[ENG TRANSLATION] Japanese Nationals Combined Sponichi Interview

Photo by Sponichi

Original article Part 1 published 27 December 2020.
Original article Part 2 published 27 December 2020.

Translation and Proofreading: @shinjistarxx, @axelsandwich and @tsukihoshi14


Yuzuru Hanyu (ANA), the winner of the All-Japan Figure Skating Championships and the consecutive winner of the Olympic Games in Sochi ’14 and Pyeongchang ’18, gave a joint interview after the men’s medalist press conference on the 26th, and talked about his innermost thoughts.



Q: Are you thinking of anything (career-wise) after the World Championships (next year)?

A: First of all, for me, the biggest thing is whether the World Championships will actually happen.

Well, first of all, being able to use my body is the most important. Because training on the quad Axel has a big impact (on my body) after all. Well, it’s not something that I can practice consistently, so to some extent, I have to train properly and build up my body. Well, I had decided not to do a quad Axel in my training for this competition. How can I put it, I’ve building up my body to prepare for the competition, so I think now my sense of the Axel has been changing once again, but as soon as this competition is over, after my body recovers, I will make sure to build my body to suit the quad Axel, and then train for it, then see how much I can do with the quad Axel. I haven’t been able to do it yet. I’m trying to quickly bridge the gap between my current image of the Axel and my body as soon as possible. I think it depends on how well I can execute it after I’ve become able to do it. Well, more than anything else, I don’t know if the World Championships will be held yet. I don’t know how next season’s competitions, including the Grand Prix, will go. Anyway, my current feeling is that I want to put out the best effort I can while keeping an eye on the situation of the world. Beyond that, I don’t know yet.



Q: Is there anything you felt was important or difficult while practicing without a coach?

A: Yes, I think there are absolutely aspects where I can’t be completely objective about when I’m by myself. Like when we’re talking like this, or when this becomes various articles in newspapers or the news (on TV), and I watch myself speaking through television. Similar to when I do that and am like ‘ah, it would have been good if I had said in this way’, or ‘I should’ve said this’, it’s the same in skating where there are parts you cannot be objective about when alone. So I think having a coach is an incredibly important thing, insofar as being able to provide new points of view and ones outside of your own. On the flipside though, I think precisely because I have an abundant amount of experiences, because I have more experiences compared to other athletes, it’s easier for me to have a more objective point of view about things like how I break down [under pressure], how I can produce good performance, how it becomes a bad performance, that sort of thing. So while reflecting on various things, even while being without a coach, I think I was able to leverage those experiences and connect my actual performance at Japanese Nationals this time with the training I was aiming for up until this point.  



Q: About your planned layout. Up until now, you’ve put your combinations in the second half of the program. This time it was slightly front-loaded. What is the point of this? And what about your layout if you add the quad Axel?

A: Well if I did add the 4A I think it’d be my first jump. To put it simply, the reason for putting a combination in the first half is because the rate of success is higher there. Before deciding on this layout, there was originally a period where I couldn’t jump the loop. I couldn’t even jump the Salchow, and the toe-loop was in a dicey condition, so there was a period where I was in no position to put quads in the second half. Precisely because of that, I was in the process of putting a combination in the first half. So I went with that flow and then slowly while practising, I became able to jump the loop again – the Salchow was of course stabilised and then I stabilised my loop little by little, so I thought okay, I can put the loop and Salchow in my FS program layout. I did think about doing 2 toe-loop combinations in the second half and doing an Axel combination as the last jumping pass, too. Right now, if I look at the Free Program as a whole, instead of making the last jumping pass a combination, the Axel combination in the first half looks better – I think that’s the primary reason. Starting from the sound of the koto at that point [in the program], the mood picks up, I jump the Axel and then the loop, but originally I thought about making it a solo Axel jump, then solo loop, otherwise a 3Lz solo jump. Somehow I felt that the music creates a feeling of a bigger wind soaring through, so the jump that would express it best would be a 3A with a rippon 2T and then leading into the 3Lo with that momentum, which is the reason for putting it in the first half this time. 




Q: The Beijing 2022 Olympics are getting closer. What’s your position on it at the moment?

