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!
Ah, the Olympic season. Is there anything better? For a fan, if you follow amateur sports, there is nothing like the Olympics! For an amateur athlete it is the pinnacle of their sport. They train day after day, year after year to reach one goal, to have a gold medal hanging around their neck while hearing their national anthem playing in the background.
Imagine training for years for your event and it’s over in under 10 seconds like the mens 100m in the summer Olympics. That’s a huge commitment. Fortunately, in figure skating the mens figure skating event gets slightly more time than that, about 7.5 minutes total (2:50 for the short program and 4:30 for the long program). But still, it’s over so quickly.
Even for those professional athletes that are paid millions of dollars a year, the feeling is the same. Take a recent article I read where Marc-Edouard Vlasic talks about the NHL decision to not be in the 2018 Olympics. Vlasic plays for the NHL San Jose Sharks but stays true to his Canadian roots. He played for Team Canada and won Gold in Sochi. His comments inspired me to write this blog entry.
“I will always remember the feeling that came over me when I was chosen (to represent Canada). It is certainly one of the best feelings I have had in my entire career. But as soon as the moment passed, I told myself, “Now we have a lot of pressure on our shoulders, because Canada never loses at the Olympics. Canada isn’t allowed to lose.”
Pressure and expectations:
The pressure to win Gold at every international event is huge in Canadian men’s hockey. When we don’t win gold, our country goes into a state of “analysis paralysis” of what went wrong. Questions like; how bad is the state of hockey in Canada, why did this player get left off the roster, why did Crawford not pick Gretzky for the shootout in Nagano (1998), the list goes on and on; and we mourn for many days. The pressure and expectation, while unrealistic, is that Canada will win every international event that we are in. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, it’s healthy to have a competitive spirit but with the understanding that you can’t win every single time.
Our hockey crazed nation shows its support for our team by wearing Canadian jerseys, colours, and we even changed our liquor laws here in our province during the Sochi Olympics so that fans could drink for extended hours while watching the gold medal game with the time shift. Yes, we did. Talk about the weight of a country!
The harsh sentiment is that “anything but gold is unacceptable”. While we are slowly starting to accept that we cannot possibly win every time, we still expect to win, and losing still sucks. The whole nation feels disappointed. Can you imagine what the players feel like on the ice afterwards when they have to watch the teams’ on ice celebration? The photos are sometimes heart breaking.
Does that sound like men’s figure skating in Japan?? I see many parallels here. Since Yuzu won Olympic Gold in Sochi in 2014, the pressure and expectations that have been placed on him by his country, his skating federation, as well as himself are ridiculously enormous. Notice that I didn’t say unrealistic. It is a very real possibility for Yuzu to win gold in 2018.
While Yuzu has Brian and the rest of Team Yuzu to support him, he is out there on the ice by himself with no teammates to rely on if he makes a mistake. Many others would crumble from the weight of all this pressure and the huge expectations, but Yuzu has handled the three seasons in between Sochi and the start of this Olympic season, both his wins and his losses, with grace and dignity.
Going into this season, Yuzu is the heavy favourite to win the Olympics. This is not new news. Of course, the media will start creating the buzz about who is the favourite going in, and I’m sure they will change their minds here and there depending on how the season goes, but I would put my money on Yuzu all the way.
Japan is in the fortunate position that they could possibly have 2 men on the Olympic podium. Regardless of how Yuzu does, win or lose, his fanbase will continue to support him and the internet madness will be indescribable either way. While Yuzu is not openly on social media, he is keenly aware of what is being said about him. I would think that the spotlight and extreme media focus on Yuzu is suffocating at times.
Any time you are the heavy favourite to win an event, there is added pressure to do well. Every athlete wants to do their best and that is pressure in of itself. I see 3 levels of pressure and expectation:
Let’s be honest. Yuzu is not going to be happy with any other colour medal than the Gold one. If Yuzu doesn’t win gold, he will be polite, sincere, and show oodles of class because that is his nature. Yuzu will be bombarded with media and will be forced to put up a brave face while hiding the sting of disappointment. Let’s hope he doesn’t have to do that. I would much rather see Yuzu’s tears of joy.
One thing we know for sure, it is easier to chase then to defend. Yuzu knows this. If you take a look at Yuzu’s record in his past World Championships, Yuzu is definitely comfortable when he is chasing.
At the 2014 Olympics, Yuzu was 1st after the SP, and also won the LP portion of the event. So basically, whomever skates the best under the pressure of the Olympic spotlight will be our new Olympic champion. What Yuzu has gained over the past 3 seasons is the experience to know that in the face of adversity, and he can still come out on top if he believes in himself, and as Brian says “trusts in his training”. He also has the past Olympics experience to draw upon whereby he can lead after the short program and win it all.
Yuzu has experienced a lot of personal growth in the past 3 seasons. After Yuzu broke the world records for both the SP and LP, he said that he started to think he could and should skate perfectly every time. These new expectations of himself ended up being a good lesson for Yuzu and he learned that it was unrealistic to be perfect every time. Everything that Yuzu has gone through in the past 3 seasons, the wins, the losses, the injuries and the frustrating rehab have positioned him well to be able to handle this enormous pressure he faces and anything that this upcoming season will throw his way, including the added stress of having to skate in a time slot that is unusual for skating events (Olympic schedule – early/late morning).
If Yuzu wins the Olympics, he will be again bombarded with media requests and appearance requests. The pressure will be over but the expectations will not. There will not be any rest for him but at least Yuzu has experienced this before and knows how to manage the craziness that will descend upon him.
I don’t envy the position Yuzu is in but I have confidence in his abilities and confidence in his determination and ability to pull out a magical performance when he needs it. Let’s get the season going!
Go Yuzu Go!!! Doki Doki!!