SportyMags

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!

Yuzuru Hanyu: Seeing the Future

Anyone who knows me knows that I am 100% behind Yuzu all the way!!  This past weekend it was both Canadian and US Nationals.  So amidst my crazy hockey schedule, I made time to watch Patrick Chan win his record tying 9th National Championship.  Congratulations Patrick!! 

Then the next day, the US Nationals men’s final was on so I thought I would take a peek at what Nathan was up to.  Well, he was up to 7 quads, thats what he was up to!!

The first 2 quads in Nathan’s SP weren’t that out of the ordinary these days, but the last 5 were!  Wow, it was a bit of a head shaker!  Not 4 but 5 quads landed solidly by Nathan in his free program.  The most impressive part was that even if you aren’t a Nathan Chen fan, you have to appreciate what he just accomplished.  He threw in the fifth quad just for fun.  Nathan said in a post-skate interview that he was going to see how he felt that week in practice and decide last minute whether or not to put the 5th quad in.  Well, not too many skaters can just throw in an extra quad near the end of their program just because they are feeling good, I know only ONE other skater that would even think of doing that (ahem, Yuzu).

The USA news outlets are having a field day this week!!!  Nathan is almost getting more press than the Green Bay Packers got after their semi-final loss they suffered on the same day as Nathan’s skate, and ended their run to the Superbowl.  In the USA, thats saying a lot!!

When talking about Nathan, it’s all about his jumps right now.  But, Nathan knows where his weaknesses are and you better be sure that he is working hard at trying to improve those PCS marks as well!!  We saw Nathan jump (figuratively speaking) onto the podium at Grand Prix Final and he has now announced that he is a serious contender for the podium for Worlds and Olympics, regardless of his PCS scores.

Why do I say regardless of PCS??  Without going into the analytical abyss, Nathan’s base value starting point is high enough that even without super high PCS marks, if the other skaters falter in any way, with this current judging system that awards “attempts” that are fully rotated, he can still win an event even if he falls 2 or 3 times on those 5 quads. So long as he is fully rotated, his TES is going to be high.  Granted this was a Nationals event so the actual scoring was probably a bit inflated, but you cannot ignore what he did.

Now, I am not jumping the gun and saying Nathan will win Worlds or Olympics.  I am not saying that at all.  But there is a new kid in town and he just proved that he is getting more consistent and that he is not a fluke.  Nathan has layed down a gauntlet that would be quite intimidating to the average skater.  Thank goodness Yuzu is not an average skater.

We saw Boyang and Nathan coming out of the gates last season with 4Lz, 4S and 4T jumps, but it quickly went from 2-3 different quads to 4-5 different quads in a hurry this season.  It is not realistic to say that Nathan or anyone else will be able to repeat this 5 quad feat every time they step on the ice.  But now suddenly all of the quad barriers have been broken, except for 4A.  Heck, even Max Aaron joked and said he thought about trying a 4A in the competition just for fun, who knows, maybe he was serious.  He had nothing to lose.  What crazy times we are witnessing.  Could anyone have predicted that this would all happen so quickly?? 

No longer is the “play it safe” mentality going to get you anywhere in the mens event. Can a skater still win with only 1 type of quad?  Sure, I suppose anything can happen. Can skaters win with only 2 types of quads?  Perhaps, depending on the event.  There is no magic number, the only thing we know is that the men need more than one type of quad to be in the competitive game.  Javi is not changing his layout at all this season, I wonder if he might get left behind. 

It is very easy to get caught up solely on the number of quads guys are doing.  The difference between doing 3 or 4 quads in the LP, or 4 or 5 quads in a LP only matters if all other things are equal.  There are so many things to consider, like GOE, PCS and all the little things that make up the total package.  However, we are having these discussions now and there isn’t really any end to the debate.  That’s what makes this sport fun, exiting, and frustrating all at the same time.

Imagine what the young skaters are now thinking that they need to do in order to be competitive going forward??  Luckily, Canada has quad wonder kid Stephen Gogolev waiting in the wings.

