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!
I would like to start this blog entry by saying “THANK YOU and ARIGATO GOZAIMASHITA!” for the gifts I received from some readers of my blog. I am VERY HONOURED by this surprise, and am overwhelmed by your generosity. I will treasure the Yuzu items – they are gorgeous!! And a huge Thank You to poissonbleu for transporting everything to Canada! It was such a pleasure to meet you!!
This season has become a dream season for me, as I have been lucky to see Yuzu in person and skating live in two different events within a span of 2.5 weeks. I struggle to describe how amazing it has been, and what wonderful memories I have made. I am now already counting down the days until the World Championships!!
Having an “all event” ticket to a Grand Prix competition is truly priceless, as it includes access to all of the practices as well. We are lucky here in North America in that we generally don’t have to fight for tickets to skating events. I do wish there was more media coverage of figure skating though. I checked the local newspapers after both the short program day and long program day, and only one small article on each day appeared on page 6 or 7 of the sports section. A single photo of Patrick Chan introduced the stories, and Yuzu was only mentioned in one sentence. Very horrible coverage for an International event but hopefully I can spread the word about how special Yuzu is via my blog!
As I said, access to the practices is a very special treat. While not everyone would enjoy spending 14 hour days sitting in an arena (for three weekends in a row), I was like a kid in a candy store. The rink is like a second home to me. It was very tiring, but worth every moment!
Speaking as a North American skating fan who absolutely adores Yuzu, I already knew that figure skating is a very popular sport in Japan. Not only do skaters like Mao, Daisuke, and Yuzu have huge fan bases in Japan, but these fan bases stretch worldwide. Now that I have attended 2 different events with Yuzu, I have begun to appreciate that the Japanese fans are not just regular fans. They are truly devoted to their favorite skaters. It is obvious that Yuzu is popular, but I quickly came to realize that not only is he a fan favorite, Yuzu is truly considered to be a National Treasure of Japan.
The Japanese fans are so very proud of him, and I have never seen this level of support for any single athlete. I understand Yuzu’s appeal of course. He is not just an athlete that wins competitions and medals for his country. Yuzu is a surviver and has demonstrated that with hard work, determination, and a belief in yourself, you can overcome any obstacles and achieve your goals. What an unbelievable role model Japan has!
During the Skate Canada practices it was rush seating so many fans including myself quickly chose seats close down by the ice. It is a rare opportunity to get so close to Yuzu so those seats were snapped up pretty quickly. During the first practice, there were a couple of local fans who marveled and laughed at the scene of hundreds of Yuzu fans all with their cameras and phones focused on his every movement and that their bodies would shift from left to right in their seats while trying to capture special Yuzu moments as he moved across the ice. The locals also commented about the incredible silence in the arena when Yuzu was on the ice. When I looked back at them, they asked me to explain why Yuzu was so special. I was caught off guard by this question, but gave them a quick overview about Yuzu. I hope I left the local ladies with a better appreciation of what Yuzu has been through and accomplished in such a short time.
What Yuzu’s short program at Skate Canada showed us was that Yuzu is in fact, still human. I sometimes forget that it is possible for him to have a bad day. He makes mistakes, and can have disasterous moments just like everyone else. But, Yuzu showed his composure and maturity in the Kiss and Cry, and he never made any excuses for his performance.
No one could have predicted the outcome of the short program. To find Yuzu in sixth place and with two jump elements totalling zero points was unthinkable. Shocked and unable to say much, my thoughts went immediately to calculating the scenarios of what placement Yuzu would have to finish at Skate Canada in order to still have a chance at making the Grand Prix Final. Knowing Yuzu, I’m sure he was thinking the same thing. Though I still had faith in Yuzu to make a comeback, I had to keep repeating Brians words in my mind, “Trust the training”! It was interesting to hear Yuzu talk about his short program afterwards. The fact that he was trying to skate a perfect Chopin program resulted in putting extra pressure on himself. I truly believe that in the current generation of mens figure skating, the only person that can beat Yuzu is Yuzu. Don’t worry Yuzu, like Perisian Walkways, perfection with Chopin will come.
The practice before the long program was a highly anticipated hour given the story that unfolded the night before. I figured Yuzu would be mad and determined which is a good thing for Yuzu fans. Prior to Yuzu taking to the practice ice, I met a super sweet lady in the stands who purchased a Pooh bear online, and spent 30 hours making a Seimei outfit for Pooh. It was hand embroidered, very detailed and beautiful!! She allowed us to take pictures with Pooh, and Pooh even got into a group picture with all his new fans!
Another lady that was with her, pulled out a medallion she purchased from a temple (unfortunately I did not understand where she said it was from), and asked us all to rub it for good luck. Each of us did this and I am sure this was good karma for what was to come. These are the special memories that I will always remember, meeting such dedicated and loyal Yuzu fans! Even though we did not speak the same language, we understood each other perfectly, since all we had to do was look at each other and say “fan – Yuzu”. Talk about Yuzu’s ability to bring and unite the world together, simply amazing!!
The music to Yuzu’s free program is simply wonderful, and Seimei is fast becoming my favorite free program of all time. I almost wish that Yuzu would have kept the program in storage and held onto the idea until it was the Olympic year. That is how special I think this program is. Brian Orser did that with “The Bolt”, his music for the ‘88 Olympics in Calgary. Brian once said that when he heard “The Bolt” he loved it, and so he decided to put it away, and save it for the Olympics.
