Written by photographer Yutaka Nagakubo on 1 Sept 2016 (translated by me):
- Yuzuru Hanyu’s triple axel that spans a distance of 12 seats-
When Yuzuru Hanyu jumped these ‘alien’ triple axels, it was last November, during NHK Trophy in Nagano. It was in the morning practice on the day of the free skate. His SP the day before was far ahead of the 2nd place skater and the rest. The practice with music for all the skaters was over and there was a relaxed mood in the camera-men area. Putting some distance between himself and other skaters, he jumped 3A twice. Then he increased his speed on the approach for a 3rd one. And he jumped an axel over a shocking distance. One turn, two turns…. From the gaps of the shutter clicking, it looked like he stopped short in the middle of the rotation and landed.
“He gave up?”
“Mm, landed halfway.”
Failed? I checked my camera monitor and confirmed it really was 3-and-a-half rotations.
Then the axel for the 4th time. He jumped a scary height, and had a spectacular fall.
A jump with a huge distance and a jump with a huge height. Was it just a variation or was it the process of challenging a quad axel, that I do not know.
27th of last month (Aug), Hanyu-senshu showed his healthy appearance to TV viewers. Since (news of) his left instep injury in April, there had been only fragments of his news; anxious fans must have been many. Next month, GP series will start and there will be more and more voices asking for information about his new programmes and costumes.
Pre-season to Pyeongchang Olympics. The conditions for winning will be seen. For the free skate, will it become the era of '3 types, 4 quads’, or even more? Jin Boyang has 4Lutz and Shoma Uno has also done a flip. It is natural for attention to be on the 3rd type of quad for the Olympic champion.
During practice and exhibitions, we have seen a successful quad loop many times. End of last year, in Makomanai (Sapporo), I saw him trying a quad lutz. (I went to the rink before the doors open to put down some equipment and saw him by chance. I’m sorry.) But all this is last season’s talk.
I knew the 17 year-old him.
2012 World Championships in Nice, France, which has now become a legend.
At that time, I also knew his leg was injured.
“Stop him. If he skates more, his ligament will be damaged.” (I had thought it was a knee injury, but later I found out it was an ankle sprain.) Maybe similar words were also whispered to his ears. He roared as if to shake that off, and danced for 4 and a half minutes with an intensity that the camera’s viewfinder could not hold.
Amidst the cheers that erupted, there were voices saying, “That boy’s leg, it’s injured, right?”, “I’ve known him since he was little”, “That fella, he has gone a long way”, and they were crying. These camera-men’s faces, I remember them.
I know that his nature has not changed at all. Because I know, I am afraid. Just talking about this season, even if his rivals increase the types and number of quads, his absolute dominance does not change. But still, he will probably try to win with an overwhelming programme. He cannot become Lysacek of Vancouver Olympics.
He is a person who turns anxiety about injury and all our worries into motivation for battle, so I will not say more. It might be too early to say this, but at Pyeongchang, after he finishes skating, I would like him to point a finger up to the sky. Just like in Nice. If that happens, I will be crying too….
**Yutaka Nagakubo is a 54 year-old photographer who has received the Tokyo Press Photographers Association Awards Grand Price 4 times. He has the same family name as famous skating coach Nagakubo and has often been thought to be related to him. But they are not related.
