Since everyone is doing intro post to their favorite skaters, what the hell. Might as well do one of my own. Many of my favorites already have introductions (and much better than this) but there is one which I haven’t found and I really wanted to do: Javier Fernandez. Many people just know him because he’s Yuzuru Hanyu’s training partner, but this guy here has an awesome story of his own.
Warning: Very, VERY, long post. Read at your own risk.
In celebration of Halloween, I’ve compiled a list of horror films from several different sub-genres along with links to their respective IMDB pages. Please note that the films listed below may contain scenes that some find triggering, disturbing, or upsetting; if you have any concerns over a film’s content, I highly encourage you to research it prior to watching in order to make as informed a choice as possible.
HORROR: films that inspire fear and tension by creating an unsettling
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!
See the doggie tissue box behind Victor? Doesn’t it look familiar?
Victor’s poodle tissue box was inspired by Yuzuru Hanyu’s Pooh Tissue Box!
For those of you who don’t know the backstory on this beautiful tissue box: Figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu always had a miniature pooh bear along with his tissue boxes during his junior days, 2009-2010 season. Then a simple pooh cover with tissues coming out of his nose was introduced in the 2010-2011 season. Then finally, the Pooh tissue box was born in the 2011-2012 season and they have been inseparable ever since. Most of the times, Pooh is seen beside Yuzuru’s coach cheering him on in every competition outside the rink. Funny fact to go along with it, when Yuzu moved to Toronto, his coach Brian Orser stated in an interview, that when he saw Yuzuru, he said, “I always thought he was that weird kid with the Winnie the pooh doll. Now I’m that kid’s coach…and I have to carry it.”
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.]
ok, so, the olympics are over and the next big event in the skating season, nestled between the olympics and the senior world championships, is…the junior world championships! (march 12-16 in sofia, bulgaria)
juniors, you say? what are juniors? who cares about juniors? not many people well, go read this post to learn more about junior skating competitions (and skating competitions in general), then come back to this post because i’m going to talk about shoma, one of my faves who’s competing there. time permitting, i might make this into a series, and closer to the event, i’ll post schedules and other necessary info on the intro blog.
Feb 2011, his first senior year ended successfully, like a dream, with a silver medal at 4CC (15-20 Feb). The future held unlimited possibilities. After 4CC ended, he had exams in school. Beginning of March, he was back to his training, practicing quad toes and triple axels.
11th March, at 2.46 in the afternoon, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck eastern Japan. At the Sendai rink where Hanyu was practising, the seismic intensity was 6. The ground shook so hard that even standing was difficult. The ice in the rink surged and rippled; at first, it was even hard to recognise that it was an earthquake. Hanyu who was in the rink fled outside wearing his skate shoes. (t/n. I watched an interview where he said he crawled out of the rink on his hands and knees, and then ran outside). There was no time to spare for putting on blade covers nor changing into normal shoes.
His elder sister worked part-time at the rink and was walking home when the earthquake happened. His mother was at home and his father was away on a business trip. Big sister’s very first thought and worry was for her brother and she ran back to the skating rink. After seeing that her brother was safe, she ran home, and together with mother, went back to the rink. Within an hour of the quake, the three of them were together.
There was no water, no electricity, no gas. They took shelter in the gymnasium of a primary school which was used as the evacuation centre. There, they listened to the radio to understand the situation that they were in. They heard news of other areas that suffered enormous devastation, far worse than Sendai. No one knew what tomorrow would be like. “Just staying alive was tough.” “Shall I give up skating like this?” these thoughts floated in his mind as the days passed.
A coach that taught Hanyu when he was a child, Shoichiro Tsuzuki, had left Sendai and was coaching in Yokohama’s ‘Kanagawa Skate Rink’. He agreed to take Hanyu in for a short period of time. March 20, with his damaged skate shoes, Hanyu travelled to Kanagawa. Because he fled outside wearing his skate shoes on the day of the quake, the blades were so badly damaged that just polishing them could not repair them fully. Not only his mind and body, even his equipment was in tatters. But even so, stepping onto the ice after 10 days was precious.
