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!
The moment after Yuzu finished skating to Seimei at Worlds in Boston, I starting wishing that he would bring Seimei back for the Olympics. To me, Seimei was that special. So when the news broke yesterday, I could not have been more excited!! This is my dream come true for Yuzu, Seimei and the Olympics.
Of course, the pressure of bringing back such an iconic program is huge but this is an Olympic season and every skater is doing what they need to do to in order to achieve their goals. With Yuzu, his goals are to deliver 2 clean performances that he is proud of (no regrets), and to repeat as Olympic champion. Olympic records are just a bonus (*wink).
Why would a skater choose to repeat programs? Yuzu is not the first, nor will he be the last skater, to use this strategy.
Comfort Level: So after the 2015/2016 season which featured the World Record Chopin and World Record Seimei programs, we saw Yuzu come out with 2 new programs (LGC and H&L). These programs gave Yuzu new experiences/challenges, new learnings, and showed us his growth as a skater. It was an experimental season. With Let’s Go Crazy, what we saw was a program that was exciting and fun but if/when there were mistakes, it really seemed to disrupt the timing of the rest of the program. While I am not a huge fan of the idea of Chopin 3.0, this is a program where Yuzu is comfortable with the pacing of the music. Mentally, Yuzu knows he can perform this program cleanly. At the Olympics, mental strength and confidence is a program is a huge asset.
With Hope and Legacy, it was a nice program and I am happy to have witnessed a perfect version of it. Yuzu was finally able to get closure on that program at Worlds, but aside from that magnificent comeback in Helsinki with H&L, the program just did not have that WOW factor for me. In that sense, I’m glad Yuzu is not using H&L for the Olympics.
At the last Olympics in Sochi, R&J 2.0 was not clean, so speaking from a perfectionists point of view, I get that Yuzu would want to make his long program perfect at the next Olympics in Pyeongchang. So, in going back to Seimei, it is a program where Yuzu can throw himself into the character and can draw from the experience and memories of skating it perfectly. You cannot discount what type of mental edge that the comfort level with Seimei will bring him when the pressure of the world is upon him.
Something Left to Prove: In Sochi, the only thing Yuzu didn’t do was to skate a clean long program. We know that Yuzu wants to do this and have that perfect Olympic moment (like he had with the Olympic record Parisian Walkways). I don’t think Yuzu has anything left to prove to the skating world, he might just have something he wants to prove to himself. Something he wants badly. Aside from striving to become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion in 66 years (Dick Button), the only thing Yuzu needs to complete an already legendary career is a clean Olympic long program. I really want this for him. This, and maybe a Skate Canada gold too. (haha).
The natural question people will ask: is Yuzu just playing it safe? And if so, is this a good strategy? First of all, I don’t think that upping the technical content of a program, any program, to 5 quads is playing it safe. Secondly, even if somehow you convince yourself that this is “playing it safe”, does it matter? If I was in Yuzu’s position, and I wanted to repeat as Olympic champion, I would give myself every opportunity to achieve that success.
Strategy: I’m not saying that Yuzu is playing any mental games, but imagine how intimidating it might be for other skaters to know that Yuzu is coming back with not one but two programs that he is very comfortable with and has killed before. Aside from the strategy to do a technical upgrade to 5 quads, the other skaters know that Yuzu can probably do a 5 quad program cleanly while garnering excellent PCS scores. So if they want to challenge Yuzu for the gold medal, the pressure is really put on them to up their ante as well. It forces other skaters to examine what they need to do in order to stay in contention. Does this mean other skaters need a 6 quad program or does it mean they have equal or fewer quads but added pressure to try skate cleanly and hope that Yuzu makes mistakes?
Each skater will be concentrating on their own performances but at the end of the day, all contenders want to win!! Yuzu needs to continue concentrating on what he can control and that is his own programs. From the sounds of the most recent media day interviews, Yuzu is very focused and clear on how to achieve his end goal. Whether or not he will add a quad lutz, only Yuzu knows that answer, but personally, I don’t think he needs to add that element of risk this season. He has been very methodical about his approach over the last few seasons, and it has served him well. I can’t imagine that Yuzu would become reactionary now.
While I would love to see new programs from Yuzu every year, I remind myself this is a very special season. Since Sochi, the amount of planning, analysis and training that has been going on behind the scenes to try and peak at the next Olympics is incredible so you know this decision was not taken lightly. Other than skating when injured (which I will attribute to stubbornness) Yuzu’s hasn’t really made any major errors in judgement in his competitive career. From technical advancements, to music selections, he’s been bang on with his choices for himself.
The official media day at the cricket club that triggered this blog entry is getting a bit over the top. Here are some quick stats on the media themselves.
If it wasn’t Yuzu (or Mao), I think any other skater would crumble under this type of media scrutiny. The pure volume of media adds additional pressure. The 100 media types travelled half way around the world, all just for a non-competition home rink practice and a few sound bites on the naming of his long program. It is very hard for a casual skating fan to understand this type of hype for one guy when it’s not leading into the “finals” or a “championship game”. This is still pre-season, so dare I say it’s a bit overkill? Nonetheless, the information is super cool and I was super happy to receive it.
Talking about Seimei’s return is not complete without commenting on the costume. When I saw the first version, the ice show version, I loved it!! It was sleek and unique. Yuzu then commented during the ice shows that it was not the final version as they had to change it for competitive lighting.
I saw costume version 2 for the first time in person at Autumn Classic. I was a bit disappointed, not with the design which I still loved, but with the colour of the white mesh. Compared to the original, it wasn’t pure and stunning white, it had a bit of a grey or yellow tinge to it. It grew on me over the season and now I like both. The competitive costume was a bit looser which probably allowed Yuzu to move more freely and if it was made lighter to prevent Yuzu from overheating, then great, that’s what counted the most!
So, what will we see next month in Montreal?
I generally do not do a lot of speculation about jump layouts. Even if one is announced, things can change. Whether Yuzu does 5 or 6 quads, whether 3 of them or 4 of them are unique, I am ok to wait until the Autumn Classic to see for myself with my own eyes what Yuzu does.
Having said that, Yuzu did comment on his layout so I thought I would include that bit here.
“What I currently have in mind is to jump the 4Lo and the 4S in the very beginning, followed by the 3F in the first half. Spins and steps. The first jump in the second half will be 4S3T combo. After that, 4T1Lo3S combination, and then 4T from a little steps. At the end of the second half, I’ll enter and exit a 3A combination with spread eagle, and in the very end, it’s okay if I do 3A for recovery, or 3Lz normally,” Hanyu explained as if reciting an incantation.
The big change from last season would be to reduce the number of 3A down to one, and increase the number of 4T up to two. Hanyu’s 3A has even been said to be the world’s most beautiful, and is a strong weapon that Hanyu himself has said he has deep sentiments towards. Because Hanyu’s 3A garners many GOE points, even if he messes a quad up, he can make up and “recover” with this “quad-equivalent” jump.
Translation Source: https://wherespacepooh.tumblr.com
If you take Yuzu’s quote at face value, it’s sad to see the second 3A go, but to have it as a “just in case” jump is funny. A lot of skaters would kill to have a great 3A, let alone an extra one to have as a back up plan. Talk about have a few tricks up your sleeve in case you need them. All this means is that we are going to have a fabulous season!! Hang on to your seats Yuzu fans!!
Thanks Yuzu – you made my day, my week, my month!!
Go Yuzu Go!!! Doki Doki!!