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!
Back in January 2015 when I started this blog, my first blog entry was a post about Yuzu’s 2014 year in review and I really didn’t have a good idea of what blogging was all about. Since then I’ve discovered that blogging is actually quite fun, and I really want to thank everyone for visiting my site, and thank you so much for your support!
While the skating season doesn’t end on December 31, with the New Year so close, I always enjoy looking back over the last 12 months. Yuzu was SO busy in 2015 as you will see reading through this post!! I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with me! *Warning – this is a long post, but Yuzu is worth it!!
Yuzu fans worldwide spent most of January anxiously waiting for news on Yuzu’s condition. After Japan Nationals in December 2014 when Yuzu pulled out of the Gala event, we were told Yuzu needed abdominal surgery for urachal remnant disease. We were all a bit shocked to know that Yuzu had skated at Nationals, and won his 3rd straight title with so much pain.
After surgery, in his eagerness to get back on the ice to resume training, Yuzu sprained his ankle (Jan/Feb), which further limited his training time. Because of all of his injuries, Yuzu stayed in Japan to train and was without Brian. They communicated every day via email and Brian laid out a specific training plan for Yuzu which he was confident Yuzu would follow, yet the plan was hardly optimal. Not a great start to the year.
Valentines Day: Many fans were relieved to see a smiling, healthy looking Yuzu appear after his surgery. I learnt something new about Valentine’s Day in Japan.
Yuzu said, “When I was a child, I was training at the ice rink in Sendai. Most of my training mates were girls there. Very few boys skated at that time, so I remember we received lots of chocolates on the Valentine’s Day from so many girls. I remember it was a little hard to give them presents in return.” In Japan, the boys who receive chocolates from girls will give something back to them in return on March 14, which is called “White Day”. Mostly, boys give candy to the girls. *Thanks unpoissonbleu for confirming this info for me!
I remember as a kid, we would give our favourite boys little Valentines Day cards with cute pictures on them asking them to “Be My Valentine”, and hope we would get one back in return (on the same day). Nothing happens in March for us.
New Sponsorship Deal: An announcement was made that Yuzu agreed to promote Bathclin products. Fans were left wondering what kind of commercials would appear. Later on in the year, we found out that the deal was to allow Bathlin to use Yuzu’s image on their products, and I’m sure sales revenues of their products have increased substantially, perhaps not for the products themselves, but the little magnets that came with them!
World Championships: As the reigning World Champion, there were huge expectations for Yuzu going into the 2015 Worlds. The world was waiting with baited breathe because of all of Yuzu’s recent injuries. To jumpstart the frenzy, fans in Japan got to see giant Yuzu!! I often wonder what happens to these posters once they are taken down. I know in Canada, that when large posters of athletes are used in bus stops, that the pictures are often auctioned off for charities afterwards.
While Yuzu led the field after the short program, a popped quad salchow in his long program was the difference at Worlds. Yuzu lost his title to his friend and training mate, Javier Fernandez, by a slim margin. While genuinely happy for Javi, Yuzu vowed immediately afterwards to win his title back the following year. Go Yuzu Go!
Olympic Day 2015: As a promotion for the Olympics and getting athletes to try sports outside their normal events, we got the pleasure to see “Yuzu, the boxer”. His english was adorable, and who can forget the phrase: “All you need is you, try something new”
World Team Trophy: Team Japan won the bronze medal on the strength of Yuzu’s 2 programs. He placed first in both the short and long programs. While we got to see the skaters having fun, Yuzu was still very serious while competing as he was trying to prove something to himself, that he could perform his programs cleanly. While he didn’t accomplish his goals, we got to see him relax a bit and have some fun.
Yuzu famously mouths the words “Bye bye” to Christine during the last skate of his Phantom of the Opera (POTO) program. I found it interesting to re-watch the POTO program again while I was putting together this blog post. After watching Seimei so many times, I really could not get into POTO music or the program anymore.
POTO: Last performance video 2015 WTT FS Yuzu Hanyu
Skater Announcements: April was also the month that both Plushy and Patrick announced their competitive comeback intentions. We know now that Plushy was not able to compete this year due to an additional surgery requirement to fix his back again, and Patrick came back this season.
ISU Videos: The ISU did a series of interview/videos with many of their member skaters (figure skating, speed skating). Here is Yuzu’s moment.
Video: A moment with Yuzuru Hanyu
Charity Auction: Yuzu wore a cycling jersey, did a public announcement to endorse his support, and then the auction wars began. I wrote a blog post about this drama of this event earlier in the year, so suffice to say, Yuzu’s game worn anything is priceless.
World Blood Donor Day: As the Japanese Red Cross spokesperson, Yuzu participated in an event for World Blood Donor Day. Who can forget Yuzu taking the mascots’ hand and helping the mascot off the stage? Simply Adorable!!
