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!
So the 2 months of waiting and anticipation finally came to an end!!! I made it to Barrie, and got in line bright and early for tickets! Even though this post will probably be long, I have to start out by saying that seeing Yuzu in person, I was rendered totally speechless although there is evidence to the contrary. 😄 I had to take a day to properly digest everything I saw, and come up with words to describe my first live Yuzu experience.
It is a priviledge to see Yuzu perform his programs live in person at a competition or an ice show, but the experience of watching Yuzus’ full competition practices are truly mesmerizing!! Right off the start, let me just say that tv and videos cannot accurately portray the speed and ease with which Yuzu skates. His effortless skating strokes are pure magic to watch.
In the first practice, Yuzu skated out of the gates like the wind and boom, huge effortless triple loop executed right in front of me as his opening jump. That’s the starting warm up jump?? Oh my, I knew then that I was in for a real treat!!! Next warm up jump: well, lets just do a triple axel sandwiched between two spread eagles as if he were doing a large waltz jump! It was like the jumps to him were as easy as breathing!! The height and distance covered with each jump, especially the triple axel, is spectacular.
The arena in the Allendale Recreation Centre is Olympic size, so 100′ x 200′. The extra 15 feet of width compared to a regular NHL rink is significant to a skater like Yuzu who has so much speed and power.
Then, within a minute or two of the start of practice, out came the quads! After five minutes of the 40 minute practice session, the trip was already made for me!! Trust me when I say I have watched a lot of international practice sessions in person, but nothing compares to this!!! Wow, have I been spoiled now, and man, do I ever love the new blue team Japan warm up jackets. Whomever selects the teams’ training jackets from year to year has great taste in team clothing. Team Japan always looks fabulous (in figure skating).
First practice, Yuzu worked on Seimei. The first step sequence was breathtaking; it draws you into the program beyond the amazing jumps and spins. Every movement head to toe has been specifically choreographed for a specific beat in the music, and the ending pose with the stamp of his the foot for emphasis is just perfect. Since skaters rarely perform a complete run through with all of the elements during these practices, the intrigue quickly began to build!!!
What was really cool was that Yuzu was the first skater up for run throughs in the first practice, and when his music was announced and he took his place at center ice, an immediate silence took over the entire arena. It was a bit surrreal, there was no white noise, and not a whisper in the house, this level of fan attention for a practice run through. Or, maybe was it that I was so mesmerized that I simply did not notice? I think everyone fan in attendance was in the same place I was, totally drawn in to the announcement of Yuzu’s name, and ready to pay careful attention to his every move.
During the first practice, Yuzu was having trouble with timing of his quad toe. He just wasn’t getting the normal amount of height on this jump that he normally does so he was going down a lot even though he was fully or close to fully rotated. No amount of deep knee bend would save some of his failed quad toes. However, every second or third quad toe attempt was picture perfect. Then Yuzu would go do something else and come back to a different version of the quad toe (single version versus combination version) and attempt three or four more quad toes.
Yuzu didn’t practice his quad salchow as much as the quad toe because he had about a 90-95 % success rate on the quad salchow during practice. Dare I say that he is an “edge” jumper, rather then a “toe” jumper? All skaters find one kind of jump easier than the other and typically fall in one of the 2 categories. Edge jumps (salchows, loops, and axels) seem to fall into Yuzu’s sweet spot, while toe jumps (toe loop, flip, lutz) are where he struggles a bit from time to time. It looks like all of Yuzu’s jumps except the quad toe have improved over the off season. Yuzu looks more comfortable with his triple flip, and the triple lutz seems to be getting more consistent, however he still breaks at the waist on the landing every so often.
I honestly do not recall who else was on the same practice session this first session (except Nam), since I did not dare to take my eyes off Yuzu. I mean no disrespect to Nam and the others, but I was very focused on Yuzu and since the opportunities to watch Yuzu practice are so rare, I didn’t want to waste even one moment of it.
I was honoured to be able to give Yuzu my gift personally after the end of the first practice!! Thank you to the fan who took this picture of Yuzu carrying my gift!!
