuru Hanyu), 2 World Champions (Yuna Kim, Yuzuru Hanyu), 4 National Champions (Yuna Kim, Yuzuru Hanyu, Javier Fernandez, Nam Nguyen) and a European Champion (Javier Fernandez).

Here are some interesting facts about Brian:

Brian wrote an autobiography, A Skaters Life, which chronicles his life as a competitive skater, and then just recently has written a new book, Team Brian, which is a look at his coaching career with emphasis on Yuzuru Hanyu.  Unfortunately, this book is only available in Japanese.  I’m hoping that in the future it will be produced in English.

A Skaters Life   Team Brian

Yuzuru Hanyu: After winning the bronze medal at the World Championships in 2012, Yuzuru decided that he needed to make a change in order to take the next step in his development.  In April of 2012, he switched coaches from Nanami Abe to Brian Orser.  Yuzuru and Nanami had a wonderful relationship, and he spoke with her about the change prior to making his decision.

(Yuzuru) first thought about Orser when he read an article on a skating magazine. The article talked about Orser’s Cricket Club in Toronto, and discussed how it boasts a number of coaches who take charge of different aspects of skating techniques.
“I’d never been in an environment where I would train alongside other top class skaters. That’s what made me want to move to Cricket Club. I want to be ready for Sochi. I will miss Nanami-sensei. I discussed this with her, and she gave me her whole-hearted blessing. So, I really want to work hard, for all the people who support me, and especially for Nanami-sensei.”   (1)

Note: Yuzuru also published an autobiography, Blue Flames, in April 2012, with the royalties and part of the proceeds going to the Sendai ice rink.

Blue Flame

During his first year with Brian, it was reported that Yuzuru would make frequent trips to Toronto and continue to attend high school in Sendai, Japan.  After moving to Canada, Yuzuru increased his on-ice training to 3–4 hours a day, up from 1–2 hours which had been due to a combination of limited ice time in Sendai, schooling, and his asthma.  

Also during that first year with his new coach, the results were mixed, but Yuzuru stuck with it.  Brian had to get Yuzuru to understand that he needed to learn some basic skating skills in order to gain control of his speed and power that he was naturally gifted with.  Having gone back to the basics, you can definitely see that this was one of the areas where Yuzuru greatly improved by training with Brian.  His skating skills now set him apart from the rest of the world.  Yuzuru’s jumps have also now become more consistent as he has learned control over the speed and power of his skating.

skating 1   skating 2

Brian has also taught Yuzuru how to pace himself throughout his programs.   This has been key for Yuzuru given his struggles in the past with being completely exhausted at the end of his programs.  Under Brians team of coaches, Yuzuru also participates in off ice training which is helping him improve his stamina and endurance.

Technically, making minor adjustments to Yuzuru’s jumps such as the angles of entry have proven to be a key to their stability.  Brian often uses video to record and analyze the technical elements of skaters’ jumps and this is a very effective teaching tool.  It’s the details that make such a significant difference.  When every skater has 2 and 3 quads in their programs, it’s those small details that make a champion.

Away from the ice surface, Brian is also very protective of his students.  Brian understands the pressure of being a champion, and all of the requests and the demands on their time.  He has guided Yuzuru from his own experience, and is trying to teach Yuzuru that it’s ok to say “no”.  Brian has also taught Yuzuru to believe in himself and his training.  I think Yuzuru has always been pretty mentally strong, however with Brian mentoring him, he has become one of the mentally toughest competitors in the mens field.  Ok, maybe Yuzuru’s stubbornness has a bit to do with that too!  : )

Since teaming up with Brian, Yuzuru has won an Olympic Gold Medal, a World Championship, won  back to back Grand Prix Final championships, and has 3-peated at the Japan Nationals.

The story of Yuzuru Hanyu is still being written but his experiences and his accomplishments is already the stuff that legends are made of.  I can’t wait to see how this story will continue to unfold.  Brian is building and shaping a legend in the making.

(1) Sources: Number 803号  2012年5月10日発売 独占インタビュー 松原孝臣 文 羽生結弦「恩返しの旅は続く」(for the original interview) and  Starting Small (for the English translation)


3 comments on “Brian Orser: The Legend, Building Another Legend

  1. Proud Saskie
    March 8, 2015

    The Best thing was Brian’s comment about the Poohbear tissue box when he first met Yuzuru!


    • sportymags
      March 8, 2015

      Yup, exactly!! Brians quote is in my blog post about The Evolution of the Pooh tissue box!! 😊


  2. Pingback: Yuzuru Hanyu: GPF: Another WORLD RECORD! | SportyMags

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