Source (thank you, Nagakubo-san) (apologies if I did not translate it well enough)
The Significance of Yuzuru Hanyu’s 2014 Worlds Exhibition
During the 2013-14 season, Yuzuru won the triple crown of GPF, Olympics, and World Championships- a pretty big deal. For his exhibition skate at Worlds 2014, he performed Romeo and Juliet, his free skate from the 2011-2012 season. He could have chosen any exhibition at all or even had a new one choreographed, but he chose this one. Here’s what I make of this decision of his…
Case 1: The 2011 Japan Earthquake
As we all know, this program, Romeo and Juliet (ver. 1) was created in the time span shortly after the 2011 Japan Earthquake, a disaster which greatly impacted Yuzuru. The 16-year-old Yuzuru was training when the earthquake hit Sendai, and had to run out of the rink with his skating boots still on, damaging them in the process. Afterwards, he and his family stayed in an evacuation centre in a local school for some days. Their home, along with many others’, had been completely destroyed. The Sendai ice rink was damaged and closed down. Many people lost their lives. Yuzuru was extremely conflicted during this time, as he felt that he couldn’t and shouldn’t continue to skate when the other people of Japan were suffering so greatly. He wished to help in some way that felt more substantial than figure skating, which he thought to be rather selfish. However, he was able to get back on his feet, and spent the summer following the earthquake skating in ice shows, as these ice shows were the best way for him to get practice time without a rink at home to train in. Many of the proceeds for the ice shows went to earthquake relief, and Yuzuru’s (and other Japanese skaters’) amazing performances were events of hope and light in a dark time. Romeo and Juliet (ver. 1) was the very program that he skated during this time.
Case 2: 2012 World Championships
Romeo and Juliet also holds heavy significance in that it was the free skate that earned Yuzuru a bronze medal at the 2012 World Championships. This was his first ever Worlds title. It was performance that moved the audience (and himself, and his coach at that time, Nanami Abe) to tears. Just 17 years old at the time, he proved himself to be a captivating performer who gave the performance his all, and a brilliant jumper on top of that. Bronze at 2012 Worlds was the title that earned him more fans, recognition, and prestige than ever before.
The bronze medal came little over a year after the earthquake, so the disaster was prevalent in Yuzuru’s mind when he won it. By not giving up on his skating and on his dreams, he was able to achieve great results. He earned this rank through working hard and overcoming complicated and painful emotions he had about the earthquake, proving his mental, physical, and emotional strength to be of unimaginable calibre. Of course, the scars that the earthquake left would never completely disappear, but Yuzuru had started to learn to overcome his fears, doubts, and pain.
Two Years Later… GPF, Olympic, and Worlds Champion
Now, flash forward two years from Worlds 2012 and that bronze medal, and Yuzuru Hanyu is a big name in figure skating. He’s no longer the young 17-year-old beginning to capture the hearts of figure skating fans, but rather the reigning champion of the Grand Prix Final, the Olympics, and the World Championships. The spotlight is his, the gold medal is his, and the times are his.
The importance of the Romeo and Juliet program had been further proved by Yuzuru’s choice for his free skate in the Olympic season of 2013-14. For that season, he chose music from Romeo and Juliet once again, making a connection back to the eventful and evolutionary season of 2011-12. By choosing the same theme for the Olympic season free skate as the 2011-12 one, Yuzuru was, in a way, giving a solute to all that had happened. He wanted to show the world that, in his essence, he was still the same boy from Sendai, Japan, which had been hit with a terrible earthquake that people are still affected by to this day. He wanted to make a tribute to his country, which supported him despite its troubles. By making this connection to his past, he ensured that the crisis Japan was enduring would not be overlooked, and that he would always remain humble and thankful to what and who had made his Olympic dream possible.
That was the message he carried throughout the Olympic season, and then what does he choose to do for his Worlds exhibition, the last performance of the season? What does he choose to close off this unforgettable season with?
His 2011-12 Romeo and Juliet free skate.
I mean, what else could it possible have been? This was one of the most vital and defining programs of his career. This was the free skate that earned him third place at Worlds at the young age of 17. This was the last free skate that he ever did with his long-time coach Nanami Abe; the last free skate he ever learned before saying goodbye to all he’d ever known to fly halfway across the world to train in Canada. This was the free skate that captivated the hearts of viewers everywhere and made us all fall in love with the young, passionate talent that was Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan.
