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!
So I did not travel to Korea for the 4 Continents Championships (4CC). I was super happy when I found out that CBC sports was going to stream the entire event (including gala). Special shout to CBC!! Way to go guys!! I love the “Road to the Olympics” special programming. I hope CBC will continue to stream full events in the future, even in non pre-Olympic seasons.
I’m not sure who hired the camera men for the ISU, but the guys running the cameras and the producer were absolutely horrible!!! Blurry close ups that cut off skaters heads, shots where half the pair or half the dance team wasn’t on the screen together, half body shots during twizzles, c’mon, this is an International level event!! The producer didn’t seem to know how to “produce” a live skating event at all. I sure hope this gets fixed before the Olympics! Usually the quality of the shots is top-notch but something sure went awry here at 4CC.
Speaking of things gone awry, first things first. Congratulations to Tessa and Scott!! However, I feel so bad for them. This season, they finally win the Grand Prix Final, and they get plastic medals and no real flag was raised. Then, they come to 4CC and they win the event, and this happens!!
This is more embarrassing for the 4CC organizing committee than not having a flag at all in my opinion. Maybe I’m a bit touchy since it’s my flag but I think any country would not be impressed if it happened to them on an international stage. The “moment” was lost. The honour guard guy in the middle had one job to do, and all I could do was shake my head. Sigh…
Onto the men’s event. Short Program:
I think the men’s short program at 4CC was one of the most anticipated events of the season. Everyone finally got to see what the Olympic arena was going to look and feel like! During the week, Yuzu’s practices seem solid and he appeared healthy and in good spirits. Yuzu’s more relaxed mood made him seem confident and ready to take on all competitors. As much as I love watching practices, personally, I don’t put much stock into what a skater does in the practices. A skater can be perfect in all practices, and still not skate well when it counts. And, the converse can happen too. What’s important is what happens in the moment. The skater’s confidence, the atmosphere, the nerves, the routine, the overall health of the body; so many factors come into play for a performance. You know, the ice is slippery.
So, the short program started at 1:45 am my time, and it was 5:20 am by the time Yuzu skated. I stayed awake the entire night fearing that if I went to sleep I would miss it. I nearly nodded off a couple times during the first 2 groups of skaters, and by the time the last group was up, I was shaking my head constantly to prevent nodding off. Well I didn’t need that strategy for long. There’s nothing like a popped quad salchow into double salchow, triple toe to wake you up!! From then on, I was wide awake!! Initially, in my sleep deprived state, I thought the pop was a single, and my heart sunk. When I saw the replay, I thanked my lucky stars and hoped for the best with the marks.
After the pop on the quad combo, not only did the air deflate in the building (I could hear it all the way here in Canada), but Yuzu’s energy and speed took a sharp hit as well. I was willing him to skate faster, and then it was like he said to himself, “get going, it’s not over yet”!!! He turned on the jets, and while the energy was still not 100%, Yuzu showed some true grit and determination to finish the rest of the program successfully.
Short Program Kiss and Cry Adorable Moments:
I love the little sidebar conversations between Brian and Yuzu in the Kiss and Cry:
Another moment which was kinda hilarious as if Yuzu expected not to make the cut. Really Yuzu? The innocence in his comment is too cute to ignore.
In the post SP press conference, Hanyu replied to a question about Nathan’s score: “I didn’t know his score. I think Brian was trying to block it from me.” I don’t know why Brian wouldn’t want Yuzu to see Nathan’s score, because as history has shown, Yuzu is not one to get psyched out about other skaters scores, it actually serves as a motivator for him. Source of quote: Ice network tweet
So, on this night, Yuzu wasn’t his best. It wasn’t a disaster, it was still technically clean. It just wasn’t what every single Yuzu fan was expecting time in and time out, perfection. Does Yuzu think we expect him to be perfect all of the time? Probably. Are his feeling that he “owes” his fans great performances too heavy for his slender but muscular shoulders? Maybe?? Is the extra pressure self inflicted? Some of it. I am not a psychologist but I think Yuzu just has to start believing in the power of his own words, that he can do it!
I think Yuzu’s battle is with himself, not Nathan or Shoma or anyone else. A clean Yuzu is a Golden Yuzu. The difference for between a clean Nathan and a clean Yuzu is that for Nathan, after the program is over, I will only remember the quads. I do not remember anything else in between, not even a spin. With Yuzu’s programs, every step is very special, and as you follow Yuzu for awhile, you get accustomed to his style of skating, and every step has a specific purpose. It is all memorable. (Disclaimer: I also watch Yuzu’s programs over and over, so I guess I have learned them over time however, I don’t have the same need to watch Nathan’s programs over and over, even with 5 quads).
After Yuzu popped quad salchow but finished the combo in the SP, he pointed to his head. He knew that jump was missed because he let the warm up get to him. Yuzu was landing these combos brilliantly in practice, yet a couple mis-fires in warm up and he couldn’t shake it off. Maybe Yuzu can start listening to Taylor Swift? Once Yuzu gets over this mental hurdle, we will see some more records set. I’m saying this like it’s an easy thing to do. I’m sure it’s not but I trust in Yuzu, so I’m sure it will happen. He’s done perfection before so he just needs to get back to that level of confidence in himself, stop overthinking, and let his body do the work. His body is a perfectly built, optimized machine!
