Yuzuru Hanyu: 2016/2017: The Road to 2018
When I started the first post in this series, The Road to 2018, I said that there might be many faces and names that could change over the course of a single season. The mens event has proven my point! This blog entry is about the men that continue to be on my radar. Here is the link to the blog entry I wrote over a year ago: Yuzuru Hanyu: 2015: The Road to 2018.
With all of the men, rookie and veterans alike, landing quads like they are simply hopping down the street on one leg, it has become not a war of “who” is landing quads, but who has the full package and multiple quads! It’s a tough reality but personally, I like that the mens field is pushing the limits. Of course we do not want any of these guys to get injured trying to do more than they can, but as a skater turned fan, if a skater can show me amazing technical content while delivering a beautifully choreographed program, I’m all in!!
Team Japan: The biggest change in the Team Japan lineup was the retirement of Takahiko Kozuka (Mar, 2016). However, Japan still has a strong young men’s core.
- Yuzuru Hanyu (12/07/94) – Age 21: Over the last season, we saw Yuzu come out with a stunning new long program (Seimei) and with the experience and fine tuning of his short program (Chopin), we saw world record after world record fall (NHK, GPF). It was an extraordinary feat, and his silver medal at the 2016 Worlds in Boston was not the season ending that everyone was hoping for and expecting. With his latest foot injury, reports are that Yuzu has recovered but any athlete that has had injuries before knows, old injuries can flare up at any time. Will this cause Yuzu to be more cautious in his programs this upcoming season? Given Yuzu’s anticipated layouts in both his new SP and LP, it looks like Yuzu is forging ahead technically, adding a new quad (4Lo). Yuzu has never been the type of skater to play it safe. After a significant off ice layoff during his recovery this summer, Yuzu is working to gain back his strength and consistency. I suspect that his first outing at the Autumn Classic may be a bit cautious, but once he gets back into his rhythm, I fully expect that Yuzu will again, show the world why he is #1 in the rankings, and #1 in my heart! While he is still not the oldest member of Team Japan, he is definitely their leader. Go Yuzu Go!!
- Shoma Uno (12/17/97) – Age 18: After making history being the first man to land a 4F in competition at last seasons World Team Trophy, Shoma has shown us that it was no fluke. He looks to have his new 4F pretty consistent and has improved his overall skating skills over the summer. Shoma is confirming to the skating world that he will be a contender in all events. As a Yuzu fan, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Shoma scares me just a little bit. He is a fighter just like Yuzu. This gives Team Japan a strong 1-2 punch up front!
- Sota Yamamoto (01/10/00) – Age 16: Unfortunately, Sota’s senior debut on the Grand Prix circuit is going to be delayed. After healing his broken ankle, he now has another fracture in the same ankle and is off the ice once again recuperating from injury. Hopefully he will be ready for Japan Nationals.
- Takahito Mura (02/11/91)- Age 25: The new veteran in the group. Actually I am a bit surprised that Takahito is still competing this season but he must still have something he wants to achieve. If he can gain some consistency back we may be in for a nice surprise. Since he is not changing his costume designer from last season, I look forward to the moment that he shows us his new creation!! Having a consistent Mura continue will give Team Japan some added depth until Sota is ready to go.
Team Canada: Some off season drama for Team Canada with both of our top skaters changing coaches.
- Patrick Chan (12/31/90) – Age 25: I think last season was a good learning year for Patrick. While he had early success at Skate Canada, I think Patrick got a good view of what had changed in the year he was absent. For this upcoming season, he has added to the Patrick saga by splitting with his coach. At the time of writing this blog entry, he still has not named a new coach. I get that with his experience and with video technology he might be able to train fairly effectively on his own, but nothing replaces someone who has an impartial eye watching and guiding you. It will be interesting to see Patrick attempting his new quad salchow. Can he climb back onto the World podium this season? The advantage Patrick had in his skating skills and PCS scores is slowly being negated by the increases in base value of all of the other skaters technical content. The gap has narrowed quickly and like it or not, Patrick has to up his technical content. Good luck Patrick!
- Nam Nguyen (05/20/98) – Age 17: After a really tough season, Nam decided to leave the Cricket Club and go to train in California. For whatever the reasons, I hope this change in scenery will give him the new start he needs. The major growth spurt he experienced really threw him off. He lost the consistency he had with his quads, and the new lanky look really showcased some odd form. I hope his new coach will fix the god awful entry into his axel jump. He is so bent over on his entry, that by the time he straightens up in the air, he has expended so much energy, he cannot complete the jump consistently anymore. I saw a brief video of Nam practising some jumps recently, and it looks like he has grown a bit into his new height and is figuring it out. Good luck Nam!