He thought he wouldn’t be able to do any jumps on the 1st day, but that body that had been trained since the age of 4 responded well. Although he did have falls on jumps like a single loop, he landed triple axels. He was very grateful to the people who helped him and also for the ice.
–60 ice shows–
However, he could not make this rink his training base because the available training time was too little. The rink was used by many skaters and was high in demand. Many skaters had also lost their home rink due to the disaster.
At this time, help came in the form of ice shows that were held all over the country. If he performed at these shows, the time in between the shows could be used for his own practice.
April 9th was the 1st show, a charity ice show in Kobe. His programme 'White Legend’ that was used in competition for his 1st senior year was made into an exhibition version and revealed.
“I have skated many programmes but the one I skated the most is 'White Legend’. It begins with a feeling of struggling, then it spreads its wings, and at the end, it looks ahead and sets off on a journey. That is my own state of mind or what is true for us now, I thought. I could lay my feelings over it; because I have experienced the pain of the earthquake, I felt that I gave a complete performance.”
From here until the shows in September, he performed about 60 shows in total. “It is a show but it is also the real thing. I have to perform well right to the end with no mistakes in my jumps.” “Emotionally/mentally it was tough, but it was good off-season practice that produced results, a new way of becoming stronger.”
That period, the people of Japan were experiencing the chaos of devastation and restoration. Within him, the strength that is inside a human being began to sprout.
–As a skater, as a Sendai person–
In the ice shows and in the media, Hanyu was always introduced as “a skater from Sendai who is a victim of the earthquake and is suffering through the hardships”. And he was asked for comments as a representative of the victims. “The rink in Sendai is closed but I am trying my best. Although I am affected by the earthquake, I am working very hard, giving it my all, and if people can feel that, I would be very happy.”
It was a very good answer. However, in reality, all the more because he is from Sendai, he was sensitive to these words and felt uncomfortable with his own comment.
In Sendai, the coastal area around Sendai airport bore the biggest scars from the tsunami. When the tsunami struck, it was 8 metres high. Except for the elementary and junior high school, almost all buildings were washed away without a trace. Sendai airport was submerged. The 3-storey terminal building stood alone, with 1600 survivors stranded on the 3rd floor. (t/n. people on the lower floors perished.) Small planes and helicopters were swept away to other areas.
The airport being a lifeline, its arrival and departure functions were put as first priority for repair. On April 13th, one part of it was restored. Hanyu then travelled by plane to ice shows that were further away.
In the family car, going from his home to the airport, Hanyu saw a scene that even his own eyes could not believe. <Normally I cannot see the sea. But now the sea…… I can see it.>
This was once a place spread out with homes and streets, 2.5km from here to the coast. But now there was not a single building in sight; the view for 180 degrees was sludge and beyond it, the swells of a black sea could be seen. On both sides, there were hills of rubble of walls and roofs and other things that were no longer identifiable. Words like “cruel scars” and “severe damage” that one read about in the newspapers, this was a space far beyond that.
Hanyu himself was not a victim of the tsunami. But being in Sendai city, he was near enough to feel the aftermath. As a skater, what is the thing that he should do, he thought about it again. Is it to show them my skating and raise their spirits? Is it really so simple? Knowing full well the terrible devastation, words like “I will raise their spirits through my skating” rang hollow inside himself. <No one fully understands the severity of the damage. Is my skating really a good thing for the affected areas, no one knows. Saying that I want to work hard and show my efforts to the people to raise their spirits, that is just self-serving. So, should I do something concrete like volunteer actively in the affected areas? What should Yuzuru Hanyu the figure skater do?>
On one hand, he is a Sendai person. On the other hand, he is a skater and the important 2nd year of senior level is coming up. And he struggled between the two. Having seen the damage with his own eyes, he was acutely aware that he was not giving any tangible help. Saying things like “for the affected areas” sounded empty; he would rather go back to simply being a skater. <In the end, I am an athlete who goes for competitions. I get sent to competitions not because I am an earthquake victim but because I am the skater that is selected. Of course I am proud to be from Sendai and I will not want to forget that. But as a competitor, I must do my skating properly and do it well. I am not a representative of the disaster victims. I am a figure skater who represents Japan.> He pondered over this again and again.
