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!
Before getting to Helsinki, I stopped in at Moscow and attended the Bolshoi Ballet. It was my first time at the Bolshoi and the first time ever watching live ballet. As I watched the male dancers jump up and rotate their jumps (doubles), I couldn’t help but make figure skating comparisons in my head and mentally assigning GOE’s to each of their elements. It was a very unique experience.
After the Cup of China was unexpectedly cancelled, Helsinki stepped up to the plate and agreed to host the Grand Prix event. It was well organized and well run. As an added bonus, the schedule gave us an additional mens practice. Yay!! What a nice treat to receive after the initial ticketing nightmare!!
Instead of just going through and listing all of the jumps that Yuzu did or did not land in each practice, I am focusing on the cute Yuzu moments that happened each practice.
First of all the PA announcer kept calling Yuzu – Yuzuru Hanuwwee. At first I thought it was the jet lag affecting my ears but no, she continued to do this for every practice. Oh well, I chalk it up to her excitement over being around Yuzu! Ha ha. At least it wasn’t as bad as the press conference lady and her “Yuzuri”.
So watching Yuzu peel layers of clothing off as he got warmed up was like opening a Russian Matyroshka doll. The black jacket would be the outermost layer, then you would find the white jacket underneath that. Once the jackets layers were off, we would see a long sleeved UA training shirt. Then, you guessed it, there are still more layers!! Finally we get to see the UA short sleeve. I have started to see the fun in these matyroshka dolls!!
With Yuzu, any time you allow fans to take photos, you will get to see every angle of the same shot. From where I was sitting, from my angle, it looked like Brian was holding Pooh up so Yuzu could give Pooh a little kiss here. I saw this same moment taken by another fan at a different angle and sadly, there was no cute little kiss. Ha ha.
One notable person missing in Helsinki was Kikuchi-san. It was left up to Yuzu to prepare Pooh in advance and have the double sided tape already attached to Pooh’s bottom before entering the ice surface. Yuzu had to show Brian that Pooh had been pre-taped and was ready for practice. Normally we see Kikuchi do this very important task at the beginning of practice!!
During the first practice Yuzu was pretty chill. He was laughing and joking with Brian and Ghislain, and ending up on his butt a few times more than we usually see. On one of his quad loop attempts, he fell and slid into the boards ala Shoma style. A large audible gasp went through the arena but like the energizer bunny, he just keep going and going.
The next memorable moment on Yuzu’s bum was during an 4T-3A attempt. Yuzu ended up flat on his butt again and the fall was reminiscent of his earlier senior days when he would fall and all his arms and legs were splayed everywhere.
Many times during the first practice, when Yuzu unexpectedly ended up falling on the ice, his reactions were priceless!!!!
During this practice, Yuzu noticed a large hole in the ice. He went and poked at it and from his entire finger going into the hole it looked pretty deep. This was a different moment than what was posted from Day 3 practice. It gives you an idea of how brittle the ice was.
The thing that made fans go wild during practice #1 was close to the end of practice, Yuzu took his gloves off and actually tucked them inside the back of his training pants. During his cool down, you could see the fingers of the gloves flapping up and down when his jacket flew up in the breeze.
Photo source: Permission granted by and photo credit to @koron00314.
For cool down, we got squats and gorgeous spirals again. He could do this for an hour and it would still be thrilling to watch.
When Yuzu went to center ice to do his bow, when he turned towards our side, he put his right skate forward and it kind of got stuck in a rut so he bobbled his usually smooth presentation. He had a great time laughing at himself.
At the end of the practice as Yuzu was doing his normal routine of touching the ice before leaving, he had Pooh in his arms and as he reached for the ice with both hands, Pooh was in a free fall. Oops!! Fortunately for Pooh, Yuzu caught him before he hit the ice thankfully. I love how it looks like Pooh’s right paw was trying to hang onto Yuzu’s jacket here in this photo.
This day was the “getting into the zone, competition mode” practice, where Yuzu had his game face on and was more serious. Well, Yuzu had a tough start to this practice. He looked to be a bit frustrated at the beginning but then started turning it around. He was struggling with his quad loop. Yuzu went over to Brian and Ghislain. Ghislain showed Yuzu a video of himself landing the perfect quad loop and sure enough the next one Yuzu tried he landed beautifully. The power of mental imagery.
Yuzu then did a 3A with crazy never ending twizzles tacked onto the end to save the landing all the while, laughing while doing it. Here he is mid-twizzle.