Yuzu vs Nathan

The first thing I have to say is that it’s funny how no one in the US media is talking about the reigning 2 time World champion, Javi.  In all of the articles I read yesterday, I also only saw a reference to Yuzu once.  However, US skating has a shiny new toy (Nathan) and the US Olympic hype machine now has the perfect poster boy.  The NBC Olympic commercials have already started, and a 10 year old Nathan saying he will be in the 2018 Olympics is very cute.

So, what do I think the difference is between Yuzu and Nathan apart from the KEY fact that Yuzu is a more overall, complete skater?  First of all, their skating skills and transitions are NOT comparable at this point in time.  Between the edge depth and speed at which the footwork and transitions are performed, this is what separates the pretty good skater from the great skater.  Let’s not forget that Nathan is young so he will improve over time but for now, there is no comparison.  Yuzu is just the gold standard right now.  I know I might sound biased towards Yuzu but it only takes seeing one of Yuzu’s practices to know that I am not exaggerating.

When you watch a Yuzu LP program, you will see more than just a jump fest, as Yuzu’s most difficult jumps (quads) are spread out throughout the program, and the programs are very balanced with intricate choreography.  The attention to detail of every step, every hand gesture, when Yuzu is not jumping is quite remarkable.  This is not the case with Nathan’s current layout as 4 of his 5 quads were in the first half of his LP and there is not a lot of substance in between the jumping passes yet.

So, what is the difference between a “good” athlete, a “great” athlete and someone that is “mind blowing”?  I would put Nathan in the “pretty good” athlete category, and put skaters like Patrick in the “great” category.  Yuzu would be in the “mind blowing” category for me because he is a special generational talent that will not come along again for quite some time.  Yuzu has a definite vision of where he wants to go with his skating and has a sense of foresight for the sport that I haven’t really seen before.  Yuzu always seems to be a step ahead in strategic thinking, and his approach is agressive in terms of technical content. He is not shying away from tough challenges.  And there is a very special quality about Yuzu that oozes from each movement he makes. 

I put Nathan in the “pretty good” category because he is helping push the technical limits of the sport, but one competition does not make you great.  I also wonder if Nathan will be another Timothy Geobel who set multiple records with more quads but never was the complete package?  Does Nathan have the ability to become the whole package?  That is the Olympic gold medal question.

Yuzu has never rested on his titles and expected to continue winning without increasing his technical content.  He saw the writing on the wall before anyone wanted to admit it. Because of this, he is keeping up with the quad race, while still maintaining a high level PCS, and holding his position at #1 in the Worlds rankings.  As others before him have learned, you cannot rely on a point advantage between you and the other skaters one season, to keep you on the podium the next season.

For Yuzu, Nathan’s recent success is probably the ultimate motivation for him and also reinforces his forward thinking strategy.  I take to heart that the last time Yuzu skated brilliantly was when after he saw Boyang skate.  I can only assume he has seen the video of Nathan’s recent programs.  What I love is that Yuzu doesn’t have knee jerk reactions.  Just because Nathan is doing 5 quads doesnt mean Yuzu will change his layout.  He plans meticulously every detail towards his goals as we well know.  

Yuzu has had multiple clean run throughs lately and has done a 5 quad program with a 4S at the end (for fun).  You gotta love his competitive spirit!!!  He is not about to be left behind.  5 quads???  No problem, but I know Yuzu knows he doesn’t need it!  Yuzu’s got this!!

Edit:  Please note: I do not believe Yuzu is changing his program to a 5 quad program.  Just simply that he practiced a run through and threw in an extra quad salchow at the end.  He also did this extra quad salchow at one of the GPF practices at the end of his program run through, maybe to make up for the 4S combo he popped, and maybe just for practice fun.  Here is a video link to GPF practice with 4S at end where he technically attempted 5 quads.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VxqLAn3O37Y

Go Yuzu Go!!!  Doki Doki!!