Team Spain: No solid younger skaters coming up through the ranks yet.
- Javier Fernandez (04/15/91) – Age 25: I think the biggest advantage Javi has over Yuzu is that while he has won 2 World Championships and is continuing to gain popularity he still does not have any outside pressure to win. Javi does not come from a country who is figure skating mad. The expectations are very different. While Javi also has many fans, it is no where near the same volume and type of adoration that Yuzu faces. The demands on Javi’s time are also significantly less than those of Yuzu. Javi has stayed fairly injury free over the course of his career and this makes a difference of energy level over the course of a season. I haven’t heard anything about Javi adding a new quad to his programs this season so we might see the same layout from him again. I do still believe that Javi only wins when Yuzu is not at his best. This is my own personal opinion.
Team Russia: Team Russia really needed someone to stand up and be noticed. Kolyada who wasn’t even on my 2015 blog entry did that last season at Worlds.
- Mikhail Kolyada (02/18/95) – Age 21: Mikhail had a bit of a “coming out” party at Worlds in Boston finishing 4th overall. There isn’t enough senior level competitive history to go on yet, so I wonder if Kolyada can be consistent year after year. His first year of seniors was marred by injury so last season was his breakout season. It will be intriguing to see what he does this season. Hopefully he is not a one hit wonder.
- Maxim Kovtun (06/18/95) – Age 20: Maxim had a tough season last year and I question whether his heart is still in it. He talks about enjoying so much outside the world of skating that perhaps his recent change in coaching will make a positive difference and re-focus him. I loved his “I Can’t Dance” program last season and hope to see more of that skater this year.
- Adian Pitkeev (05/16/98) – Age 18: Adian had a bad back injury at the end of last season that he has been recovering from. He has shown flashes of talent and I hope he can have a good consistent season.
Team USA: Notable changes: the retirement of Joshua Farris.
- Jason Brown (12/15/94) – Age 21: Jason is back this season after injury. He has indicated that he now has a 4T in his program. Jason failed on his 4T attempt at Lombardia this past weekend but at least he is finally trying a quad now. I don’t think he is USA’s hope for the future. I think that title belongs to Nathan Chen.
- Adam Rippon (11/11/89) – Age 26: The oldest of Team USA, Adam had a great perfomance at last year’s Worlds. While he won his first National title last season, I don’t see him staying competitive with the younger skaters that are coming along.
- Nathan Chen (05/05/99) – Age 17: Here is the US hope for the future. A injury that occurred during an exhibition skate (Nationals) last season resulted in Nathan withdrawing from the World Championships. He recovered from hip surgery and it does not appear to have slowed him down. Initial reports this season have him jumping quads like crazy again. In his first year at the senior level, he was the first American to land 2 quads in the short program and 4 quads in the long program at last years’ US Nationals. Nathan will be one to keep an eye on for the US!
Team Kazakhstan: Still just Denis
- Denis Ten (06/13/93) – Age 23: Denis is an enigma. Denis’ lack of consistency due to injury and whatever else is happening, has me scratching my head. I’m really not sure what to think about him. I think for Denis, I will just wait and watch what happens this season and get a better read on him then. I haven’t heard anything about him in this off season so I have no idea if he is trying to up his technical content to keep up with the pack.
Team China: The emergence of Boyang Jin has added some much needed depth on Team China.
- Boyang Jin (10/03/97) – Age 18: In my 2016 Worlds prediction blog entry last season, I predicted that Boyang would get a bronze medal even though it was only his first year of Senior competition, and he did!! Some people laughed at my prediction because at the point I did it, Boing Boing was still all jump, jump, jump from juniors. However, I see so much potential. Over last season watching Boing Boing’s SP and LP, I really enjoyed them!! I’m not saying he has the full package yet, but he definitely has a fun personality and can grow into it with his skating!! I believe he will be on the podium consistently this season since he has been working on his PCS all summer. I can’t wait to see what Boyang looks like this season!
- Han Yan (03/06/96) – Age 20: It’s hard to believe Han Yan is still only 20! Han had a decent season last year but had a horrible Worlds, ending up 26th overall. He’s become a bit of a hot and cold skater in my mind. Han is very talented, he has big jumps and great choreography but can’t seem to put it all together mentally in big events. Hopefully he can show us some magic this season.
OK, here we go with 2016/2017!!!!
Go Yuzu Go!!! Doki Doki!!