My friend and I kept noticing that Yuzu kept a watchful eye on Boyang during practice. It was interesting because it appeared as if they were sizing each other up in a fun competitive way. However, Yuzu definitely had the intimidation factor down pat.
When Yuzu wasn’t popping jumps, he was still mopping up the ice with his butt. It wasn’t quite as funny as Day 1 practice that is until Yuzu goofed up a spin near the end of practice and started laughing at himself. The crowd laughed with him.
While watching Yuzu, Jun’s music run through was on. I was totally focused on Yuzu when half way through his program, I heard the scream “Juullliieeettttt” however it wasn’t just the soundtrack, it was fans screaming “Junnllliieeettt” at the same time!! Again, just a funny moment I wanted to mention here so that years down the road I can read this back and have a good chuckle at the memory. I am not sure if practices were streamed or not, so I don’t know if the fans screaming “Junnllliieeettt” could be heard elsewhere.
Near the end of practice, Yuzu was skating over to Brian and there were 3 skaters doing spins at center ice at same time. Yuzu apparently asked Brian if he needed to practice his spins too which they just laughed at. He didn’t do it.
Practice #3: Short Program Day
It was a 7 am start for the guys on this day, ugh, too early!! However, there is nothing like waking up to Yuzu doing a bunch of stunning triple axels to start your day off right!!!! Hey, I could even become a morning person if this is what I could wake up to each day!!! Each axel Yuzu did got bigger and bigger.
Later, right in front of me, Yuzu popped a quad attempt. I don’t recall which quad anymore but I think it was a quad salchow (based on my location). Anyways, after that Yuzu came back around and did a 4S jump walk through. I was looking through my camera lens and was fully zoomed in on his face and I felt like an accomplished lip reader as I clearly read “shuu” and “paa” on his lips!!! I swear I heard his voice too!!!! This was a super cool moment for me.
Earlier in this practice, Yuzu was again, checking out the significant holes in the ice.
Everyone has by now seen the photos of the end of practice where Yuzu was still on ice when the volunteers came on to fill the holes with slush. Yuzu gently pulled one lady over and pointed out a big hole he wanted her to fix. These photos are from my vantage point. Soooo adorable, too cute for words.
Here is Yuzu coming to get the lady to help.
Yuzu races over to the spot!
You will notice that in the photo above, Yuzu didn’t have anything in his hand. In the photo below, Yuzu picks up the giant chunk of ice that has been broken off.
Here in this photo you can see the giant chunk of ice better in Yuzu’s hand.
And, then finally Yuzu puts it back so that it can be re-frozen to the ice surface along with the fresh slush. I hope these photos come out clear on wordpress as the ice is clearly visible when I open the photos at home.
Boyang didnt come to this early morning practice. Perhaps now in hindsight he should have?
Practice #4: Long Program Day
After the excitement of the short program the night before, it was sad to know that this was the final practice that we would get to see. During the practice, half of the arena lights went out. Never a dull moment with Yuzu! Crazy enough, my first thought was to tell Yuzu to smile as that brightens up anything!! Too cheesy? Ya, I know but the thought did actually flash through my head. With half the lights off, it felt like we were watching gala practice for a few moments. Thankfully they turned the lights back on after a few minutes.
During Yuzu’s run through, his opening head bob move was a bit off in the timing to the music. After continually seeing perfection with hitting music notes in programs year after year, it was kind of refreshing to remember Yuzu is normal just like us!! Ha ha. Yuzu can even make a head bob miscue seem cute.
All of Yuzu’s quad toe/triple axel sequences were pretty consistent and really stunning!!! They were directly in front of me so I had a birds eye view. What a treat I will never forget. Yuzu makes it look so effortless and the landings were so smooth and fluid. The strength and power Yuzu still has on the launch on the triple axel after the quad toe is simply incredible. To hear the growl of his blade on the triple axel takeoff is like music to my ears!
One thing that bugged me is that some of the practices times are too short (35 min). They seem rushed and there were plenty of breaks in the schedule that would have allowed for an extra 5-10 minutes at the end of each session for all groups.
As Yuzu was leaving his final practice, this time he ever so gently layed Pooh flat on the ice. I am sure Pooh was thrilled!!! Then…it was over.
Ok, so those were my favorite memories of Helsinki practices!! Watching Yuzu land quad after quad, triple axel after triple axel never gets old. My writeup of the short, long programs and gala along with photos are coming soon!! Stay tuned!!
Go Yuzu Go!!! Doki Doki!!