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!
While I enjoy all disciplines of skating, Yuzu is definitely the main event. The programs that we see Yuzu perform in competitions are the result of many months of hard work. However, to become a champion it takes athletic talent, perseverance, dedication, discipline, as well as an army of people to help and support you!
So, who is Team Hanyu? Of course, it all starts at home with the support of family.
Imagine how proud Yuzu’s parents are of the son they have raised, not only as a World class athlete, but Yuzu, the person who cares deeply for his hometown, and his country. He has demonstrated to the world, the Japanese spirit of courtesy, respect, and the love of his roots. Talk about knowing you raised your child well!
Brian Orser: Coach
Photo credit: Getty Images
Primary coach, mentor, and friend. A master technician, Brian has been working with Yuzu since 2012. Yuzu came to Brian with an abundance of raw natural talent and charisma. Under Brian’s guidance, Yuzu has learned to harness and control his unbelievable talent. Brian’s team training approach has also given Yuzu a better all around training plan which also includes off ice training such as yoga and strength training that Yuzu previously shied away from.
Brians’ experience not only as an Olympian but him knowing what it is like to bear the weight of an entire nation on your shoulders, has undoubtedly been very valuable to Yuzu. There is a strong bond between them. We only see their interactions during competition practices and in the Kiss and Cry, yet despite the initial language barriers they have forged a great working relationship.
Does Yuzu tell Brian everything, like when he is injured? Probably not. Does Brian take the blame for this sometimes, yes. No athlete trains without some aches and pains on a daily basis and the usual remedy is to ice it after a training session. With 2018 Olympics being the ultimate goal, I think the latest injury (foot ligament injury) was a wake up call for Team Hanyu; that Yuzu needs to communicate these issues to his team sooner and Team Hanyu is now planning his schedule appropriately so he will not be burned out by Pyeongchang.
Most importantly, Brian carries Pooh for Yuzu!!
Photo credit: Getty Images
Tracy Wilson: Coach
Photo credit: screen shot I took from an old Olympic video
As Yuzu’s skating skills coach, Tracy has really helped Yuzu understand how to utilize his deep edges and how to control his power and speed. I love the stories from Brian and Tracy about taking Yuzu back to skating skills basics. Yuzu showed that he is so open minded, even as a budding world class athlete, he did not even mind them forcing him to go back to skating basics. She and Brian has really reinforced the need for strong basic skating foundations and having control of your edges at all speeds. The results of Tracy’s work with Yuzu is the beautiful transitions and control that he exhibits in his choreography.
Yuzu now understands the impact of his speed on the timing of his jumping passes and the rhythm of the jumps where as before he would just go full speed into the jumps, and be a little bit out of control. It’s nice to sit back and review old videos of his 2011/2012 performances with the skater that he is today. You can see the progression in his skating, and it’s just thrilling to watch.
Shae-Lynn Bourne: Choreographer
Photo credit: Shae-Lynn’s instagram
Canadian choreographer. Yuzu has worked on 2 free programs with Shae-Lynn, namely Phantom and Seimei. We never saw the fully developed version of POTO since Yuzu and Shaw-Lynn never had enough time together to refine the program over the course of the full season. But, what we did see was the development of a relationship between choreographer and skater that really clicks. While Shae-Lynn had to get used to Yuzu and his style of skating, it is very obvious that by the time they got together again, this time for Seimei, she understood his style and is an excellent fit for Yuzu. The fact that Shae-Lynn took the time to research the background and meaning behind Seimei and the Japanese culture, shows that she is the type of choreographer that wants to work with the skaters, and not just make them skate her choreography.
I am super excited that Yuzu has gone back to Shae-Lynn for this seasons free program. I am struggling with the notion of how I could possibly enjoy anything more than Seimei, but I will hold out my judgement until we see the finished product!
For any of Yuzu’s fans that don’t follow anyone outside of Yuzu, if you didn’t know Shae-Lynn as a skater, you should take a look at her and her partner Victor Kraatz on youtube. They had many great performances that were so creative in the world of ice dance and they were the first North America dance team to win a World Championship. Plus, they were Canadian!