And perhaps most importantly, this was the program that was made when Yuzuru- and all of Japan- was going through an incredibly difficult time. The earthquake understandably left Yuzuru reeling with shock, grief, and turmoil. He said himself that after the earthquake, he seriously thought that he would never skate again.
But he did. A true champions knows that falling is inevitable, and it’s how many times you get back that makes you the real winner. Yuzuru Hanyu got back up, time and time again, and just look where he ended up.
Triple crown winner (GPF, Olympics, and Worlds), one of the youngest Olympic champions in figure skating ever, and the first ever Japanese man to win Olympic gold in men’s singles figure skating.
A man for the history books. One of the all-time greats of figure skating. A pride of his nation. A priceless gift to the sport. A privilege to watch, and a shining star to all those whose hearts he as touched.
Romeo and Juliet 1 was a program forged through pain, and ultimately made all the more a triumph because of it. Yuzuru has said that he “wants to give the kind of performances that stay in people’s hearts”, and this definitely was one. The performance of it at Worlds 2012 was breathtaking, certainly, full of emotion and passion enough to bring a stadium to its feet.
But watching him doing it again two years later as the exhibition is all the more gratifying because you can clearly see just how much he had evolved and improved. His artistry, musicality, and technicality had greatly advanced- and all the while, he didn’t lose one single bit of that passion and charisma he held as a 17-year-old. One of Yuzuru’s biggest goals is to never stop evolving, never stop trying to beat the records that he himself has set, and this exhibition was truly a testament to all of his hard work.
A True Champion Knows He Does Not Stand Alone
Yuzuru has also cited this mantra as one of his inspirations: “Don’t forget the beginner’s mind”. Because of this belief, he is always working hard and striving to do better, and is well-known for always being down to earth, gracious, and grateful. Using this program at the 2014 Worlds Exhibition was a culmination of all these traits we always see from him; it was a beautiful, powerful tribute to his roots.
After achieving all the greatness of the 2013-14 season, Yuzuru didn’t forget what got him there. If anything, his success humbled him. It made him realize how far he had come and who he had to thank for guiding him to the spot in the middle of the podium where he stood. As he won the GPF gold, the Olympic gold, and the World Championships gold, he did not stand alone on that podium- and he knew this better than anyone. This exhibition was a performance dedicated to the people who have supported him since day one; to his family, coaches, fans, friends, and rivals; to everyone who had seen something in that 17-year-old bronze medalist in Nice that made them root for him; to his country, which recovered slowly and painfully from a crippling disaster yet still remained a place in which a young man could find his own path.
What a path is has been.
A Name For the History Books
Yuzuru Hanyu is an inspiration, through and through, not only because of the spectacular 2013-14 season that he ended with this skate, but also because of everything ever since. Many a lesser man would have called it quits after Olympic gold, thinking he’d already peaked- but Yuzuru believed he could do more, and he did.
The world records, the medals, the titles, the wonderful and unforgettable performances- Yuzuru Hanyu has done more than enough to establish himself as a key figure in the history of figure skating. He is one who will be cited as a great inspiration for many generations to come; as one who pushed himself to push the sport. He is not only a symbol of triumph and pride for his home country of Japan, but for the entire world, a shining beacon for the strength and skill of mankind as a whole. He will eternally be known as one of the greatest figure skaters to have ever lived. A success story to be told for years to come. A legend.
Yuzuru Hanyu- don’t forget that name. That’s a name for the history books.
All this, and his story isn’t even over yet. He said on many occasions that that winning Olympic gold was just the beginning- and we all know that when Yuzuru sets his mind to something, he is unstoppable. We, the people who stand behind him to this day, have seen what he has accomplished since the Olympics, and know that he still has so much more to offer.
We honour you for your hard work Yuzuru, from day one to now and into the future; we will continue to support you and give you the respect and strength you deserve. And we eagerly await to see what all of us know you can and will deliver. Ganbatte!!
