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!
The long awaited 2016 Autumn Classic (AC) is now in the record books, literally!! CONGRATULATIONS to Yuzu for being the first man to ever land a quad loop in an ISU competition!!
For the 2nd straight year, Yuzu decided to attend the Skate Canada Autumn Classic, bless his heart!! Any time you get to see Yuzu skate in person is a mind blowing experience. My first time seeing Yuzu live in person was at last year’s Autumn Classic (2015) – here was my recap of my 2015 experience.
Attending this “local” event helps Yuzu significantly in reducing the wear and tear of travel over the course of a season. Staying well rested is key for Yuzu in the remaining 1.5 years left leading up to 2018 Pyeongchang!! Wow, as I just typed “1.5 years left”, I suddenly realize how fast the last 4 year Olympic cycle has gone by!!
Day 1: Practice 1
The first practice this year at AC had an extra special excitement level because no one had seen Yuzu in such a long time. When Yuzu appeared my heart totally started racing!! The atmosphere in the arena came to life when Yuzu came through the tunnel entrance. My heart always beats faster when he’s near and it doesn’t stop beating like crazy until he leaves the ice. It’s just so breathtaking watching him work. Since Yuzu had 40 minutes for each practice session, and my heart rate was elevated throughout the entirety of each practice, I will have to ask my trainer if this counts as a workout!! Ha ha.
The first thing I noticed was that Kikuchi-san was not there with Yuzu and Yuzu’s regular bodyguard seems to have been replaced with a new smaller guy. It seemed a bit weird but we will see what happens at Skate Canada. Hopefully Kikuchi-san was just on vacation and hopefully this new bodyguard will do a good job.
Yuzu opened up practice with his gorgeous helicopter double loop then a triple loop. Next came the largest single axel I have ever seen in my life!!! It’s beautiful!!! Then Yuzu landed a normal triple axel (this is the one that Andrew Dodds, the skater, tweeted). He thought it was huge but what came next made me question my eyesight!!
Just when I thought ok, his axel is looking good, Yuzu goes and does another triple axel so huge in the air that he actually still had hang time after he finished the full rotation before landing in what I think could be the start of prepping for a quad axel in the future. I only saw him do this once. I was kicking myself for not getting this one on video. He definitely has the ability with the height, power and technique to do the quad axel in the future. But, Yuzu can save that for later.
During the practice, Yuzu popped a few quad salchows and each time he just pointed to his head to blame himself. He did not seem too frustrated, and kept very upbeat throughout the practice. I think he was just really excited about being there. He had a little extra adrenaline to deal with as well.
The triple flip Yuzu did at beginning of practice was also magnificent!! He seems to have increased the height and distance on this jump. He only did it once.
About 3/4 of the way through practice, Yuzu put on his jacket so I thought he was getting ready for his cool down. After a couple minutes, he took off his jacket again. Then out of nowhere, he suddenly took off like a rocket from deep in the corner into a step sequence. He was doing the short program footwork sequence. Holy crap the acceleration was fast!!!! He took 3 strides and was at full speed!! Having seen this on the first day helped me later when I was trying to video his run through on practice Day #2, because I knew when to expect it, but the first time I saw it, it was such a surprise that I was rendered speechless.
Many skaters stayed to watch Yuzu practice. It was out of this world good.
During his LP run through, Yuzu attempted his 4 quads. First he did his quad salchow with a touch down on the landing but next, the quad loop was simply breath taking, clean as a whistle. No issues with quad toe that followed either. I don’t recall the result of the 4th quad but it didn’t really matter! While it was my first time hearing the new LP music, I must say that the music was not memorable for me.
One notable moment during the senior women’s practice earlier that day – when one of the skaters was done and ready to put her jacket on, she let out a blood curdling scream because there was a large spider on her jacket!! It ended up falling on the ice and I immediately thought “where is Yuzu to help come pick this bug up off the ice??” haha
Day 2: Practice 2
Practice for the short program on Day 2 was going to be so exciting!! Aside from watching Yuzu work his magic on the ice, the anticipation of seeing the first run through of “Let’s Go Crazy” was exhilarating.
I’m not a huge Prince fan but I love “fast Yuzu”, and this music not only showcases his ability to skate to many genres of music but that he does everything well even with a fast beat. After 2 seasons of Chopin I was praying for up tempo music and the skating gods heard my wish. I think that once Yuzu irons out the kinks in “Let’s Go Crazy”, this will be a great program for him!
As with the Day 1 first practice, Yuzu did one single massive triple flip. He has definitely worked hard to improve the height and strength on that jump. During this practice Yuzu landed a quad loop but not perfectly. He also landed 2 quad salchows combos and a beautiful quad toe. He only did one quad toe so he is still limiting the number of quad toes during practice. It was a good thing I saw that crazy acceleration into fast footwork yesterday so I knew what and when to expect it on this day.
During the short program run through, Yuzu failed to land the quad loop (did a triple), but his quad salchow, triple toe combination was perfection, and his triple axel was magnificent with the kick on the end of it. The accents he added with his little hand gestures during spins and footwork were timed to the beats perfectly and were subtle yet very on point. I was so distracted by Yuzu’s skating that I didn’t even know if the Prince song had all the words other than the first sentence. I had to watch my video replay to confirm that the whole program had words!