Video: World Blood Donor Day
Yuzu visits: Yuzu visited affected areas Fukushima and Ishinomaki and interviewed some of the people as part of the 24Hour TV annual charity event. These visits were very special to the people who were still living in the areas affected, and it really showed a compassionate Yuzu. He has such a good heart.
Madame Tussauds: Yuzu got his own wax figure at Madam Tussauds. I actually don’t like the wax figure at all. I don’t think it looks like him, the face is a bit odd looking so I am only posting pictures of the real Yuzu here. I am amazed at how many people went and measured the wax figure. Do we really need to know every detail? Wouldn’t Yuzu be embarrassed to know his fans did this?
Ice shows (June/July): Yuzu debuted an ice show version of Seimei, and got the entire figure skating world excited about his new long program. There are too many shows to talk about here (that is a separate post entirely). Suffice to say that I am glad that Yuzu and his mom (manager) decided to reduce the number of shows that Yuzu participated in this year. He has to pace himself in order to be in the best shape going forward for the next couple of years into Olympics. While the saying “strike while the iron is hot” probably would apply here, Yuzu’s popularity will not wane after he retires. In fact, it will probably increase even more, as the ability to see him skate will be limited to shows.
TV Special: During FaOI, Yuzu, Shoma, and Nobinari (Nobu) got together and did a tv special where they chatted with each other about their lives, and their present and future plans. It was a very cute round table discussion where we learned about what Yuzu has planned for the future.
24 Hour TV Charity Special: Yuzu lent his creative juices to the design of a t-shirt with Yuri Chinen for 24 Hour TV annual event, where the slogan was “to connect ~ a smile beyond time”. How creative to add little skates to the smiley face, there is no doubt which one is Yuzu’s handiwork.
Video: 24 Hour TV Special
Premium Talk TV Special: Yuzu participated in another TV special where he was interviewed at length about many topics. The hosts made Yuzu do strange things, from reviewing strange looking speakers, to planting plants, the variety shows in Japan are truly unique. What a treat!!
Video: Premium Talk Show
Phiten: Yuzu has worn Phiten products for most of his life, and is the perfect spokesperson for this company. In additional the the necklaces that he wears, the company met with Yuzu and started the design of some special products with Yuzu’s feedback. With his influence, I can only imagine the sales of these products once they are launched (necklaces, socks, neck warmers). In addition, Phiten launched a limited edition Rakuwa Necklace X100 (Mirror Ball Earth Colour) which Yuzu has been wearing this season.
Ghana chocolate campaign #2: Ghana chocolate made a follow up commercial this year. This commercial provided us with some stunning photos of Yuzu, dressed of course in Red. Like last year, they had the usual press conferences with the girls and an overload of RED, but I prefer the commercial and the making of the commercial videos instead.
I also got to try Ghana chocolate for the first time this year. It tastes like a Nielsen’s Jersey Milk chocolate bar here in North America.
Kenji’s room: Just before the season was about to start, we were treated with 5 episodes of Kenji’s room! Yuzu was very relaxed in these interviews and there was simply so much discussion about his experiences. As a former skater turned choreographer, Kenji can relate to Yuzu in ways that other interviewers can not. Such an interesting series of shows!! Unfortunately I do not have any links to provide as they were taken down from the posters due to copyright issues.
The new figure skating competition season finally arrived!
Skate Canada Autumn Classic: Yuzu decided not to go to Finlandia this year, and opted for the Autumn Classic in Barrie. I think this was a really wise decision. In addition to reducing his travel which catches up with you eventually throughout the year, it gave him much needed time to work with Brian on his programs.
It was the first time I got to see Yuzu skate live, and what a treat it was!! Yuzu is simply breath taking!! He was amazing!! Watching him in person was an experience of a lifetime!! It was the competitive debut of Seimei! Wow, what a program! I fell in love with the program and the music instantly.
A win at the Autumn Classic was a nice way to ease into the competitive season. Can I just add here that he is truly one of the most photogenic people I have ever seen!
Skate Canada International: Who would have predicted a 6th place spot after the short program? No one was more surprised than Yuzu himself at his SP score. Yuzu learned about a rule that invalidated his jumping passes. I think Skate Canada was a blessing in disguise for Yuzu. He fought back for a 2nd place finish overall and it gave Yuzu a new motivation to push harder, make changes and the result was 2 dream programs and world records!
More Xylitol gum: Was it necessary to dress Yuzu up in all white again? Apparently the makers of Xylitol gum thought so. Well, at least both the commercial and the white outfit was a bit better than last year’s version. Yuzu looks great in a suit regardless of the colour!
