As soon as I watched the Men’s SP I wanted to blog about it. But it was 3 am and I needed to be at school the next day. As soon as I watched the Men’s FS I wanted to blog about it. But it was almost 4 am and I couldn’t form a cohesive thought. As soon as I woke up this morning I wanted to blog about Yuzu but I had a long day of school work ahead of me. Unfortunately, my Masters thesis is not on Yuzuru Hanyu. But now, after getting some work done, I am home and the only thing on my to-do list tonight is write about Yuzu. Because wow! It’s been a few hours and I’m still speechless after what I saw last night.
Sometimes I think I’m insane for staying up till the middle of the night watching skating but then there are moments like last night that it’s completely worth it. Experiencing that live was so worth it. Today I am so happy I jumped on the Yuzu train back when I did.
Yuzu didn’t only break 3 World records this weekend, he obliterated them! That’s complete dominance. There is no one else in the World who can even come close. Skating like that he is just in a league of his own.
I spend a lot of time reading figure skating discussion boards and after each event people are always complaining about something. This was different. I saw very few negative comments. Every one appreciated what Yuzu had just done, whether they were a fan or not and generally thought he deserved every single one of those 322.40 points. That is very rare. From my friends at Goldenskate and FSUnivse I’ve accumulated a number of exciting things that happened for Yuzu at NHK this year:
- Yuzu beat his own WR SP score by 4.88 points
- Yuzu destroyed the previous WR FS score by 19.32 points
- Yuzu obliterated the previous WR total score by 27.13 points
- This is only the third time a skater has successfully completed their entire planned program content in both the SP and FS without any negative GOE’s in the IJS (Yuna 2010 Olympics and Patrick 2013 TEB are the other two).
- This is the first time a skater has skated a SP and FS with all level 4’s and no negative GOE’s
- Yuzu’s FS was the first time a skater has skated a FS with all level 4’s and only positive GOE’s (not even 1 zero!)
- This was the first time Yuzu has skated a clean SP since the Olympics.
- This was the first time Yuzu has skated a clean FS since he won Junior Worlds back in 2010
- This was the first time Yuzu has skated both a clean SP and clean FS since 2010 Japanese Eastern Sectionals
- This is the first Grand Prix event Yuzu has won since NHK Trophy in 2012 (but he’s won the GPF twice since then!)
- Yuzu would have finished 9th using just his FS score
- Yuzu’s FS score was just 0.03 off his total score when he won Junior Worlds in 2010
- This was the first time Yuzu tried (and landed twice!) a 4T-3T in competition
- This was the first time Yuzu tried (and landed) 2 quads in the SP
- This was the first time Yuzu successfully landed 3 quads cleanly in a FS
- This was the first time a skater has successfully landed 5 quads in a single competition
People are wishing he would have saved this for Worlds and are questioning whether he’ll ever be able to replicate this event. Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past him, Yuzu is determined. He looks stronger, more confident and more solid than I have ever seen him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he skates like this again this season (**please be in Boston when I’m there!!). But on the other hand, does it even matter? Yuzu just solidified himself not only as the best skater in the world right now, but one of the best skaters ever. Last night was the best Men’s FS that has ever happened. He’ll always have that performance. Even if he never skates like that again, he’ll always have that moment. He’ll always remember landing those jumps and breaking those records. He’ll remember doing it in front of a home crowd in Japan. He might even remember it more than when he won the Olympics. There are also so many fans around the world, myself included, who will also always remember it. Right now, the fact that he did it is all that matters.
We saw a different Yuzu here in Japan. This was not the same Yuzuru Hanyu I saw at Skate Canada. While I think Yuzu’s biggest competitor is himself, he thrives in a competitive setting. The injuries took a lot out of him last season, but also I think he never skated his potential because there was no one pushing him, no one challenging him. Yes he lost his World title last year, and while Javi did skate quite well there, I think Yuzu’s injuries, lack of training and lack of motivation really had an effect. This season it’s different. I think he went to Skate Canada expecting to win and when he didn’t it made him rethink things. And then he watched fellow Japanese youngster Shoma Uno skate fantastic and medal at two events. But what I think did it is Boyang Jin and his quad filled programs. Yuzu won’t say this is why, but it must have played a large role. Yuzu doesn’t call out his competitors like that, but Yuzu knows that if he wants to defend his Olympic title in 2018 he’s going to have to improve. We’re seeing this progress. This season was 3 quads in the FS and suddenly 2 quads in the SP. Next season I think we’ll see 4L, perhaps even 4Lz by the Olympics. Yuzu’s biggest competitor is himself, he knows he can do more and he will. Even at the press conference last night he said that despite the score, he thinks there’s still room to improve. Goodness knows how!
Now let’s break this down by record-breaking program:
Chopin Ballade No. 1 Short Program – 106.33 WR
When it came out on Wednesday that Hanyu was going to be trying 2 quads in his SP at NHK I thought it was hilarious. Can’t land the simple 3Lz-3T, might as well make it more difficult! Yuzu often said he couldn’t get the timing right with the music on the 3Lz. He knew he’d need 2 quads to win the Olympics again so why not start working on it now. Apparently Yuzu decided this sometime between the SP and gala at Skate Canada. This is why those lucky few got to see those gorgeous spread eagle-4S-spread eagle’s at the gala practice. Oh how I wish I had been there! Yuzu mentioned that Brian was shocked when he told him, but they started training it right away.