Jumps aside, my favorite part of Seimei is still the step sequence to the drums. Even the simple cross steps in the footwork sequence take my breath away every time I see it. It gives me goosebumps. We have a saying that “less is more”, and this is a perfect example where such a basic move can have so much impact.
The program itself was a bit messy with little mistakes here and there, but Yuzu showed all the fans, and the other mens’ competitors that the bar is now being raised another level. Playing it safe may win you an event here and there, but when it counts for Worlds and Olympics, my money is on Yuzu to show everyone how it’s done.
That brings me to my thoughts about Patrick Chan’s performance. While it is exciting for Canada for Patrick to be back, I found his programs to be a bit of “been there, done that”. I did not see anything new from Patrick. He still has the same powerful skating skills he always had, and some big jumps, but I found his programs lacking in originality. Perhaps this was his way of getting back into the groove of competition this season, and if we give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he will work on something new to show us. But, I’m not holding my breath. Patrick has already given us his disclaimer saying he is back in competitive skating to leave his mark on the sport, and he is not in it for the medals. Two thoughts come to mind when he says that. First, if you are a world class competitive athlete, of course you want to win! Secondly, if you want to become a legend, just ask Yuzu how it’s done. Push the limits of the sport, try something new and exciting, motivate those around you to be better! Legends aren’t built on playing it safe.
Now that Patrick is back, what does this mean for Nam? Nam totally shifted gears this season and tried a new style of music. I didn’t really see a connection to his new music in Nam’s skating. While he is still improving technically, I still think Nam still needs to work on his artistry and speed, and for heaven’s sake, please fix the entry into the triple axel.
What was unfortunate was how Nam was totally overshadowed by the return of Patrick. Did someone forget that Nam is the reigning Canadian National Champion? I wonder who made the decision not to include him in the Exhibition Gala at the end of the event? Skaters that placed lower than Nam were invited, yet he did not warrant an invite. Skate Canada, what are you doing? Let’s not mortgage the future of Canadian mens’ skating for a nice comeback tribute to Patrick. Aside from all this, I hope this slight will motivate Nam to push it to the max and give Patrick a good run for the Canadian title this year.
Normally, the gala practices are not included in the all event passes. However, for Skate Canada, it was a bonus!! Since the pressure was off, we got to see an adorable and playful Yuzu at Gala practice. What a character!! Aside from being more adorable than Pooh, Yuzu showed us how playful he is when he can let his guard down a bit. What precious moments we were able to see. Ahhh, just too adorable for words!
Having never seen a gala practice before, I found it amazing to watch Yuzu listen to the instructions of a rookie choreographer in Jeremy Ten, then go throw a triple axel for fun. Then on the next pass, Yuzu would do a spread eagle, quad toe, spread eagle. Again, just for fun! The most interesting new move was the spread eagle into the quad salchow. I had not seen that one before. Like I said in my previous post about my Barrie experience, if you turned your head away from Yuzu for one second, you might miss something!
While the other 30 skaters were all hanging out at the other end of the ice, standing around, and chatting with each other, Yuzu was basically doing a full practice, totally relaxed. It was cute, Yuzu just can’t stand still, and you can see that he is a person who truly loves the ice and being on it. He was simply adorable. How many times am I allowed to say adorable??
Even though Yuzu always seemed to be off doing jumps away from the rest of the group, he did not miss a beat when it came to learning the new group number. Even when Jeremy asked Yuzu if he could do the cantilever move, Yuzu obliged, and performed the move that I have only seen Shoma Uno and Phillipe Candelero do. He did a pretty good job of it actually! Unfortunately, Jeremy picked Liz to perform it in the group number, and Yuzu was left to playfully kick his feet in disappointment. Too cute.
While my hopes were to see Parisian Walkways as Yuzu’s gala performance, I was still happy to see Requiem. The green costume surprised me. It looks much better in person on the ice in the spotlight than it does in pictures and video. I wish the organizers would have provided some information about the program to the fans, or done a brief introduction to it, because aside from Yuzu fans, many of the general skating fans in attendance did not know the significance of this program to Yuzu, and the message it carries. At the end of the gala, the skaters were given red balls to throw out into the audience. Well, given that Yuzu has a great baseball arm, he actually threw his over the top row of the lower bowl. It ended up in the concourse, and I’m not sure who picked it up – lucky fan!
One unfortunate incident was that Skate Canada posted a picture of Yuzu on twitter by the boards looking into the stands. The caption read that he was taking requests for jumps from the fans when in actual fact, he was listening to his mother’s advice, to stand up on his jumps. She was sitting up in row 9 out of the picture. I wish they would have retracted the incorrect caption once they were informed by some fans of their error and put the correct version of the events, but they did not. I hope fans will not have unreal expectations of Yuzu in the future as a result of this.
I haven’t put anything in my blog post about scores, or GOE’s or comparing Yuzu to Patrick because I think that sometimes we tend to over-analyze it. We call this “analysis-paralysis”. Sure, it is interesting to read protocols to find out what the judges thought they saw but it does not change the results and figure skating will always be a subjective sport. Fans can debate and argue about it as much as they want, but at the end of the day, I like to focus on the wonderful images and memories of Yuzu, and the new friends that I have made through the admiration of this beautiful and one-of-a-kind skater.
Go Yuzu Go!! Can’t wait to see your performances at NHK!!