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: Pressure and Expectations

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.”

Source:  http://www.cbc.ca/playersvoice/entry/marc-edouard-vlasic-the-nhl-must-go-to-the-olympics

 

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:

  1. A skater dreaming of skating and doing well at the Olympics.  You are not a medal contender but if you skate your personal best, you will have your Olympic moment. You can forever call yourself an Olympian, a very cool privilege!  There is no pressure other than the pressure you put on yourself to do well and achieve your goals.  You are expected to represent your country with pride and have a memorable Olympic experience.
  2. A contender has their sights on the Olympic podium, preferably the top of the podium. There is slightly less pressure for these guys, since there are no direct expectations for them to win, but rather an expectation of them to do well.  That’s a big difference.
    • While Patrick has an Olympic silver medal already and multiple World championships, he doesn’t have as much pressure on him this time since he is not considered the favourite to win.  Patrick did have the huge pressure on his shoulders as the favourite to win in 2014 in Sochi, and we all know the history on that.  This time, Patrick is skating for himself and his personal goals but don’t count him out.  With less pressure and no real expectations, maybe this is the time for Patrick to pull it together for 2 clean skates.  I hope this is the case for him so he can end his career with a bang.
    • Javi is a former World Champion but really I don’t see a lot of pressure on him at all.  He is not favourited to win and really is just out of the media spotlight. He gets the best of both worlds.  He doesn’t come from a skating crazed nation so if he does well, his country is happy, if he doesn’t, it’s not a big deal.  With the younger skaters coming into the spotlight, there are no expectations of Javi to win.  He has become a dark horse.
    • Nathan, Shoma, Boyang all fit into this group of younger contenders.  They all have the potential to upset the final results and may have some pressure on them, each from their own countries/federations, but all in all, none of them have reached the top pinnacle yet (olympics, worlds, even GPF).  They don’t have gold medal expectations on them.  They have the opportunity to skate the lights out and become darlings of the event.  It is an enviable position.
  3. It is an entirely different story to be the defending Olympic champion, the defending World champion and current world record holder for all parts of the men’s event (SP, LP, Total).  There is not a modern day skater that can say that they have faced this kind of pressure.  What Yuzu has to deal with is unprecedented in mens figure skating.  The expectation is that Yuzu will win.  The weight of an entire country is on Yuzu’s shoulders.  This kind of pressure and expectation is like carrying an additional 100 lb weight on your shoulders and still trying to launch yourself into the air to land multiple quads.  Thank goodness we know Yuzu has strong quads (physically and technically)!

 

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.

  • 2012: Yuzu was 7th in the SP, and moved to 3rd overall (Bronze)
  • 2013: Yuzu was 9th in the SP, and moved to 4th overall
  • 2014: Yuzu was 3rd in the SP, and moved to 1st overall (Gold)
  • 2015: Yuzu was 1st in the SP, and moved to 2nd overall (Silver)
  • 2016: Yuzu was 1st in the SP, and moved to 2nd overall (Silver)
  • 2017: Yuzu was 5th in the SP, and moved to 1st overall (Gold)

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!!

Doki doki

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9 comments on “Yuzuru Hanyu: Pressure and Expectations

  1. Alethea89
    July 1, 2017

    “It is an entirely different story to be the defending Olympic champion, the defending World champion and current world record holder for all parts of the men’s event (SP, LP, Total).”
    Gosh, this is where he is, isn’t he? I’m anxious for him. Let me be the one anxious for you, Yuzu! You just do you best!!!
    Excellent post as always.

    p.s. Yuna Kim was in the same position coming into Sochi. She didn’t have the right strategy to overcome the judging criteria (didn’t compete much, no upgrade in TES, etc). Yuzu has Brian, so I hope he plays smart.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ewa
    July 3, 2017

    Hey. I like your articles very much. They’re competent and extensive. I learned a lot from you, but this time I don’t agree with you.You write that Yuzu’s better when he’s chasing. Only he’s pursuing himself. He always goes further than others. Don’t look for analogies in every Worlds 2012-2017 results. Do you remember that in 2015 and 2016 he was injured? Previously he wasn’t that strong yet, but now Yuzu sets a goal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • sportymags
      July 3, 2017

      HI: Please note that I did not say that “Yuzu” was better when he is chasing. I indicated that “IT is easier to chase then to defend”. I meant in general, there is less pressure on those that are chasing the #1 position, rather than trying to defend it. I also noted that in the Olympics Yuzu was in first place after the SP and he was able to skate well enough for the win. I appreciate your comment.

      Like

  3. Yuzurist-Japan
    July 5, 2017

    Hello from Japan. Thank you always for your blog.
    We are excited because very probably, two Japanese boys will be on the podium at Pyeong Chang. (and one more place will be taken by another Asian skater?)
    I saw some interviews of Shoma after the last Worlds and I think he will be able to skate very well at Pyeong Chang. According to him, at the World, he was feeling a pressure about their mission of getting 3 spots for the coming Olympics. However, after he saw the score of Yuzu’s free skating, he was sure that they could make it. So he skated comfortably without heavy pressure, while Fernandez was disturbed by Yuzu’s high score. The nation’s No.2 position is much easier than No.1 position, after all.
    By the way, do you live in Toronto or somewhere near Toronto? I ask because I am going there in August. I think I will go to Cricket Club just to see the outside (I don’t want to disturb Yuzu and Brian).

    Liked by 1 person

    • sportymags
      July 5, 2017

      Hi!! Thanks for your comments!! I live in western Canada. Enjoy your trip to Toronto!!

      Like

  4. Yuzurist-Japan
    July 9, 2017

    Wow! It is a pity! I wanted to give you some Yuzu items if you are interested…. This time, I only stay in Toronto for 2 weeks. I am looking forward to visiting the city where Yuzu lives!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Qiqi
    July 10, 2017

    Personally I don’t think Yuzu is the heavy Favourite for the Olympic gold, judging from the scores he received in worlds and 4cc. Clearly ISU prefer Fernandez and Uno, not to forget Chen with his powerful skating Union backing him up. The scores Yuzu received show that he’s only in the second tier of the TOP 6. Even some experts are predicting that yuzu will have to settle for a bronze. In Japan the media seem to be “pushing” Uno rather than Yuzu, skating veterans such as Sano, Shizuka and Takahashi are rooting for Uno. So I guess Yuzu isn’t such a heavy favourite after all. Furthermore, many skating fans out there still think he’s inconsistent and has a long way to prove himself a GOAT. Of course the pressure is still there as he’s the reigning OGM. I do hope he can get what he wants (that Gold!), and I would be really happy if he decides to retire after the OG. It’s time to move on to a better life, no point staying when you’re not appreciated, clearly he’s not the type of skater that ISU and the skating world have wanted.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yuzurist-Japan
    July 12, 2017

    To Ms. SportyMags and other Yuzu fans,
    Don’t believe what the above person (Qiqi) wrote, there are always jealous people like this when someone is successful.
    To Qiqi,
    Speaking ill of someone famous may satisfy your pride, for you feel important, but it does not change your life. Look into your heart and do something more positive to make your life happier.

    Like

    • Qiqi
      July 13, 2017

      Hi yuzurist-Japan,

      I don’t understand what you meant here, who am I jealous of? And who are the successful people that you were talking about? Who did I speak ill of? My opinion is that Yuzu is not the heavy Favourite for the olympics gold, but I, as a fan, still hope he can get the gold, is there anything wrong with this? It is based on the scores he received last season, which also make me disappointed that and hope that he will retire after the OG. Which sentence that I wrote irked you so much? Please enlighten me.

      Like

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