In honour of Worlds 2017 coming up in about a month- which will be the 3 year anniversary of this exhibition and 5 year anniversary of the free skate it once was- here is Yuzuru Hanyu’s 2013-2014 World Championships Exhibition. I hope you enjoy!
Brief interview between Shoma and Satoko during 2016 GPF published in Quadruple 2017+Plus.
“The two earnestly hardworking individuals”
Born in December of 1997 and March of 1998, respectively, Uno Shoma and Miyahara Satoko are in the same school year. Since their junior years, these two have dazzled—including standing on the podium for the second consecutive year at this season’s Grand Prix Final. We had a special conversation with the two of them onsite in Marseille. It was a brief one, but it ended up being a delightful talk with these two humble individuals.
What do you normally call each other? Satoko: I call him “Shoma-kun.” Shoma: I call her “Satton” (lol).
Another part from the book ‘Team Brian’, translated by me from the original Japanese (thanks to a fan for sharing a few pages with me):
(Early August 2014, writer Yoshie Noguchi had a talk with Brian Orser and Yuzuru Hanyu.)
Finding “Yuzuru’s skating style”
—Half a year has passed since winning the Olympic gold medal.
Firstly, after this Olympics, what do you want to say to each other?
Brian: First I want to say congratulations. You can become even stronger, so don’t stop, let’s go on improving together.
Yuzu: Although it is only a short period of 2 years from the time I joined
Brian to the Olympics , I was always discussing with him while
practising and so I was able to grow before Sochi and I could show my
capabilities there. When I first came to Toronto, there was the English
barrier (t/n. language barrier), but Brian could always sense what I
was thinking and what I wanted to do. Brian as a coach, to do that for
me, it’s really wonderful.
B: 2 years ago, when Yuzuru
first came to Toronto, he already had amazing abilities. The first time
I saw him was at Nebelhorn Trophy 2011 and my first impression was, an
amazing skater has appeared. At World Championships 2012 in Nice which I
went to with Javier Fernandez, he had grown into our strong rival. Overflowing with youth and zeal, he is a skater that we must pay special
attention to in the near future, I thought. Then, soon after that
World Championships, I got word that he wanted to be a part of my team.
It was a big surprise!
Y: For me, during the 2011-2012
season, I saw that the quality of Javier’s quad jumps had become very
good. The success rate had also increased. In competition and also at
official practice, his quads were very good. I heard that he had moved
to train with Brian and so I thought there must be some secret at
Brian’s place. To me, quad jumps are my biggest weapon. If that jump
is stable, there is a chance that my skating and expression and all
other parts will become good too. That’s why I thought I want to learn
—I heard that when Yuzuru first moved to Toronto, the training was not on quad jumps but just on the basics.
B: When Yuzuru came to Toronto in the spring of 2012, I first took him
to some rinks here and there in the city and we skated together. That
was like a kind of experiment. I made him do various steps and
transitions, and I watched from every angle what kind of skating skills
he has and what kind of characteristics are in his movements. I
realised that many of his skills are random and change with his
feelings. Having such frequent fluctuations in technique due to
feelings, he would not be able to do stable jumps.
as Brian has said, before coming to Toronto, there was a part of my
skating that was affected by my mood for the day. Even in a programme,
the feeling of speed and cross-skating steps were random; I myself felt
—So because of that, you started with the practice of foundation skating?
B: We started from having an in-depth discussion with Yuzuru. It is
important to find the techniques that fit him and then decide the goal.
Everyone has different skills and habits, it’s important to find that.
Before plunging into quads practice, we must strengthen the foundation,
in other words, the skating skills. Javier and Nam also managed to
find skills that fit them, so in the same way, we searched for the
“Yuzuru skating style”. Actually 2 years have passed and we are still
searching for it, but someday, he must have his own style.
did skating practice when I was a child, but after moving up to senior
level, learning skating skills all over again, it was the first time.
