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!
Athletes in many sports have superstitions that they believe in and rituals that they perform all the time, very consistently. Yuzu is no different. He does many things consistently that are part of his routine, and without these little rituals, something would feel “off”.
1. When putting on his skates, Yuzu always puts his right skate on first. I have always put my skates on in this order this as well. When I tried to put the left skate on first and lace it up as a test, it didn’t feel right. I had to take the left one off, and start over again with the right one first. I guess after doing it the same way for so long, it has become a ritual for me to.
2. Whenever Yuzu goes out for a practice session, he always bends over and touches the ice. It’s a nice way to say “hello” to the surface that will hopefully be your friend that day!! Most recently at the 2015 Worlds in Shanghai, Yuzu reached down and touched the area on the ice where he and Han Yan had their infamous crash. I think symbolically, it closed that chapter for Yuzu and he could finally put it behind him.
2. Before he leaves the boards to skate his program, Yuzu has a very defined ritual. Yuzu will always shake Brian’s hand, bend down with his hands on the boards, and slap the boards with both hands. Then when he stands up, he pushes off backwards with left leg. His first two cross over strokes (right cross over) away from the boards are always backwards.
You can see the ritual in this video:
3. Before the start of any competitive program, as his is name is called and he skates to his starting position, Yuzu always crosses his chest in a motion that looks like a cross (down the centre and across his shoulders, then across his stomach), then pulls his arms in replicating his jumping technique. This is his way of reminding himself to check his axis when jumping. Afterwards, he puts his hands together in a praying motion. Many have asked if he is religious and Yuzu has confirmed that this ritual is just a part of his reminder about his jumping axis. This video shows this ritual clearly (at 0:20).
One time when I was watching Yuzu’s performance, either the tv station cut to a different camera angle or maybe I blinked, but I didn’t see Yuzu doing his axis reminder and suddenly I was panicked. How could he forget??? I immediate felt that something was wrong!! However, luckily enough, when I saw different footage of the same program from a different camera angle, it showed me that Yuzu in fact, did his axis reminder and I felt better. It’s funny how invested I’ve gotten into this brilliant young skater!
4. After a good performance, in the Kiss and Cry area, Yuzu will always make time to shake Pooh’s paw or have Pooh play with the cameras. Of course, recently at the 2015 Worlds, Yuzu killed us with his adorableness playing with Pooh which I covered in my previous post (pictures and links).
If the performance doesn’t go well, Pooh is there for comfort and squishing. Or, sometimes after bad performances, Pooh just sits there quietly. He’s a very good listener.
5. After Yuzu wins a medal, he always remembers the people that helped him get there. He takes his medal and presents it to his coach. This usually happens backstage, however in todays world of paparazzi, we often see footage of Yuzu performing this ritual. Here is Yuzu putting his first World medal in 2012 on Nanami Abe, and posing proudly with her afterwards. I often wonder if we will see her again in a competition with a new protege?
Here is Yuzu with Brian after his Olympic Gold medal, his 2014 Grand Prix Final medal, and the 2015 World Silver medal. For me, the picture of Brian with an Olympic Gold medal around his neck was heart warming because I watched him lose the Olympic Gold by such a narrow margin to Brian Boitano in 1988 and to wear a Men’s Figure Skating Olympic Gold medal around his neck must have been such a special moment for him!! I’m sure he was very proud!!
6. And last but not least, Yuzu’s squishy cheeks. Yuzu has said that he massages his cheeks to release the tension and it relaxes him before a performance. If you watch him on the boards before he gets on the ice, you will often see him massaging his cheeks.
I have come to expect seeing these rituals whenever I see Yuzu skate. It’s these little things that draw me in further and make me look forward to seeing his next competitive performance!!