Practice on day 2 started off with different Under Amour gear (long sleeve, then short sleeve) 😊 and a spectacular helicopter double loop, followed by a gigantic triple loop again right in front of me. How I could get used to watching this everyday!! Then next, per Yuzu’s normal routine, came the massive, stunning triple axel, as if it were dropped from heaven. There is no triple axel out there that can compare with the quality of Yuzu’s axel. Pretty nice “basic” warm up routine Yuzu!! Simply incredible!!! Again, Yuzu’s jumps looked as easy as breathing. Yuzu seemed very relaxed throughout, but very focused during practices.
If you ever have the pleasure of watching a practice live, I recommend that you do not take your eyes off of Yuzu. If you do, you might miss something incredible. Out of nowhere, Yuzu was just skating around the edges per normal practice ice “right of way”, then snap! 2 seconds later, he executes a perfect quad loop out of nowhere with a beautiful edge and flow exiting the jump. Even though the quad loop is not in either of his programs currently, he threw one in during practice #2. There were no warning signs, and he only did one, once!!! It was beautiful!! I am so very thankful that I did not miss it. Then after that, he went back to the quad salchow. This makes sense as Yuzu once stated that practicing the quad loop helps him with the feeling of the quad salchow. After the perfect quad looop, came a perfect quad salchow, so the strategy is definitely working!
Again, during practice #2, more trouble on the quad toe. I’m not saying it was a big issue. Just that Yuzu doesn’t have the same level of consistency on the quad toe as he used to. I hope Brian and Yuzu get this back in order by Skate Canada.
When Yuzu came over to the side boards, Brian instructed him to fix the angle of entry into the quad toe. Yuzu was going into the quad toe too straight versus on a deeper curve on the entry. Then adorable Yuzu simply nodded and went down to the end of the ice and stared at the edges etched into the ice where his previous quad toe attempts had been made. He stayed there for at least a full minute staring at the ice and reviewing the edges by himself. What a supreme technician!! Then, bang, a perfectly executed quad toe followed.
Thinking back on the three full practices I saw, Yuzu only practiced his spins a few times each practice. His spins seem to be a bit faster and tighter in position so I think he has been working hard on them back at the Cricket Club. There was nothing new in terms of unique spin positions but I don’t think anyone is really taking notice of that yet. It’s all about the overall package of Seimei!!
Competition start: Short Program: Chopin
The most memorable moment of the short program event was when Yuzu took off his warm up jacket. The entire crowd gave out a collective “Wow”! I watched videos of the short program since then and unfortunately, you cannot hear that moment in the crowd, but it was instant!! The next sound was the click of the hundred of cameras and motor drives!!
Since the ISU changed the rule that a skater must take his starting position on the ice from when his/er name is called from one minute to 30 seconds last season, how long would it take Yuzu to get into his starting position this season??
Here is the evidence that it took Yuzu 23.5 seconds to get into position. The clock started countdown at 1:00 and stops when the skater is perfectly still in their starting position. Now its probably not exact to the second every time, but here you can see that Yuzu still had 6.5 seconds to stop moving.
My thoughts on the new costume; my first reaction was wow! There was a brilliance to it that the old one did not have. I don’t know if the new sparkles are more bedazzling or because the new one has much more white material than blue. Or maybe it’s because I was seeing it in real life only five feet away under the glare of fluorescent lights. The new flesh coloured patches on the sides were interesting. At first I liked the new beige side inserts, but then I saw a picture of Yuzu standing still and they don’t fall properly when he is not moving so I hope Yuzu’s tailor will fix that a bit. I guess we will all be transfixed all season to see if the blue bleeds upwards again. The thick waist bands on his costumes continue to be my favorite part of all costumes that he uses them on.
Now that I have had the chance to look at both costume options side by side, I’m not sure which one I like better.
Old versus new design:
Cute moment that occurred before the mens final started. The announcer was advising fans that “For the safety of the skaters, please do not throw anything on the ice”. Suddenly, this little girls voice came over the speakers and announced the same thing in Japanese, or at least I assume it was the same announcement as I could not understand what was said. It was so cute! Talk about the organizers thinking on their feet, and catering to the key languages being spoken in the stands (English, French and Japanese)!! I was happy that everyone complied. Such a good event!
Long program: Seimei
As the saying goes “I laughed, I cried, I gave it a 10”. Or in this case, should I say I gave it a +3.0 GOE?
Seimei has to be THE most anticipated long program ever. It was an incredible experience seeing the first ever complete competition version of Seimei in person. The gasp of all the fans when Yuzu took off his jacket was immediate and again, the sound of camera picture clicking started! I bet Yuzu enjoys these moments. I remember that I had the same “wow” reaction when I saw the original red and black POTO costume when he took of his training jacket. Talk about knowing how to build up suspense for a “reveal”!!