Now after Boyang beat Yuzu’s WR TES during the SP I was worried. 95 for a SP is a lot! Watching those first two jumping elements of the SP my heart was beating out of my chest. Would he be able to do it? Would this finally be the clean Chopin we’ve been waiting so long to see? I was probably more nervous than I’ll be during my thesis defense next week – which is completely ridiculous!! But then he did it. He landed that 4S, nailed the 4T-3T and then just threw that 3A in. Wow! When the technical tracker was showing 59+ we all knew a record was about to be broken. 106.33 is just insane!
But the funny thing is, this is not as high as he can score with this SP. He didn’t get much in GOE for his 4S and the 4T-3T was in the first half of the program. He mentioned that they plan to put this in the back half of the program like his previous layout. There’s another 2.50 points if he does those things.
I love this SP. You all know I have raved about it time and time again. I’m sad to see the original program go, but I like so many of the changes. The ina bauer into the 3A was beautiful. I love how perfectly the spin before the footwork fits with the music (though I worry this might disappear if the 4T-3T is moved to the second half). Not only does he change positions perfectly timed to the music, but he has choreographed arm movements in the pancake position to go with each beat of the music. This just might have been my favourite part of the entire program.
After the SP Yuzu said that he saw Boyang’s program and the score because it was right before the second warm-up group went on and Yuzu’s response was ‘I’m going to get a higher score than that’. He wasn’t fazed in the slightest. Just a little smile :-).
We saw fierce and determined Yuzu in the SP. This is my favourite Hanyu. This unpredictable intense rockstar who will stare down the judges and throw himself into a program 110%. I can think of only a few times where we’ve seen Yuzu quite like this: 2012 Worlds FS and 2015 Skate Canada FS (if I missed one, please let me know!). At the end of both those programs there was a frightening look in his eyes, like he was saying, ‘I killed it, I dare you not to give me ALL the marks’. We saw that intensity here and I loved it. I love crazy intense Hanyu.
Seimei Free Skate – 216.07 WR
When Yuzu took to the ice for the FS I felt completely opposite from the night before. I was so calm. The jump I was most scared for was the stupid 3Lz at the end. But as soon as he landed that 4T-3T I knew he was going to do it. When the technical score was ALREADY 100 when he was going in to that 3Lz. Wow! He still had 4 elements to come! Even now, I am just amazed and don’t have words.
I have loved this program since day 1 and thought it had great potential. At Skate Canada it was rough, he put everything into those jumps and the components slightly suffered as a result. After that I said this program has the potential to score 10-15 points higher TES and 4 points higher PCS. That would have brought his 186 to 200-205…..I was only off by about 10 points! Here Yuzu had a performance like Patrick did at Skate Canada. It was that same performing and home and doing everything perfectly type of skate. These are rare and I’m glad both got to experience that this season.
This program is so full. Every single element is out of difficult steps. The second 3A just looks like he threw it in for fun! The footwork is so perfectly controlled and timed to the music. He usually does 3A-3T but why not change it and do 4T-3T, it doesn’t get him any extra points, but it sure looks more impressive. And I can’t believe how consistent the 4S has become, that was a choreographed fall during the Olympic season. And again, there were choreographed hands in his spins. Plus the program just builds and builds. The ina bauer and hydroblading at the end. When the music changes and he starts his choreographed footwork you can just hear the crowd erupting. The stomp and smile at the end. It’s all just insane.
This is the most difficult program ever skated and it was skated to perfection. I often say Patrick Chan’s FS at 2011 Nationals is the best Men’s FS I have ever seen live. This is still true. But only because I wasn’t in Nagano last night.
It’s amazing to think this was the same kinda sloppy skater who used to collapse to his knees after his FS’s (I saw him do it live at 2013 Worlds). Yuzu looks so trained, so conditioned, so at his prime right now. When he finished he barely even looked tired. Unlike the SP there was no intense stare down when he finished. It’s like he already knew he was going to do it going in, where in the SP I think he thought he had to prove himself. There was a smile and a fist pump when he finished instead.
My favourite little off-ice moment was when Brian and Yuzu were leaving the Kiss n’Cry and Yuzu compared how he felt right then to how Javi felt when he won Worlds. Just the cutest.
There was also a memorable moment in Yuzu’s post skate interview where he accidentally confused the cities of Nagano and Nagoya. The audience laughed and he corrected himself. It was like he needed to prove that he’s not perfect. Funnily enough it was his only stumble of the weekend.
And then there was this quote after the FS: “Each time people cheered for me after each successful jump, I could hear their voices, felt their gazes, thought that I could hear their inner voices that in reality I cannot hear, I felt something like that from all over Japan and all over the world.”
And in a class act, he had this to say to Boyang before the medal ceremony:
Also, apparently Yuzu took almost 6 minutes to answer a question at the pres conference. After being told he talk too long he put his head down, laughed and apologized.
There’s a reason I often break my Yuzu posts into SP and FS posts. This became longer than I thought it would. Oops. Once I started writing I just couldn’t stop.
Stay tuned for a full recap of the rest of NHK Trophy. I have more thoughts on the Men’s event as a whole and what all these quads mean moving forward. I have watched the Pairs, but I admit, I haven’t seen a single Ladies or Dance program yet.
Thanks for reading.
– Justine Alyssa
Again, all photos and gifs are from tumblr. Thank you amazing people for making them 🙂