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!
And finally, my last photo diary blog entry of the 2016 Worlds in Boston. The day that everyone was waiting for in March, the Mens Long Program!
By the time the final group was set to skate, the frenzy of anticipation in the crowd had reached its peak. The final group came on the ice and with a hint of Seimei peaking out from under the sleeves of Yuzu’s warm up jacket, we were ready to go!!
At the beginning of the six minute warmup, everything seemed normal. Everyone was anticipating an epic performance from Yuzu given that he nailed the short program earlier. When I look at these photos now, with the knowledge of how Yuzu felt physically and mentally, I look at his face, and I see something different. Yuzu knew it was going to be a struggle.
During the six minute warm-up, at one end of the rink, Yuzu’s triple axels looked good, his takeoffs were solid and the landings were beautiful and smooth.
At the other end of the rink, the quads were given him a bit of trouble but after a couple attempts, they were back to being spectacular. How well he hid the pain is unbelievable.
During the whole warmup I was busy willing Yuzu to be successful. In reviewing my photos more carefully now, months later, I can’t help but notice a different expression in Yuzu’s face.
The normal sparkle, and the twinkle in his eyes just weren’t there on this day. He looked tired and almost sad in a way. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 but every picture I looked at, he looked like he needed a hug.
Usually you see a look of fierce determination on his face and especially in his eyes. This night, the fight was still there, and you could see it in his effort, but the lightness and the usual magic just wasn’t part of that night.
I wondered if I was mistaking sadness for concentration but we all see what we want to see. When I look at the photos now, I can almost feel the pain in his foot. Yuzu had a different look than fierce concentration. Yes, it is easy to say that now with all the news that came out afterwards, but it all makes sense now that we know he was fighting through an injury.
When his name was called, and he went through his normal pre-skate rituals, his push off backwards from the boards was not as fast and strong, not as confident. If you watch older videos of him pushing away from the boards you will know what I mean. That night, he pushed away and just did a slow glide backwards. Now, this could mean absolutely nothing but looking back, he just didn’t have that powerful “LET’S GO!!” moment.
Later, Yuzu said that he couldn’t get a good feel the ice (until the exhibition). I know that feeling. Your edges just don’t feel like they are gripping quite right, the ice feels foreign.
Right after the initial circle at the beginning of Seimei, I put my camera down.
I don’t have to re-watch what happened that night to remember vividly, the feelings I had when Yuzu’s first quad Salchow was not perfect. The sound of 18,000 gasps is not a sound a person forgets that easily. It wasn’t a major error but I do recall thinking to myself that something didn’t look right with Yuzu but at that moment I had no way of knowing what would unfold. But, with Yuzu sometimes a minor mistake at the beginning is enough of a jolt to make him skate cleanly throughout the rest of the program. On that night, it wasn’t.
Near the end of his program, I sat in a bit of disbelief, wondering if it was real. When the marks came up, it was like a bad dream. My heart went out to Yuzu. It was over, and it wasn’t enough. By all standards, many other skaters would have loved to have that performance, but by Yuzu standards it was not up to par.
In this photo diary, there are no pictures of the mens’ podium. I reviewed my photos and since my seats were on the same side as the podium I didn’t really get any great shots. Also, true to my own heart, I do not like to post podium pictures where Yuzu is not on top.
So, when the medalists had to pose for their “after” photos, I got to move down a bit closer on my side and get some better shots.
This is the only time I saw a light hearted smile that evening from Yuzu. Again, my heart still went out to him. He had wanted it so badly.
I absolutely love Yuzu’s blooper moments!! Here he discovers that he is facing the wrong way!! How cute is he!!!
This is one of my most favourite photos of Yuzu from Worlds. This moment pretty much says it all. I am so happy I captured this moment albeit I wish it was a different moment.
Even when Yuzu’s down, he is still simply adorable. Trying to get the flag off after the photos were done, he gets all tangled in it.
The flag just doesn’t want to let Yuzu go!
Another fan posted a series of beautiful photos of Yuzu folding the Japanese flag from the front angle. I have the same photos but from a different angle. While there are quite a few shots in the series of him folding the flag, I chose these next two based on what they said to me about Yuzu.
The care and attention to the Japanese flag, the respect that Yuzu gave to it shows a lot about his character, and the love for his country. It reminds me of the time in a post competition interview where he was carrying the flag, he asked someone to hold onto it, not willing to put it on the floor.
His attention to details, making sure it’s folded neatly, is just like how he pays attention to every little detail in his programs, in his life. He shows such respect for the icon.
As Yuzu says his goodbye, I just wanted to give him a big hug. He looked so sad, it was heart wrenching. Getting the World title back would simply had to wait until next season.
Having closed that chapter now, I’m sure Yuzu is going to be back this season with new quads, wonderful new programs, and a desire to win more than ever. I am so excited to see what this season brings!!
If you have missed any of the previous 2016 Worlds photo diary entries or my regular blog entries, here is the link to the rest of my blog entries:
See you at the Autumn Classic!!!
Go Yuzu Go!!! Doki Doki!!