Personally, I like both of the Seimei costumes. For those that like the original one better, perhaps Yuzu will still use it in ice shows. Yuzu said in a previous interview that the changes they made were to account for the change in lighting conditions. Ice show lighting and competition lighting are literally like night and day. The bodice on the new costume looks lighter in material which is good for Yuzu. The intracacy of the fabric (brocade?) and detailing of the sparkles is well thought out and it fits Yuzu’s personal competition gear style.
Old versus new design:
If there was any worry on Yuzu’s part about North American audiences not understanding the Seiemi program, he need not worry! It translates very well, and as I wrote before, Seimei is very well going to become his defining program!!
When Yuzu skated out to centre ice to start Seimei, the quiet hush of the sold out arena was surreal. You could have heard a pin drop!! No one spoke a word during the entire performance, other than the appropriately timed “ooohs” and “ahhhs”!! I didn’t want the performance to end. Even with the small mistakes, I was so wrapped up in the choreography that the little jump errors really did not detract from this first run Seimei! This is THE program that could/will launch Yuzu into 200 point land. Note to Yuzu: the 300 barrier is yours for the taking!! Go Yuzu Go!!
Can I just say that personally, the experience of seeing Seimei wasn’t just Doki Doki for me, my whole body was literally shaking with nervousness throughout the entire program. It was certainly an unusual feeling for me, I haven’t had that feeling since I competed myself. It’s a deep nervousness that a deep breath doesn’t calm down, and doesn’t end until the program is over. I felt like I skated the program with Yuzu. I am laughing at myself about this, but it just happened.
Special note: Yuzu was involved with the music editing process, and the breath sound you hear at the very beginning before the first note of the Seimei music is actually the recorded sound of Yuzu taking a breath. OMG, the details Yuzu and his team think of are incredible.
Credit to @kirariyuzu of tumblr for the information about the breath recording
This type of “sound key” at the beginning of music allows a skater to time the initial move, especially if the starting movement is to a beat of music. Yuzu knows exactly when to raise his left arm after the breath sound. Other skaters have used various little sounds to signal the start of the music track.
The precise and deliberate slower movements during the footwork sequences are sublime. The step sequences and the quick little modified pistol pose in the middle of the step sequence are a perfect fit for the drum beats in this program. Well done Shaelyne…and Yuzu!!
I wish Mama Hanyu would make matching water bottle covers because these ones would be ultra cool! Imagine how special a Seimei water bottle would be!!
Special Moments during the awards ceremony:
As if getting tickets to this event wasn’t lucky enough, they put the podium directly in front of where I was sitting!! Here are my special Yuzu moments:
1. After skating to center ice and bowing to the audience, Yuzu skated to the medal platform and instead of his normal big jump onto the top of the platform, he instead stepped on the first step (bronze side) and with his right foot, tapped the top podium step with his skate to make sure it was sound. Too cute.
2. After all tree medalists got on top of the podium, Nam bugged Yuzu that he was now taller than him, but Yuzu was not backing down, and indicating it was just Nam’s hair, and then using his hand, flattened down Nam’s hair to make his point.
3. All three of the medalists suddenly first smelling the medals, then Yuzu smelled the flowers. I wonder what that was all about. Funny none the less.
4. After the medal ceremony was done, Yuzu skated over the front of the stands and yelled a thank you to the crowd of fans and bowed. Such an incredibly sweet and thoughtful gesture.
So, there it is, I hope you enjoyed reading about my first live Yuzu experience as much as I enjoyed experiencing it!!! It’s a feeling and experience that words cannot do it justice. I had so much fun!!
For those readers who missed my original post on Seimei back in June, here is the link. It also contains a link to a youtube video that has one of the Onmyoji movies with english subtitles.
Thanks to Barrie for putting on a great event and special THANKS to Yuzu for selecting the Autumn Classic instead of Finlandia!!! Let’s do it again next year!! I’m so glad Pooh made the special trip as well, it wouldn’t be the same without him!
I am headed off to Skate America next weekend, and will provide my thoughts on Yuzu’s teammates (Shoma and Mura) and rivals (D. Ten) once I get back.
Go Yuzu Go!! Doki doki!!