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!
Worlds 2015 is officially in the history books now. I had to take a day of rest to try catch up on some much needed sleep after 2 straight nights of 3-7am shifts to watch the streaming video from Shanghai!! Like Yuzu’s whole season this year, the last two nights have had their crazy ups and downs. I went from total exhilaration to shock and sadness. I couldn’t even get myself to make the featured image of this post to be a picture of the winners podium, because it seemed very strange to me that Yuzu wasn’t standing in the middle in the winners spot on top of the podium. So, you get to see a picture of coach Brian and his star students instead. : )
To start with, I have to say that I was so happy when Yuzu and Brian were finally reunited!! Right away in the daily training footage that was released, I felt better seeing that Brian now had a watchful eye on Yuzu. Training for more than a month without a coach present is not optimal for anyone, let alone someone heading into a World Championships as the defending champion. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for Yuzu to train with only email communication and instruction for such an extended period of time.
Upon some reflection over the past season, I realize that as the reigning Olympic and World Champion, I sure had high expectations of Yuzu this year. I just naturally assumed and expected that he would win every event that he entered this season. It’s easy to forget that he has been going non-stop since the Olympics doing ice shows, commercials, media requests, and really hasn’t had any real rest until he was forced to by doctors after his surgery. And that really wasn’t rest, it was recuperation. This season has been filled with drama (CoC crash) and injuries (back injury and sprained ankle), and unexpected surgery, then to an amazing comeback to win both the Grand Prix final (2x consecutive) and Japan Nationals (3x consecutive). So, when JFS announced the need for surgery after Japan Nationals, some small thoughts of doubt crept into my mind that Yuzu might not have enough time to get into good enough condition to repeat as the World Champion. I really did try to adjust my expectations for Worlds, but I still held out hope and still predicted him to come out on top of the podium in an earlier post.
Truth is, he didn’t have the necessary training time in because after his surgery, he rushed to get back on the ice when given clearance and severely sprained his ankle. This resulted in more precious training time lost, plus Yuzu never got back to Toronto to be with Brian and his Cricket Club Brothers. Even Brian said to Yuzu as he left the ice after the long program “we needed a couple more weeks”. But given my belief in Yuzu, I set myself up to think that winning Worlds was still a long shot but maybe, just maybe Yuzu could pull it out. Then the event started….
We were all treated with seeing Yuzu again early in the week courtesy of daily practice videos and new clips. He looked pretty healthy and happy, but his jumps appeared inconsistent. Some of the fastest spreading pictures of Yuzu were of his spectacular falls. At this point, I was very worried for him. His usually perfect quad toe was suddenly inconsistent and surprisingly, his quad salchow looked strong and stable. Even his “money” triple axels had a funny lean on them during his run throughs, really off axis and leaning out of the circle. There were a lot of falls documented, but Yuzu still appeared to be smiling and happy.
As I started to watch the Mens’ Short Program competition, my anticipation started to grow. I saw quad attempt after quad attempt from the other skaters and was actually surprised that the rest of the world was catching up so quickly in technical content. It goes to show you that the world is gunning for the guy at the top…and I’m sure Yuzu knows it. In this day and age, you need quads to win! In fact, you need multiple quads.
When it was finally Yuzu’s turn to skate his Chopin short program, my heart was pounding and I found myself skating the program with him, just like Brian does on the sidelines. After Yuzu finished his program and the scores were in, I could finally breathe again! The scores were posted, and Yuzu was in a familiar place, in first place! It was then that my expectations went right back to “Yuzu can win this!!”. How quickly I forgot that only 2 months ago, he was lying in a hospital bed. Winning was the only option again!!
My enthusiasm and hope was matched by all those in attendance who showered the rink with Pooh bears for Yuzu. The Disney stores in Shanghai must have had a run on Pooh sales in the last week.
DISNEY: listen up – I’ve said this before, you NEED to sign Yuzu as a Pooh bear brand ambassador. I can guarantee a Pooh bear sales spike in whatever city there is a skating event that Yuzu will attend.
Afterwards, Yuzu said “I feel grateful I was given fan’s feeling. But I can’t bring them (back to Japan) by myself. Because fans gave me them kindly, I want to donate (the bears) to be useful for society.” (translation from A. Takahashi on Facebook).
I wonder what Yuzu’s real Pooh bear thinks of all these impostors trying to get Yuzu’s attention??
Source of quote: http://www.sanspo.com/…/20150329/fgr15032902270003-n1.html
After the short program, here are my favourite Yuzu and Pooh Kiss and Cry moments:
1. Brian forgot to bring Pooh to the Kiss and Cry so Yuzu goes and gets him, and it causes the camera man to panic because he was needed to have Yuzu back in time in the K&C for when his marks were announced. (view the pictures left to right). Note to Brian – Don’t ever forget Pooh!!
Source: picture credit on each picture. I put the combination photo together.
2. Yuzu putting Pooh on Brians lap: How adorable is this, Brians face is priceless.
Onto the next evening in Shanghai which started at 3:45 am my local time. Tired and hopeful, I started to watch the Men’s Long Program. The event started out with a “redemption” theme to it. Takahiko Kozuka, Takahito Mura, and Maxim Kovtun needed to skate better free programs just for pride alone, and in the case of Kozuka and Mura, try to save 3 spots for Japan at next year’s Worlds (unfortunately, this did not happen). A special shout out here to Nam who put together 2 clean programs and had an excellent Worlds, Good Job Nam!!