The amount of dismay on social media is quite shocking and I am thankful that Yuzu does not engage there. Fans are fans but they sure can be fickle!! Yuzu knows what his issues are, and works to fix each issue as they arise. There is no other skater in the world that undergoes this type of scrutiny.
Granted, I never made it anywhere near the level these skaters are at, but I am happy to have experience in training and competing to understand how normal his experiences are in the course of competitive life.
As of the 4CC, 4 skaters are now in the 100 club (based on this seasons’ scores alone), amazing:
Thank goodness there was 1.5 days between the short and long programs. I was able to get some sleep and I must say that having an free program event during primetime in your time zone is much easier!! I didn’t have to fight to stay awake, and it was such a nice feeling! Thanks to NBC for making this happen for the Olympics (referring to the millions they spent to get the event moved to primetime for US networks).
The current quad race feels like we’ve entered a new arms race. You hear what someone is building in their arsenal, so you add more to yours. Or, it can also be compared to having a very strategic game of poker! You have a new quad?? Well, I will see your new quad, and raise you with another new quad, or I will raise you a quad combo!! It gives new meaning to the term “All in”.
First off, I must say that Shoma’s new quad loop was WOW. I had forgotten that he was going to attempt one and it was stunning. Good for Shoma!! I’m happy for him!
With all of the rules with technical limitations (Zayak rule), skaters still have times where they break the rules and are penalized for it. With the new quad race, you would think that just adding extra content on a whim would happen less frequency based on the difficulty of the quads, but both Nathan and Yuzu have proved me wrong on that thought!! I guess this will stop after the Olympics when the new rules are in place and the men are limited to the number of jumping passes they can execute. Thanks ISU for ruining our fun!
Fun, this brings me to my experience watching Hope and Legacy.
I had my ISU “WAIT, WHAT?”moment while watching Yuzu last night. While expecting Yuzu’s normal second 3A, the “Hail Mary” 4T2T combination Yuzu threw in caught me so off guard that I almost didn’t believe my eyes!! After my “wait, what?” moment, a few more colourful words came out of my mouth. Then just for kicks and to maximize the points, Yuzu finished off with a second 2nd triple axel. With disbelief in what I had just seen, I was speechless.
The challenge for me with this new quad race is that I found myself watching Yuzu’s program for the jumps and spins, and totally missing the little intricacy’s of the program. It wasn’t until this morning I had a chance to re-watch H&L and actually “see” the choreography.
While I watched Nathan intently, I had no idea if his program was any good as a whole because while he skated, one eye was fixed on the TES score counter on the top left of my screen, watching his numbers go up and up as he reeled off jump after jump.
Nathan’s planned content was 4 quads, but we’ve seen his 5 quad program twice now. With Yuzu, he was only planning 4 quads and he attempted 5 out of the blue. Granted Yuzu’s 5th quad attempt was a Hail Mary quad toe combination that worked, I felt like I was watching the Superbowl all over again! Can we keep the quad toe combo at the end? It was kinda cool!!
Planned Content vs Actual Content:
In the end, I think Yuzu proved to himself that he is capable of beating Nathan even though his starting base value is lower than Nathans’. He has reinforced to himself and the rest of the world that he’s tough and never count him out. Since Yuzu actually won the free program portion, had he not had the slip up in the short, the gold would have been his. Yuzu’s desire to win has always been present, but it never been shown to this extent before. The grit and determination Yuzu displayed all weekend was truly inspiring. We have not seen this from Yuzu before because truthfully, before Nathan showed up, Yuzu was just fighting himself to get back to being perfect. Now, Yuzu will be at his best, because he is better when there is someone to push him technically. I think he has a new kind of motivation that is going to spur him onto new heights, and we haven’t even seen the best of him yet.
Yuzuru: “Before I stood on the podium, I looked at Chen and I felt jealous about his performance”.
Yuzuru: “You never know which skater will come up with new jumps, so I will work harder”.
Source for quotes: hanyuyuzurufeed twitter
A special shout out to Patrick – such a classy move by Patrick after sitting in the green room. Once Nathan’s score were announced, the move to congratulate Yuzu and Shoma as he left was true sportsmanship.
Just as an aside, this is a really good blog entry to read by Beverley Smith:
The one thing that Yuzu has done that not many others have (aside from maybe Plushenko) is to really stand the test of time. I’m saying this and Yuzu is only 22!!! Great skaters come and go, but Yuzu’s career thus far has stood up through many changes to the skating world. It used to be Yuzu vs Patrick, then it was Yuzu vs Javi, and now it appears to be Yuzu vs Nathan. One constant is that he continues to amaze everyone in the skating world.
We now move forward to Worlds! It is going to be truly epic! I hope for all skaters to skate their best and let the world see how incredible this sport is (aside from some of the judging). I can’t wait to land in Helsinki!!! See you there Yuzu!!! Let’s grab the World title back!!
Go Yuzu Go!!! Doki Doki!!