Jeff Buttle: Choreographer
Photo credit: screen shot from news video
Canadian choreographer. Yuzu and Jeff have collaborated on Parisian Walkways and Chopin so far. Wow, what an amazing team!! The previous 2 short programs were so different that it shows the range that both Jeff and Yuzu have together creatively.
Again, I am super happy that Yuzu has decided to stay with Jeff for his new short program for this season! Based on reports that it the new short program will be more rock and roll, I am super excited!!! As for the costume, please keep the black bottoms Yuzu, I beg of you!!
I love that Jeff Buttle was actually the first person to do the famous Yuzu pistol pose himself. Unfortunately I am unable to find the old video of Jeff doing the lunge move, but it exists out there somewhere. Now, Yuzu has made it his own.
Akira Kikuchi: Trainer
Photo credit: unknown
Trainer, therapist. Trust in your trainer and therapist is very key to success. Whether it is someone treating you for an injury or helping you prepare for an event, you have to have the utmost trust in them, and Yuzu has this in Kikuchi-san. He kind of resembles a father figure on the road for Yuzu. You can tell that he cares about Yuzu, and is very proud of Yuzu when he does well.
I watched Kikuchi-san carefully at Autumn Classic (in person), and he takes care of all the little things that people don’t realize. Not only does he take care of Yuzu, he makes sure that Yuzu’s bags are in the proper place when Yuzu is on the ice, that Pooh is carefully taped to the boards so he doesn’t fall off, that the towel is folded and ready for Yuzu, that the garbage bag for the kleenex is also taped behind the boards so that it is taken care of and no one sees it etc.
Photo credit: unknown
Yuzu’s bodyguards: Protectors
Photo credit: Newscom
Due to Yuzu’s overwhelming popularity, he has had the need to employ personal bodyguards. The sheer volume of fans that Yuzu has prevents him from being able to greet any of them, since he knows that if he stops for one fan, he will get stuck for a long time trying to be fair to everyone. Here is a part of an interview from a magazine where Yuzu talks about the overwhelming support he receives but cannot respond in person.
Now that I have been to multiple events to see Yuzu skate live, I have witnessed the sheer wonder of his skating, but I have also witnessed his need for this type of personal bodyguard protection. My hope for all events is that fans will respect his personal space and give him some room to breathe during competitions. These events are very important to him, and we know he appreciates everyone’s support, but when it gets to the point where he can get injured by the hoards of fans crowding him or blocking his transport vehicles or throwing/shoving things at him and hitting him, I cannot do anything but shake my head. Please everyone, let’s give him some space and let him be amazing.
Yoshiko Kobayashi (JSF): The Federation
Photo credit: Unknown
Yoshiko represents the Japanese Skating Federation and this is the photo that made her famous. She seems to be the primary spokesperson for the JSF, and you will find her at all of the ISU events, very often accompanying Yuzu. I rarely see her alongside any of the other Japanese skaters even though she is a representative of the Japanese Federation.
She is responsible for communications as well as, I am sure after Cup of China last season, coordinating the efforts of the medical personnel that will accompany the higher ranked skaters to major international events.
Major Sponsors: ANA
Sponsors play a huge part in helping a skater achieve their dreams. Figure skating is a very expensive sport and financial support is such an important part of a skaters journey. ANA is Yuzu’s primary corporate sponsor. Yuzu has other partnerships (Phiten, Lotte, Nintendo etc) but I would put them under the category of endorsements.
When I was coming home from Japan, I had the privilege of having access to the ANA lounge at Narita airport. Once I got settled there, a familiar sound filled the lounge. They were playing Hana Ni Nare on the sound system. While I have no idea if this was Yuzu related, it was a nice “hey, that’s so cool” moment.
Most important member of Team Hanyu: Pooh!!
Photo credit: screen shot from video
Like Yuzu has said, Pooh is always there, his facial expression never changes, and Pooh provides him with emotional support. Pooh also provides much needed kleenex during ice time. He is an irreplaceable member of Team Hanyu and Pooh has as many fans as Yuzu himself.
Go Yuzu Go!! Doki Doki!!