So initially, it was hard. Actually, now it’s still hard. (laughs)
But I understood that it would be good for me in the future and also
good for the programme as a whole.
B: That’s right. The
wonderful thing about Yuzuru is that he accepted quickly this basic
skating practice. Or maybe he had no other choice. (laughs) In Cricket
Club, there is skating practice for all skaters, led by Tracy Wilson.
The difference in ability among each of them is clearly shown, and they
also have to work hard to catch up with the rest. Yuzuru cannot be
doing skating that changes with his mood, he has to skate together with
the others, and through this, he understood more about basic skating
Y: Yes it’s true. After coming to Toronto, I’ve
really felt that my awareness of skating skills is connected to the
stability of my skating and quad jumps. I felt the skills for the
set-up to my jumps and timing improved.
—Besides skating, in terms of training as a whole, what kind of things did you pay attention to?
B: My coaching style places great importance on communication. This
is even more important for skaters like Yuzuru who have great talent. I
think there are coaches who demand that “this skill must be done this
way”. But for me, each skater has different techniques already in
possession, so the coach should adapt to each skater. So for Yuzuru, I
do not say you must jump with this method but we search for the method
that is best for him.
Y: That’s right. I discuss everything
with Brian. For jump practice, first a video is taken, then both of us
watch it together. Brian would ask, “What kind of feeling was that?”
and I would answer, “My bodily sense felt like this.” Then Brian would
give me some advice, “Ok how about trying it this way?” So this is done
over and over again in the process of making my jumps.
B: The important thing is “a good feeling”. I realised it in the time we
skated together, Yuzuru is like me when I was a skater, the type that
places great value on the “feeling of the jump”. The training method
suitable for this type is to video record the “good feeling”(jump),
analyse it objectively and identify the pattern that succeeds. The
breathing at that time, the condition of the body, the rhythm, the use
of the knees, the path of set-up, the form when jumping, we explored all
[apologies to Brian and Yuzu if I did not translate it well.]
Let’s not talk about the long program of this season ok, the strawberry costume still give me nightmares. I love you Johnny Weir, but that design killed me.
3) When Yuzuru was 17 years old
His short program at World Championship 2012, he made a mistake but the performance was still amazing. His spins were beautiful: https://youtu.be/fDXYtLQpyV4
His legendary long program at World Championship 2012 which helped him win the bronze. He was badly injured in the ankle at this point: https://youtu.be/i0bCvXHtzx4
4) When Yuzuru was 18 years old
His long program at World Championship 2013 when he only had one week to practice because of the horrible flu and injury. That was also the time he graduated from high school: https://youtu.be/3A2Fk32p_K0
A better performance at GPF 2012 when he won the silver (but was sick badly right after that and had to pull away from the gala): https://youtu.be/6DzUd_RF6Jk
His winning long program at World Championships 2014 (that costume and that hair though, I don’t know should I laugh or cry): https://youtu.be/wY8Mgou0-AI
I NEVER rewatch this performance but it has such huge impact on me it must be on the list. The performance when he fell 5 times because of the crazy collision with Han Han (poor both of them, crying): https://youtu.be/dGQqF8CoqMk
6) When Yuzuru was 20 years old
His short program at GPF 2014, he fell but it was a great performance, a light after a dark tunnel (from the horrible collision to the horrible NHK): https://youtu.be/Fv6jgRhh8W4
His winning long program at GPF 2014, again he still fell but that was the first time he landed an amazing quad Salchow. Right in this video, the commentator called him “the real deal” and “the greatest skater of all time”: https://youtu.be/Ytli7eJsVKM
His only no fall long program of that horrible season which was rigged with injuries, collision, and surgery. Personally I don’t like music from The phantom of the opera, but Yuzuru put so much effort it in. It’s a good program: https://youtu.be/0Zi4HoVXAL8
7) When Yuzuru was 21 years old
His new world record for short program at GPF 2015, he reused the Chopin short program but put two quads in it, he increased the difficulty compared to the previous season: https://youtu.be/USLUuaw0ZDU