Doki doki

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23 comments on “Yuzuru Hanyu: Seeing the Future

  1. JustRozy
    January 24, 2017

    Oh SportyMags, reading this was a big relief. I saw Nathan’s short and free last week, and have been wondering about the implications for men’s skating and for Yuzu ever since. I so much appreciate reading your thoughts about it all! Also I wonder where you think Shoma is, and might be, relative to the others in all this? Love and whole-heartedly agree with your categories and assessments!

    Excellent words to read about Yuzuru’s practices, sounds as if this really might be a later-peaking year for him–may it go just as he wishes! I LOVE your comment about his vision and foresight, strategic thinking and aggressive technical approach. He is, in sober truth, the gold standard.

    Thank you again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • sportymags
      January 24, 2017

      Thank you so much!! ❤️❤️ I think Shoma will be battling for a a place on the podium (bronze maybe) or just slightly off of it if everyone skates well. When Shoma is “clean”, the judges like his style so he will always be in the hunt. He’s a fighter….

      Like

  2. Hui-Li
    January 24, 2017

    Can’t agree with you more! Thank you very much.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jo Dewar
    January 24, 2017

    Really appreciate your post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Katrina O'Leary
    January 24, 2017

    PEFECTLY said, I agree with every word! I was there in KC and it was a huge thrill to see it live, especially as an American waiting for our next Johnny Weir to come along. That said, Yuzuru completely stole my heart years ago and no matter how good Nathan gets I think he’ll have to settle for being my #2 obsession 🙂 Nathan has an exciting amount of potential and I can’t wait to see how Yuzuru responds, a la NHK 2015! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 홋숏★린 (@namfanreen)
    January 24, 2017

    I agree! You said exactly what I’ve been thinking since I watched Nathan’s FS. Seeing fans start comparing Yuzuru and Nathan make me frustrated to no end. I really appreciated what Nathan had done but he’s not an overall skater to me. Yuzuru is the complete package; where TES and PCS score are balance. Nathan still have so much to prove since he’s still young.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Anita
    January 24, 2017

    I so agree with your assessment. You’re brilliantly perceptive as usual. Thank you for letting us know Yuzu is practising hard and doing very well. It’s looking like he will be peaking at the right time this year!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. narcissa09
    January 25, 2017

    Thank you for this post ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Margie
    January 25, 2017

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful and reassuring perspective! Your thoughts made me feel better, as I admit I was fretting a bit (not too much) about Nathan’s challenge to Yuzuru at Worlds. You said what I already knew, but with confidence and reminders of just how out-of-this-world Yuzuru’s skating is!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. shirley159z
    January 25, 2017

    I don’t understand skating, I didn’t even know about that world before I stumbled across yuzuru in youtube. I can only say that Nathan’s performance simply cannot stole my breath away.. I don’t understand what is 5 quads and other technical terms in skating so I don’t really understand how awesome his technical score is. But as an amateur seeing ice skating, I simply don’t feel impressed by Nathan’s performance the way Yuzuru’s did to me..

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Kwan Yow
    January 25, 2017

    I totally agree with you! With Yuzu, his skating draws me into his emotions besides wowing me with his brilliant technical feat. I want to watch and re-watch all his skating performances. With Nathan, it was jumps, jumps and more jumps. I didn’t finish watching his program cos he didn’t connect with me like how Yuzu did!

    Liked by 1 person

    • shirley159z
      January 25, 2017

      Yess.. I totally and completely agree with you as I feel the same.. too bad that he could not convinced his emotion through his skating the way Yuzu did..

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Haleyww
    January 25, 2017

    A very good analysis Sportymags!!
    I recall that Yuzu said in an interview after NHK last year that 2 quads in the second half is more about mindset than technique (he said that Brian said he could do a 4S with eyes closed and a 4T whilst picking nose). Now seeing Nathan landing 5 clean quads in LP, I think it will just boost Yuzu’s fighting spirit. So excited about the coming competitions!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • sportymags
      January 25, 2017

      Yes, the upcoming competitions are going to be epic!!! Can’t wait, go Yuzu go!!!

