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!
Let’s Go Crazy!! The new Figure Skating Grand Prix season has started and already there have been podium surprises that will ultimately affect who gets to go to the Grand Prix Final!! I went to Skate Canada last week and it did not disappoint!
Day one there were 2 men’s practices scheduled (normal for Skate Canada) and when we saw Yuzu suddenly appear in the stands early in the morning, the excitement started!! He did his mental walk through and the arena was abuzz with the words “Yuzu!”, and the pointing of fingers and camera lenses to the section opening where he appeared. When the first practice started and only 5 skaters took to the ice, you could literally feel the air get sucked out of the arena. Yuzu had arrived for the short program draw and then left afterwards. This would be consistent with Yuzu skipping the morning practice last year at Skate Canada (Lethbridge) as well. It is also consistent with the limited amount of training time per day that he is allowed to do. Good for him to pace his training.
During the first practice which Yuzu skipped, they played Yuzu’s SP music for timing purposes. During Yuzu’s music it became silent in the arena as if he was actually there skating it. What a strange sensation! Later that day, the evening practice started and Yuzu was there, so everyone was excited. Kikuchi-san was there and that was a good sign! The bodyguard was the same new smaller guy that was at Autumn Classic, although there was an extra bodyguard with Yuzu this week as well. Looks like last year’s big guy is gone. Pooh was in attendance on the boards so everything was ready! Oh ya, let’s not forget Brian, he was there too! Ha ha.
Friday’s morning practice was short program practice. Yuzu stumbled on a few quads, landed a few beautiful quads and triples, and then practice was over. It was that quick. When I am watching practices I get so mesmerized by Yuzu that time flies by so quickly and before you know it, he’s bowing his goodbye.
During the Saturday practice, Yuzu changed his normal practice routine. Yuzu did his initial warm up and then instead of his normal helicopter double loop or triple loop to start, Yuzu skated around for initial warmup, then out of nowhere did a perfect quad toe. It was beautiful. In fact, in all the practices that I can recall, all of the quad toe attempts were gorgeous. Considering this is the jump that causes his left foot pain (toe pick foot), they were stunning and the 4T ended up being his best jump during the entire event. After this initial jump, Yuzu put his jacket back on since his program run through was 2nd. Near the end of this practice, Yuzu did 2 different quads (salchow and loop) in succession and landed them cleanly, then in an “aha” moment, pointed the fingers of both hands to his head as if to show he finally “conquered” himself (however it’s a different picture than the one shown below)!
What do I say about Yuzu’s short program. I saw it live with my own eyes, a little in disbelief and it was a jolt back to reality. A reality where Yuzu cannot be perfect every time he goes out there. I had to come home and watch it again to remind myself it wasn’t a bad dream. What I noticed watching it again on tv is that Yuzu appears to be working really hard to keep up with the music during the first half of the program. I think the program still needs more mileage so the quicker pace will feel more natural to him. I would say that right now, the program owns Yuzu; Yuzu doesn’t own the program (yet).
I still love the choice of up tempo music for Yuzu’s short program and can’t wait to see the finished clean product!! On another note, while I have gotten used to the all white costume, when I saw the replay on tv for the first time, it seems like the white bottoms make Yuzu look shorter and a bit thicker, almost stocky, and I would NEVER use the word stocky to describe Yuzu! Mind you, it only appeared this way on tv. In person and in my photos, he looks lean and beautiful! But, please Yuzu, go back to black bottoms next season.
While he looks slender here, I think the white bottoms make his legs look shorter than when he is wearing black bottoms.
During one of his many interviews Yuzu eluded to needing to work on the timing of his breathing. This comment struck a personal chord with me as this is exactly what I am working on now with my trainer. I am not training to perform a 4.5 minute long program, but when doing circuit training, we notice that I struggle at certain stations with trying to catch my breath. When I get to a easier station in the circuit and my trainer says “this is where you can catch your breath” doing an exercise that is not as physically taxing, I laugh and immediately think of Yuzu and how he has his “rest moments” in his programs and how he is practicing his breathing rhythms in between difficult elements.
At Skate Canada, I really took notice that in his Hope and Legacy program that Shae-Lynne has choreographed a couple of obvious rest stops where Yuzu is able to catch his breath. This is not as easy as you would think because a “rest stop” or a “easy station in a circuit” doesn’t mean you are not moving and working hard, it simply means that it is a precious moment(s) where you are not exerting a ton of physical effort like the difficult entry into a jump or performing another key element.
I have not noticed these moments before in earlier programs like Seimei, POTO, and R&J2 because there haven’t been obvious ones. In Hope and Legacy, I can easily see where they have built them in. Once Yuzu gets his breathing rhythm figured out and consistent, look out, the jumps will be there, and he is going to be unstoppable!! I can’t wait!!! A clean Yuzu is out of this world, and unbeatable.
Skate Canada is one of the only Grand Prix stops where fans are allowed to attend Gala practice. This is such a treat. The skaters are all grouped together, relaxed and having fun! Dancing Yuzu is always a treat. As always, Yuzu does not ever stop moving. He cannot stand still! He is like an adorable kid. Moments like this are so precious!
Practicing the group number and his new Gala program is one thing, but having Evgenia Medvedeva there to egg Yuzu into a jump off is awesome!! Not that Yuzu needs a lot of prompting! I was very focused on watching Yuzu during the gala practice when out of the corner of my eye, I saw Evgenia do a 3F-3T-3T-3T-2T combination. Wait, what?? The next thing we knew, here came Yuzu’s response to that jump combination! With not a lot of preparation, Yuzu did a 4T-3T-3T-3A. Ok, the 3A wasn’t perfect but holy cow!! This was awesome to see!! Here is a link to my facebook site where i have posted a video of the jump.
When it was time for Yuzu’s gala number run through one thing that really struck me as super cool was that all of the skaters cleared off the ice to the sides to simply watch Yuzu. Talk about the ability to command the respect of your peers without saying anything. It’s quite the cool experience to see even the skaters mesmerized by Yuzu’s work.
One last request: Yuzu, can you please incorporate a split jump into your program? I LOVE when Yuzu does split jumps, it’s so unexpected and different from him!! At the exhibition group number in Boston, Yuzu tried doing the Russian splits which was hilariously cute, but here he is during the gala group number doing a split jump. SO adorable!!! (sorry the quality of the photo is bad, it is a screen shot of the video I took during this moment that I was waiting for).
This is insane, imagine how many broadcasters Japan will try to send to the Olympics?
“Hanyu, 21, who defeated Chan for the gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, is a rock star in his native Japan and that’s being reflected at Skate Canada. Japanese TV network TV Asahi has sent 56 broadcasters and technicians to the competition. As well, 40 non-rightsholder journalists from Japan have been accredited.”
This is for ONE athlete!!! He is very special! With all due respect to other members of team Japan, without Yuzu, TV Asahi probably would have sent maybe half a dozen media.
I won’t be at NHK, but I will pull the necessary all nighters to watch NHK streaming. Hopefully someone streams the short program since CBC sports only streams the long program (sigh).
*cover photo credit to @ahiraa2go . *all other photos above taken by me
Go Yuzu Go!! Doki Doki!!