His best performance of the Seimei long program at NHK 2015. This music was written by a Japanese composer about a famous person lived in the 10th century: https://youtu.be/0j07i-cqZgg
Here was Yuzuru with a great skate when he beat his own world record just 2 weeks later. Please notice that Yuzuru skated last after all his rivals who did have great skate as well. So this means a lot to his fans and to people, as Yuzuru has good mentality he isn’t pressed by his rivals’ good performance: https://youtu.be/WfcDb6rswWY
8) When Yuzuru is 22 years old (the current season)
His short program at GPF 2016 which helped him win the event for the 4th time. He has a new quad, the quad Loop, and he changed the combo 4T3T into 4S3T. The program layout is completely new to him, but he still did well enough: https://youtu.be/08m9CebBBF4
HIs long program at World Championship 2017, hope and legacy means a lot to Yuzuru. The music was written by Joe Hisaishi, the famous composer for Ghibli studio. Yuzuru doesn’t use the most famous songs by Joe Hisaishi though. He says this is the program he can smile and be happy during his performance: https://youtu.be/yZxDCfgVfTc
The turning point of Yuzuru Hanyu , based on this talkshow
Sunao Noto (japanese figure skating photgrapher, long time acquaintance of Yuzuru) said that his eyes were filled with tears while taking this photo of Yuzuru in 2012 world championship in Nice, France.
Rami Anis is a swimmer from Syria who fled to Turkey, traveled to Greece by dinghy, and then eventually Belgium. He had a passion for swimming growing up and continued to pursue his dream when he reached Belgium.
Yiech Biel is a track and field athlete who left South Sudan to escape a civil war. He’s lived in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya for 10 years where he enjoyed running. He just started running competitively in 2015.
James Chiengjiek is a track and field athlete who escaped South Sudan to avoid being recruited as a child soldier. When he got to Kenta he joined a group of children who trained for long distance running events.
Yonas Kinde is a track and field athlete from Ethiopia. He fled to Luxembourg due to political problems in his country. He’s won several titles during his short running career but before this year he wasn’t able to compete in the Olympics due to his refugee status.
Anjelina Lohalith is a track and field athlete from South Sudan who fled to Kenya in 2002. While attending primary school in the Kakuma refugee camp she took up running and won several competitions in her school.
Rose Lokonyen is a track and field athlete from South Sudan who fled to Kenya when she was 10. She started running in high school enjoyed running with other athletes in her refugee camp. She’s only been running with shoes for a year now and is now trained by former world record holder and Olympic champion marathon runner Tegla Loroupe.
Paulo Lokoro is a track and field athlete who lived as a cattle herder in South Sudan before the civil war. He fled with his parents to Kenya where he excelled in school sports. He won many races as a teen and is now trained by former world record holder and Olympic champion marathon runner Tegla Loroupe.
Yolanda Marika was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and was taken in by a centre for displaced children after being separated from her parents. She took up judo in the centre but suffered under an abusive coaching regime. She traveled with Popole Misenga (below) to Brazil to compete in 2013 and escaped from her coaches. Going back to save Misenga two day later they were eventually granted refugee status in Brazil.
Popole Misenga is a judoka from the Bukavu area in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He fled his home when he was six due to the Second Congo War. He was taken to a centre for displaced children in Kinshasa where he took up judo. He experienced abusive coaching and gained refugee status in Brazil after escaping his coaches with Yolanda Bukasa Marika while competing in the country.
Yusra Mardini is a swimmer from Syria who fled Syria with her sister in 2015 when their home was destroyed. She had previously competed for Syria in the 2012 world championships. When escaping to Europe on an over equipped boat, the boat motor stopped and started to sink. Her and her sister, with two others who could swim, got into the freezing water and pushed the boat for 3 hours to safety.