      Like

  12. Pammi22
    January 27, 2017

    Great blog, thank you! Whether you are a skating expert or a relative newcomer to the sport/art, Yuzu stands out above all the men skaters with his artistry, strength, beauty, musicality, and skill; you just can’t miss it!! Exciting year ahead, and I am off to Helsinki in March/April to watch the men’s FS, can’t wait!! (no more illnesses or injuries please Yuzu!)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Jackie
    January 28, 2017

    Great article and comparison for sure. I don’t know why Javi isn’t talked about as much over here. Maybe because he’s not the one setting world records. But since he seems to be the only one who can take down Yuzuru (although he and Patrick Chan need Yuzuru to do one bad program to stand a chance at this point), he still has a chance to set records of his own. I also kinda wonder if anyone from Spain will be able to step into his skates when he retires- which won’t be anytime soon

    Yeah, the Nathan and Yuzuru comparison, I can definitely see. Both are pushing the sport forward, but Nathan is pushing ours more than it has been in a LONG time. I mean, controversy happened at Vancouver because our gold medalist beat Plushenko (one of the few people doing quads in 2010) without a quad. And we don’t have any strong skaters here doing them with any consistency. Jeremy Abbott and Max Aaron are great, but they hadn’t been consistent (Jeremy, I think may be retired at this point).
    I agree Nathan’s components score isn’t strong enough yet, but he has plenty of time to improve that. Boyang Jin was strong with jumps, but his components score needed work and he improved it, in my opinion, in record time. Not Yuzuru or Patrick Chan level (although I don’t “get” why Patrick Chan gets high levels when I don’t feel connection to his skating- it doesn’t remotely excite me unless he nails more than one quad).

    At the end of the day, it comes down to who skates well. The Grand Prix Final proved that Nathan Chen can make the world podium if he skates well, although he did need some help. But it is possible. As long as he stays healthy, I’m super excited for what he’ll do next. And it looks like Vincent Zhou might not be far behind 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • sportymags
      January 28, 2017

      Thanks for your comments!!! I think US figure skating has good talent coming up!

      Like

  14. vspirit000
    February 6, 2017

    It’s funny how two GPFs ago, Shoma, in his first rodeo, basically shoved Patrick off the podium. Then this year, Nathan flying kicked Javier off in /his/ first rodeo. And you start to wonder if they aren’t gaining on Yuzuru but all the vibe I’m getting is:

    2015 GPF, Shoma to Patrick:
    Get awf! That’s my senpai and I’m here now so I’m standing next to him!

    2016 GPF, Nathan to Javi:
    Sorry papi, you’re great and all and you deserve all the respect as the reigning world champion but I’ve trained up my quads just to stand next to this guy, whose glory you get to bask in everyday as a training mate, so you’re gonna have to go so I can have me some of that light as well.

    And Yuzuru’s like,
    Yay! Young blood! Let’s play!

    Tho I’m guessing when the Olympic season rolls around, it’ll be a different story.

    As for Nathan’s recent feat at the US Nats, Yuzuru only had one jump to his name and skating skills way behind Patrick’s at 17 but, based on my beginner’s impression, I can’t help but feel that even then, he had something more than what Nathan now has, in a completely natural way. Maybe it’s charm and emotion, or maybe it’s a natural affinity for music? I dunno what it is but I can’t feel from Nathan what I felt from Yuzuru even in his earlier years (which he has since managed to harness so that they’re displayed more subtly in his more refined present-day performances) and other older skaters (Shoma included) I’ve seen. The zeal and passion are unmistakably there but it feels more like he’s skating more for scores and the expectation of others than for himself and the audience atm. He’s yet to achieve the balance of doing it for all parties. I guess the impatience is not incomprehensible, seeing as he had to sit out the last season. While I generally prefer Boyang’s jumps to his, I see something more in him performance-wise than I do in Boyang’s, currently. Hopefully, with the kind of scores he’s been racking up and his apparent desire to up the substance in his performance, we’ll see something more profound from him. Boyang, too (I’m taking his absence from the GPF this season to mean that he’s currently busy WIPing). They both seem to have stamina in abundance going for them, and that’s the one thing Yuzuru does not have (tho I do think that he made his lack of stamina into something of an advantage RE: his beautiful movement economy, so lovely in its efficiency).