I got to try Xylitol gum for the first time ever, and I was pretty impressed with it. It’s actually pretty decent gum! There are so many possible flavours!
Video: Xylitol Gum
NHK Trophy: Before the Skate Canada event was over, during the Gala practice, Yuzu was already re-working his Chopin program and adding an additional quad. I think his performance at Skate Canada was the catalyst for the record breaking Chopin program at NHK.
Setting one world record is a great achievement. Setting 3 new world records at the same competition in skating is out of this world!
Grand Prix Finals: Yuzu answered the questions many were asking. How long would the new world records that he set at NHK last, and could Yuzu repeat his clean performances again? Ok, he did both a bit sooner than expected, and here was the magnificent results!
Love in Action – Red Cross: As a follow up to last year, the Red Cross and Yuzu made another commercial this year. We didn’t get to see Yuzu singing to a catchy tune this year, but he had a few speaking parts which had a very strong message and prompted new donors to go and donate blood when they reach 20 years of age.
Japan Nationals: Spending Christmas with my family, then staying up all night for 2 nights to watch Japan Nationals. What a great holiday break!
It was a unique experience watching Yuzu in real time at Japan Nationals because you could see how all of the younger skaters look up to him. There was a moment that I had when after the warm up, Yuzu was walking towards backstage, I felt there was this air of “regal-ness” about him (like an actual Prince). I say this because when you see him beside all of the other skaters, he has a different presence, an special aura about him. Yet, when I saw the ages of the other 5 skaters in his warm up group, they were all the same age (except Shoma).
After the short program, it became apparent what Yuzu has now begun to expect of himself. He now feels like he has to be perfect every time, and he is putting so much pressure on himself. I’m so glad Brian was there with him to reason with him and support him. I think it was another blessing in disguise for him to fall on a jump during his short program, so that he wouldn’t be too overconfident heading into Worlds and for him to learn that it’s ok not to be perfect every time.
One moment that I need to call out is the towel incident. A fan threw a towel at him when he wasn’t expecting anything and it landed right on Yuzu’s head!!! This was a ridiculous moment that should not have happened. Yuzu was clearly not impressed.
Scariest moment: I swear my heart skipped a beat when I went onto twitter and saw photos of a collision between Yuzu and Daisuke. Thank goodness both skaters are ok, and hopefully they are ok both physically and mentally.
Staying up for a second night, this time to 5:30am was tough, especially since the “live stream” was tape delayed and I ended up staying up for 21 hours!! It took every ounce of strength I had not to follow any social media and spoil the results. But, definitely worth it to witness Yuzu winning his 4th straight National title!! *Too bad the sound on the streaming died right as Yuzu was announced, and I had to watch it without sound! Good thing I basically knew the music off by heart now, even the 8 count drum beats in the step sequence!
I am so happy for Yuzu, I wish he was happier as well. I am going to believe that he will channel his frustration into a great performance at Worlds! Congrats to Yuzu, Shoma, and Takahito!!
PHEW – 2015 was a lot of work!! Not by me, but by Yuzu!!! In addition to all of the events that Yuzu participated in, Yuzu had 2 highly anticipated photo shoots this year.
The magazine is “家庭画報” “Katei-Gaho”, and these photos are amazing! Such respect for the history and culture behind this photo shoot.
Of course, there are probably more Yuzu moments in 2015, but these are the highlights for me. Yuzu also had other sponsorship deals throughout the year (ex: with a bedding company etc.) but this post is already long enough.
If you have stayed with me this far, last but not least, during the 2015 year, Proctor and Gamble launched a series of interviews called Yuzu days. Every few months, a new interview is posted and provides fans with more insight into Yuzu’s life. It’s such a great promotion by P&G that I don’t even mind the periodic spam email that P&G sends me about their products.
EDIT: Since I posted this before the actual end of the year, I missed one important event at the end of December where Yuzu appeared as a guest judge on what I would describe as a annual variety show: 66th Kouhaku Uta Gassen. Here are a couple quick pictures – unfortunately, Yuzu said he did not defeat Darth. 🙂
Yuzu’s been so busy in 2015, and he eluded to being tired in the Kiss and Cry after the short program. Hopefully he can catch a break after his commitments in Japan in January, and have a few days off to recharge before he gets ready for Worlds. My wish is that he skips 4CC to rest up and be at his best to reclaim his World Title in Boston!
Somewhere in 2015, I think Yuzu had one or two weeks to go on vacation with his family for the first time in a LONG time. Well deserved! Hopefully since Yuzu is staying in Japan for part of January 2016 for some ice shows, he will get the chance to ring in the New Year with his family too!!
I’m wishing everyone a HAPPY NEW YEAR!! See you on the ice in 2016 Yuzu!
2016: Go Yuzu Go!! Doki Doki!!