Near the end of practice, Yuzu fell a few times on his quad loop attempts, but each time he fell, he got up smiling. Then Brian told him that was enough. Yuzu definitely needs Brian to tell him when to stop. I think Yuzu would have tried that quad loop another dozen times until he could do it perfectly if he was on his own and Brian wasn’t watching him.
My notable moment from the senior womens’ practice earlier this day was Rike Hongo’s short program. I was blown away. No wonder it was fantastic, Shae-Lyne Bourne choreographed it!! This is the type of music I would love for Yuzu to skate to. One can only hope.
6 Minute Warm Up and Short Program
Photo source: Yutaka
When Yuzu appeared for the 6 minute warm up, we all saw the white sleeves and the white puffy vest. When I looked down and saw full white pants and white boot coverings, I was at a loss for words. Holy crap!! Then when I saw the decorative design on the pant leg, my initial reaction was “Elvis”? Not sure why Elvis versus Prince but I’m over that now.
I think Yuzu took the title of the song “Let’s Go Crazy” to heart!! This was CRAZY white! I remember a comment made by Yuzu awhile ago that he always loved to wear black pants because it made his legs look slim and long. So, when Jeffrey Buttle suggested “Let’s Go Crazy” to Yuzu, I think Yuzu thought he meant the costume too!!! Ha ha…just kidding.
If Yuzu was going for “shock value“, he got GOE +3 on this one!!! He had a small cute smirk on his face when he took off his jacket (he was facing my direction while he took off his jacket) and he seemed very pleased with the stunned silence in the building. It wasn’t like last year in Barrie where you heard an audible gasp from the crowd when he debuted the small changes to the Chopin costume. This time when Yuzu revealed the full white outfit, there was not a sound in the arena except for camera motor drives going crazy! All of us in the stands were speechless for a split second moment, then the buzz started!! Kudos to Yuzu and his design team for being able to keep this costume such a secret from everyone, even Brian!
My thoughts on the white costume: I never thought of white as a dramatic colour, but this was “pow” white, very dramatic! I hope he changes the pants from white to black, but I suspect the white is here to stay for this season. I don’t love the costume, but I don’t hate it either. As long as Yuzu likes it, and Johnny Weir didn’t design it, then I can live with it.
As for the short program itself, it was an amazing program and I love up the tempo!!! Can we keep this Yuzu??? As beautiful as his slow programs are, I love this Yuzu!!!! I also love the potential it has to become one of his best short programs of all time. We just need to give Yuzu some time for him to refine it and make it what he wants it to be. For a first time performing it, it was “Wow”!! My favorite parts are the out of the corner acceleration into the footwork sequence and the high kick after the triple axel landing. My very least favorite part is the Johnny Weir stretch move.
Day 3: Practice 3
If the night before wasn’t enough excitement, today we were going to be treated to another new program and another new costume!! Thank goodness the AC did not have a gala; I don’t know if I could have handled a third new program and third new costume all in 3 days!
I tried to pay more attention to the LP music selection at this practice to see if I just missed it because I was watching Yuzu so intently during the first practice or if I just didn’t love it. Hearing it the second time, it still didn’t grab me. I know I am comparing it to Seimei and other Yuzu programs where I have been totally engrossed in his skating and can love and feel the music with him but that’s the standard Yuzu has set for me. This new music is a bit lacking in the “wow” factor for me, however I can appreciate that it is a beautiful piece of music.
Photo source: @yuzuru1207hanyu
Ok, his LP wasn’t Yuzu’s best performance by far, but that doesn’t even matter to me. He looks like he’s back in the game, ready to work hard and improve and show us the champion that he is.
Favorite moments of the short program: I love love love the accentuating arm movement that Yuzu does after his quad salchow, triple toe combination. The double arm pound downwards is pure Yuzu to me. It reminds me of PW. I cannot wait to see the polished choreography version of this program along with clean jumps. It has great potential to be a wonderful program.
Prior to the medal ceremonies, I took a video of Yuzu where he walked towards the wrong door and met up with Misha. If you were on the other side of the arena, what you didn’t see was that when Yuzu and Misha bent down below the boards they were on their hands and knees bowing down to each other. I will try to learn how to make a gif of this precious moment and post it on my Sportymags facebook site in the future. When the organizer told them to move to the other door and Yuzu did a single waltz jump along the pathway, Misha was the one who asked Yuzu “Do you wanna do one more triple axel?” and then motioned to Yuzu by pointing to the ice, Yuzu smiled sheepishly, and quickly nodded YES!! OMG this was sooooo adorable!!!!! My wonderful firestarter phone (Samsung Note 7 – waiting for replacement) caught this conversation on the video. It’s so adorable!!!
During the medal ceremonies Yuzu looking around for the Japanese flag while on the podium was priceless. He did the same thing last year at the Autumn Classic. I guess we should tell Skate Canada to pack a Japanese flag for next season if Yuzu says he will attend AC again. Yuzu only needed to look straight ahead to see half a dozen of Japanese flags being held up by fans.
Who else but Yuzu goes and does not one but 2 triple axels after the medal ceremony is over for fun?? You gotta love him!!!!
**I haven’t had time to go through the photos I took during the Autumn Classic, so I will do another blog entry with some photos from AC in the near future. Stay tuned!
Go Yuzu Go!!! Doki Doki!!
**Cover photo credit: @yuzu_co_machi2