    One thing tho, they’ll develop differently from Yuzuru. Yuzuru’s different in a way in that he has always developed his jumps in tandem with his components. And he’s already had a flair for said components even at a very young age (RE: you see them all the way back in his novice days–thanks, Johnny! Early influence FTW). Plus due to his physical lacks which cause his body to not be able to hold up 100% to his talent, and his utterly unique life experiences, he’s learned to take nothing for granted and built his mental strength* up to a point where it’s literally Herculean. So development-wise, Yuzuru’s was very natural and organic, like the blooming of a magnificent flower that’s seemingly delicate and yet can hold up to the elements better than the strongest of fortresses. Nathan and Boyang burst onto the senior circuit with guns blazing, kinda like Chinese fire crackers (the fact that they’re both of Chinese descent has nothing to do with the metaphor, I swear…I didn’t actually realize it until I reread what I wrote). Hopefully they’ll be able to evolve into more majestic fireworks.

    So in my opinion, while Nathan and Boyang will soar to great heights in the discipline, and open up even more new doors for those to come, they will develop very differently from the way Yuzuru did. While they may yet find their own balance, I doubt their quality of artistry-technicality blending will ever be anywhere near Yuzuru’s, or Patrick’s for the matter, or even Javier’s. We may see them in other young athletes yet to emerge who are currently being developed more organically but I don’t think we’ll see the same kind of quality of these three in Nathan or Boyang. We may see a different sort of quality tho, and that is definitely something to look forward to.

    (Uh, didn’t say much about Shoma cos quad flip or no quad flip, I still find his style more that of a performer’s than a good blend of jumper and performer. He’s like at the other end of the spectrum to Nathan and Boyang to me.)

    P/S: Yuzuru keeps saying he’s weak mentally but I think he’s got mental strength and mental defenses confused. He’s got mental strength for centuries, because you don’t just bear the kinds of burden he does or overcome all the nigh insurmountable things like the ones thrown at him and soldier on the way he did with a genuine happy-go-lucky smile without at least that much, support or no support. In fact, he’s got enough to rival a certain bald mutant professor (minus the telepathy ofc)…but he also has the same lack of defenses as the prof when he accidentally lets his walls slip in moments of weakness.

    TL; DR: I know of men’s figure skating but never felt compelled to give the discipline more than a side-eye (I wasn’t a fan of women’s figure skating either but I’d much rather watch it over the men’s). It was either too boring after a while or too flowy/flowery for my tastes. Until I chanced upon the skating of one Yuzuru Hanyu, whose programs, both disastrous and miraculous, I somehow couldn’t stop seeing again and again and again. Through him, I’m now more open to the skating of others, looking for things I wouldn’t have bothered to before. If it had been Nathan’s 5 quad-LP performance I came across first, I probably would have put it under the wow-but-still-boring-pile and moved on, never to really understand the pleasure and excitement of the sport that is men’s figure skating.

    …dang, even my TL; DR is TL. -.-;; Sorry…

    Oh, one more thing. To me, his performance at COC ’14 is one of the miraculous ones. So is his Sochi LP performance. Right up there with his Sochi SP, NHK ’15 & GPF ’15 performances. In my books.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. vspirit000
    February 6, 2017

    “So in my opinion, while Nathan and Boyang will soar to great heights in the discipline…”

    I mean provided they don’t hurt themselves too badly attempting it. Really hope they’ll be able to train themselves up in a way that they don’t end up taking themselves out of the running permanently.

    Liked by 1 person

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