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!
Everyone knows that the benefits of being successful in sport are great for special athletes. But, what is the price of being the best figure skater in the World? What happens when you win the Olympic Gold Medal in your skating discipline? There really isn’t a single answer to this question. I think the answer to this question depends on where the skater is from.
If the skater is from the USA, you would get some decent media coverage initially, some talk show appearances, and potentially some lucrative endorsement deals and join the cast of an ice show. If you are lucky enough, you might even make it on to the cover of a Wheaties box!!
If you are from Canada, you might get a few newspaper articles written about you initially, and then you will fade away from the public eye. You will be well known and popular in the skating circles and but that seems to be about it. You hope that you have a strong following in Japan so that you get invited to their ice shows. For example, Patrick Chan is a three time World Champion, and you would be hard pressed to find people in Canada who know who he is, unless they are skating fans.
There are shows like Stars On Ice that travel around North America but it doesn’t garner the excitement at home that a Japanese ice show does, and they are rarely, if ever, televised! Now….if you are from Japan, it’s a whole different story!!
Let’s take a look at what has happened to Yuzu over the last year and a half. Yuzu has gone from a very popular skater to a mega-star status. While the endorsement deals are fantastic reward for all of his blood, sweat and tears, and hard work over the years, his life changed the moment he uttered the words “I’m the first?”
First of all, Yuzu has the “it” factor. Yuzu has god given talent, he is humble and gracious, and so very easy on the eyes!! He is a marketing dream, and his “brand” is very well shaped and protected.
No skater in recent history that I can recall, can command an audience like Yuzu can. Of course no skater has had to be a champion in this day of the internet and social media and be from a skating crazy nation.
The greatest evidence of how powerful Yuzu has become was evidenced in at the 2014 World Championships. Yuzu was sitting in the Kiss and Cry area by himself after his marks and he motioned the crowd with his arms to be quiet since Javier was next to skate. Suddenly the entire arena got quiet. Now that’s star power!! Even television commentators were amazed that a young man could quiet an entire building with a single motion of his arms.
The next couple of examples of Yuzu power occurred during the 2015 World Championships.
First, on the jumbo tron, they showed Yuzu warming up backstage. Fans were sent into a frenzy and started cheering when they saw him backstage.
Next: Shhhhh – Again, a single finger to hush the crowd during small medal ceremony at 2015 worlds when announcer was trying to introduce and comment on Javier Fernandez.
The Rock Star
A parade for a championship looks like this in North America only when the Stanley Cup or SuperBowl has been won. Even then, you probably wouldn’t get this many people out for a single person. Approximately 92,000 people lined the streets of Sendai to catch a glimpse of Yuzu after his Olympic win.
Nice letter from Mayor: http://www.city.sendai.jp/language/1214378_1999.html
Skating organizers and Yuzu’s team both know that any type of event which he attends now will require additional security. It’s fortunate that he trains in Canada where he can get a bit of a break from all the craziness. What is most impressive is that when Yuzu is in Sendai, the city protects him from all the madness and generally, he seems to be able to go about his routine without fans mobbing him. However, Yuzu has mentioned in an interview that he can’t go out to the mall like a normal person, it all has to be coordinated and arranged. Imagine that.
Price of Fame
While all of the attention is wonderful, I’m sure Yuzu fully understands the drawbacks. He no longer has the sense of normalcy, either when he is performing with ice shows, or competing. The thirst for information from the media and the fans is incredible. Even with prepared interviews and news footage, fans are grabbing screen by screen images and dissecting every move, every word, every smile, every wink. It’s amazing, almost mind boggling to watch. One fan even took a measuring tape to measure Yuzu’s waist at Madame Tussauds wax museum in Tokyo!
As a fan, it’s always wonderful to see when new photos of happy Yuzu with his skating and training mates are posted, and these seem to go viral quicker than you can blink an eye. However, I think that the media sometimes needs to know when to draw the line. Recent video footage of Yuzu zipping up his POTO costume surfaced, showing that he is not even protected backstage. Other footage of the medics reeling Yuzu on a stretcher into the hospital were a bit unnecessary as well. It makes you wonder how much is too much? Do we really “need to know” these details?? I guess it is the world we live in today. For Yuzu to shoulder this kind of responsibility must be incredible.
I wonder what it would have been like if the internet, and apps like Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter etc existed when the World was caught up with the Beatles and Elvis. I am so thankful that Brian has instructed Yuzu to stay off of social media because I have witnessed very public nastiness with non-fans posting not so kind messages on skaters’ social media accounts. At some point, it simply isn’t worth it for the athlete to share any information. I’m thankful that his skater friends respect his privacy and only post photos of him that he approves them to post (i.e.: Nobinari Oda and his additional Kabedon photos of Yuzu that Yuzu did not approve).
I’ve been asked for my autograph twice by “fans”. Both of them at different times, thought I was someone else. One fan thought I was Michelle Kwan. It was very flattering. So, I tried to put myself in Yuzus position where I had fans watching my every move. I always thought it would be kind of cool to be famous, and I’m sure I would have enjoyed it in the beginning but as the numbers grow, and security becomes a concern…is it worth it? Can Yuzu have any sense of a normal life after skating?? We know he can’t while he still competes and does ice shows.
One thing that is super positive about all of this attention is that his character hasn’t changed. Yuzu uses his star status and the media to draw attention to causes he truly believes deeply in like the rebuilding of his home region of Tohoku, and the Red Cross. Yuzu has not forgotten where he is from, and he continues to give back to help others. He truly is a special kind of person.
Go Yuzu Go!