Halfway through the off-season, administrative procedures for the 2011-2012 season started. He was designated “Special Enhancement Skater” for the next season (t/n. top level of support by Japan Skate Federation) and the entries for competitions were also decided. In those unreal days of having no home rink and travelling from place to place for ice shows, these administrative procedures gradually directed him towards the reality of being a skater.
In summer, the “Japan sports jacket” with the new season’s design were delivered. It had a white background with gold and black lines, and the word 'JAPAN’ in red at the back. Holding it in his hands, happiness coursed through him. “Ahh, I can compete as a representative of Japan again….. After the earthquake, I was not sure if I could skate again and we were just living day by day, so I am really happy that I am able to skate and represent my country again.” When he was in 4th grade of elementary school, he went for his first overseas competition in Finland. He received the Japan jacket and he thought, finally I can represent Japan! The happiness at that time, it was the same kind of feeling now.
4 years old, he started skating, a little boy who followed closely behind his big sister. Practising at the rink near his home in the northern part of Sendai city, he soon became prominent in his hometown. When he trained under Shoichiro Tsuzuki, the coach who nurtured Japan’s first Worlds medalist Minoru Sano, his talent grew at great speed. In the morning, Hanyu had practice before going to school. After school, he had one-to-one lesson. At night, he also practised. He spent the day just between rink and school. At the time of elementary grade 4, he naturally acquired all the good qualities of skating and the evaluation overall went up. He won the novice nationals and went to Finland for the novice competition where he also placed 1st. “At that time, I thought, so practice is really important! When I work hard at practice, I will be able to show fully my capabilities and become more confident. From then, I started to think 'I like practice!’ ” (laughs)
–’I want to win’, putting pressure on myself–
I, the earthquake victim, or I, the skater….. The media continued to ask him for comments as “a victim of the disaster” in interviews.
During a normal off-season, he would only see his coach and friends from the home rink. But because of the ice shows, he was often meeting top skaters and people from the media. Everyone showed their concern for Hanyu the earthquake victim, and said words like “just to be competing, you are already remarkable”. But for Hanyu, that did not serve as motivation at all.
“When I think of the disaster area, I do hope that my cheerful and energetic appearance will give them joy. But this is the sports world; for a competition, I have my responsibilities. I have to go for the competition as a figure skating competitor and focus on my performance as a skater. [….] I have been through the earthquake and I thought about many things. And conversely, my feelings as a skater became stronger.”
At the end of a long period of internal conflict, Hanyu’s heart was set.
“Precisely because there are a lot of people from the media here, and a lot of attention is on me, I want to say this as an athlete, 'I want to win.’ I want to put pressure on myself by saying 'I want to win’. If I lose, it will look bad, and so I will work even harder. Saying it out, it will remain in the mind. If you just think it, the human brain may forget. After saying it out, you may feel the humiliation of a loss. However, if you achieve it, the happiness will be really something special.”
Finally, it was October and the season was going to start. Hanyu locked away the title of earthquake victim deep within his heart and showed up at the press conference with the fighting spirit of a brave warrior. “I am from a disaster-affected area; that does not change. But I do not want to think about that; I will skate as a skater in a competition. As a Japan representative, I have a responsibility. The first priority is to show my abilities. If people watching my performance can feel happy and be inspired to try harder, that is the best. But I would like to put winning as my top priority.”
This youth of 16 years, it seems that he had regained the strong spirit of an athlete that was almost lost in the Great East Japan Earthquake. When the season opened, the Yuzuru Hanyu overflowing with adrenaline was back.
[t/n. The internal conflict was resolved, but as most of us would know, the guilt he felt of leaving the disaster area to skate, remained in him for a long time more.]
Note: Not a proper translation. Some parts are left out/ summarised/ paraphrased. Pics are from internet (thanks to original owners).
For a fuller picture: 2 documentaries with Yuzuru looking back on the disaster, one made in 2013 and one in 2016 (both Eng subbed by Nonchan)