Just some Viktor Analysis for you kids, because you know I love it:
Figure skating, in general, is a Much Bigger Deal in the YOIverse than it is in real life. To the point where Viktor gets name recognition from people who don’t know anything at all about figure skating. I say this because I’ve been interested in figure skating my whole life, unlike I think a lot of the fandom (I could absolutely be wrong here, but that’s my estimate of the situation) and I learned very early on that Nobody Knew Jack About Figure Skating. Like I can name a total of TWO figure skaters off the top of my head who generally get name recognition–Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan–when I talk about them to people who aren’t in the know. And even Kwan is a bit iffy. I can’t think of a single male figure skater whose name I could say in casual conversation and have someone say, “I totally know who that is.” I think this might be because the general population thinks figure skating is mostly just women, and also because figure skating really just isn’t on most people’s radar. This could be different in other countries, but even then I don’t think Viktor would have his International Celebrity status irl.
On the other hand, Viktor could just be one of those category-defying athletes who gain international attention because they are literally Just So Fucking Good at what they do. Think Michael Phelps or David Beckham. Nobody, in general, cares about swimming, but they sure do care about Michael Phelps. Everybody knows who David Beckham is, even in America, a country that doesn’t even have a real fanbase for the sport he plays. It’s entirely possible that at some point, someone realized that Viktor Nikiforov was Winning Everything and everyone got super curious over whether he would continue to do that–much like Phelps.
Also, Viktor is a very handsome European man, which probably helped a lot.
Either way, Viktor is an unusual celebrity who probably came up in the world very, very fast. As in, all attention was just on him suddenly one day. This probably happened somewhere around the 2010 Olympics, if you assume that Viktor probably hadn’t reached his full potential by his first Olympics, which was probably Turin 2006. I’m pretty sure Viktor Nikiforov stepped off the podium in Vancouver, suddenly a Russian household name and an international figure at an age where most people haven’t yet moved out of their parents’ house.
By the events of the anime, Viktor has been central in the public eye for over half a decade. He’s been TMZ’d and had a paparazzo follow him home, he’s done ads for sports drinks and athletic wear and shoes and cologne, he’s been put on diets–not Athlete Diets; Celebrity Diets; ‘eat four saltine crackers and a glass of coconut juice for two meals a day’ diets (Yakov put a stop to this quickly)–he’s had a publicist scream bloody murder at him over the phone because he did something stupid outside a club in Ibiza. One of my favorite ‘why Viktor cut his hair’ headcanons is that he had to cut it off because people kept pulling it in crowds, or trying to cut off pieces when he walked by.
These are not the typical experiences of a career athlete.
Viktor is a Celebrity Athlete, probably figure skating’s only celebrity athlete. There are probably a lot of people in the sport who don’t really even consider him an athlete, but at the same time he isn’t a movie star or a pop star, not One Of Us among the red carpet elite. Also, figure skating is unusual because it is an intersection of sport and performance. People get confused about where someone like Viktor lies on the athlete versus celebrity scale because he’s beautiful, he dresses up in costumes and performs to music. This isn’t football, or hockey or even track or swimming. Nobody is sure what Viktor Nikiforov is. He’s a creature unto himself. His experiences are so drastically different from the experiences of everyone he knows that he literally has no one to relate to.
It creates distance. It makes him untouchable.
And Viktor? Viktor is so fucking starved for genuine human contact and connection by the time he meets Yuuri that he’s willing to take himself halfway across the planet to get it.
With all of this known, can you imagine how powerful it was for Viktor to hear Yuuri say, “I just want you to be yourself, that’s all I need”?
It’s probably reason number one (of roughly ten thousand) for why Viktor fell in love with Yuuri.