At last the final group was up! When Yuzu stepped on the ice for his POTO performance I was nervous, my heart was pounding, and there was a lot of hands together praying motion going on. I didn’t have to wait long for the story to unfold. When Yuzu doubled the quad salchow, to say that my bubble had been burst was an understatement. My nervousness turned to panic. The worst case scenario for me on the quad salchow was a fall, never in my mind did the thought even occur to me that he would double it (pop it). Then Yuzu went down on the quad toe. It was total disbelief for me. I couldn’t believe my eyes. This quad toe is normally Yuzu’s bread and butter!!! What happened to it??? He didn’t get the normal height on it, and down he went.
Yuzu collected himself and the rest of the program was typical Yuzu talent and style. However, I noticed that a couple of his jumps have a slight lean on them now, so something was still a bit off. Maybe not having Brian present for those months practicing alone has allowed some small bad habits to creep in!! Yuzu and Brian will have to take a look at that! But, maybe it’s just that Yuzu hasn’t had enough time to heal because the core strength he requires for those jumps is incredible and given where the location of his abdominal surgery, I suspect he had to try and rebuild a lot of core strength in a short amount of time!
Nothing erases the images of the pop of the quad salchow and then the fall on the quad toe. My heart just sank for Yuzu, knowing that he basically handed Javi the gold medal. With only a 2 point lead going into the long program, he left more than 10 TES points on the table with the doubled quad salchow and the miss on the quad toe (deduction plus loss of GOE bonus). While Yuzu sat in the Kiss and Cry area, just when you think he can’t get more adorable, he goes and does this:
Pooh Bear blowing a kiss to his fans:
Now Yuzu had to sit and wait. Next up was Javi’s performance. While Javi didn’t skate clean, it was good enough, and the gold medal was his. Yuzu, being an amazing friend and classy competitor, was happy for Javi. Images of Yuzu crying, being both happy for Javi while upset and regretting his own mistakes, and Javi hugging him were so endearing. What a solid friendship they have with great support for each other. More images of Yuzu on the podium fighting to control his emotions and fighting to keep the tears in when he was approached by Brian and Tracy Wilson backstage, my heart just went out to him.
As the medal ceremony began, I realized that never before have I heard the Spanish national anthem. That was a first for me. So, now that it’s over, it should be time for some off season rest and recuperation. I am referring to both Yuzu AND his fans!! We as fans are along for the highs and lows of following such a thrilling and adorable skater. I sincerely hope that the JSF gives him a break and they don’t insist on Yuzu doing do many ice shows this year. Three more years of this pace, and he won’t make it to 2018 Olympics!! This is the product of being a such a HUGE success. Fans want more and more of Yuzu, and the Japanese Federation needs him to sell out the buildings for shows, and advertisers need him to endorse their products. The business of skating has become such a powerful machine, but I hope someone in the JSF will figure out that they need to let Yuzu have a small break and rest, so that he can stay in top form. The JSF did protect him well between his surgery and Worlds, so hopefully they will continue to support him in this way.
So, now the time has come to take a look at my earlier top ten predictions and see how I did.
Well, I got the top 3 names on the podium correct (Yuzu, Javi, and Denis) however of course I had Yuzu in the Gold medal position. Ok, granted, those were a bit obvious, but in figure skating you just never know what will happen! Of the remaining 7 names, I had 4 of them correct (Maxim, Han, Nam, and Jason), just not in the right order. The three incorrect names were Josh, Takahiko and Takahito. These 3 skaters had unexpected blowouts in their short programs taking them out of the running right off the start. So, I figure while I got the placements a bit off, at least i got 7 out of 10 names correct. In the crazy world of figure skating, if I were to ever get 10 out of 10 correct, and manage to even get them almost in the correct order, it would be time to go buy a lottery ticket!!!
As I wrap up this post, I want to leave with a couple of random thoughts:
1. So, the new thing that the ISU started at the 4 Continents Championship was the green room idea, where the top 3 competitors sit in the room and watch the rest of the field skate their programs. They show these skaters sitting on the couches via split screen with the Kiss and Cry screen. Personally, I don’t like this. It was fun to watch guys like Nam and Misha ham it up for the cameras, but other times, it looked downright uncomfortable for the skaters, and a bit forced. The last thing I would want as a skater while I’m watching the rest of the competition and waiting for my final outcome is a camera stuck in my face. Regardless of the discipline (singles, pairs, dance), if you are in the lead but the next skater beats you, you have to hide your initial disappointment from the cameras. That would be tough.
2. With only a 2 point lead going into the long program, Javi still needed to have 2 completed quads to beat Yuzu who essentially did not complete a quad at all. In the end, Javi only beat Yuzu by just under 3 points and Yuzu didn’t even have one landed quad. That alone blows my mind. If Yuzu can ever put together a clean short, and a clean long with all planned quads in tact (which is in fact his stated goal), there is no one in men’s skating that can touch him. And with 2 clean programs, we would definitely see a score over the 300 mark!!
3. Here is a quote from Yuzu that demonstrates his fighting spirit!! LOVE the bolded part.
“I heard Javier has been working very hard. I am happy for him to have such great result. He says “Congratulations and I am proud of you” to me every time after competition. And this time, I would like to say as a training mate, I am proud of him too. But I am not a generous person. I am disappointed. And I will definitely win back the title next time”.
– Yuzuru Hanyu WC 2015 after FS (via yuzu-ice tumblr)
Don’t worry skating fans, Yuzu is going to be back next year, better than ever – I know this because Pooh will keep him smiling!! (picture from the gala practice)
Even though the season is over, I will keep posting fun things about Yuzu, I hope you keep coming back!
Yuzu’s message to us – check out the link below!