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!
Oh dear God, i’m laughing so hard over this!
When i rewatch the news of behinds scenes of Worlds 2014 Gala Ex, i found this hilarious moment! Remember the lady who sat beside Yuzuru in Kiss&Cry after his short program on Sochi Olympics ? Yes this is the same lady. She is Mrs.Kobayashi of Japan Figure skating Federation. AND HERE SHE’S HOLDING THE POOH-SAN ! (well you already know who owns this pooh ,right?? LOOOLLLL XD )
“And Japan wants to wrap him (Yuzuru) up in cotton wool!”- Simon Reed ( British Eurosport Figure Skating Commentator)