A: This is speaking frankly but in the current situation where the Tokyo Olympics cannot go ahead, in my personal opinion, we’re not in a position to be thinking about the Winter Olympics. Of course, there are sponsors, commercials, and because this is an event where so many countries compete, of course there is a lot of money involved in that. Because of that I think there is a whole world that we don’t know. However, I’m not involved in that. As a single competitive figure skater, the Olympics is not a sport festival or event but, as an athlete, my ultimate goal. If we only think from that perspective, I’d like the Olympics to go ahead and of course I’d like to participate and win. However, against the backdrop of that, the current reality is that even the Tokyo Olympics cannot be held. Even if postponed, we still don’t know how it will turn out. For example, if we’re in a situation where taking the vaccine is compulsory or whether the audience will be able to attend… And also, balancing the cost, whether the Olympics is something that should be held. Truly, I think there are many people thinking about various factors, with a lot of different opinions. Therefore, within all of that, I’ve personally stopped myself from thinking about the Olympics, my ultimate goal. Therefore, rather than thinking whether or not I’ll participate, whether or not I’ll continue to compete until then, it’s more like I’m shutting down my thoughts about that a little right now.

Photo by Sponichi

Part 2



Q: What is the ultimate goal of your skating career?

A: In any case, I’d like to land the 4A in competition. That’s the ultimate goal I’ve said countless times. However, this time, with such a long period of training alone, the difficulty of the 4A… Firstly, I wonder if I will be able to get there. When I think about how there were times when I felt like it was almost a wild fantasy, I won’t say there weren’t times where I wondered if it was okay to make this my ultimate goal. However, if I were not to lie to my own heart then, if I did not try to get there, truthfully speaking, my reason for skating… In this society, in this current situation, it feels like my reason for training, the reason for wanting to keep skating would vanish. So that’s why I’m still pushing ahead against the impregnable wall known as my 4A, though the hurdle is very high. It’s a wall so tall to the extent that it feels like there are no handholds or anything. Even so, I don’t want to leave it as just a dream. I will absolutely grasp it in my hands, and I want to look beyond that wall where there are no other walls. I think that may be the only reason I am able to skate in this current situation. 



Q: What about the current status of the (quad) axel?

A: I haven’t (successfully) jumped it.

Q: Not even once?

A: Yes.



Q: Once the COVID19 situation improves, will you go back to your training base overseas?

A: Well, to be honest, I don’t know how the world will be. However, to confirm, I don’t think the training I’ve done thus far has been wrong. Um, in the end since I was able to apply the various things I have experienced thus far, and finally like a “veteran”, I was able to accumulate the [efforts of] various training, and without doubt as this was reflected in the results of this competition, I think I can finally say I did my best. And so, the training plan of a four-quad free program including a quad loop from this time will become a strong foundation for the sake of the quad Axel later. I think for now, making that go well should be the only thing I think about. Regardless of whether that will happen upon returning to Toronto or in Japan, and improving my body, my senses, and my technical and physical fitness is definitely something I think I know best. In any case, in the last one year I have gone through a lot of trial and error. That’s why, to utilize [what I learned from] that, whether it’s in Japan or in Canada, first I want to put in the work in training to improve the technical aspects needed to rotate and land a quad Axel. Is this okay? Did that answer the question?



Q: (This year) You graduated from university. Aside from training, what other kinds of things did you do during the pandemic?

A: Well, the time I spent with my family greatly increased. Usually I’m in Toronto and it’s not often that my whole family is able to get together and spend time. And by this it’s not that it was fun to be together like this, but rather we were able to think together about skating. Above all else, I thought that being supported by my whole family while I was skating is a great fortune. And, yes, I didn’t really go out, since I wasn’t doing anything but skating. Although (saying I was) doing nothing except skating might be a bit of an exaggeration. I did not go out at all, aside for skating. Um, that’s right. I felt maybe I was able to focus more on skating than when I was in Toronto. And… what else was there? Ah, university. Fortunately I was able to graduate from university. Regarding my thesis, yes, I might present it someday, I might not. I’m not really sure about that. I did as much research as I could think of, and of course there were connections to the training that I myself have done up until now. Above all, I thought that maybe [with my research*] the rules [of skating] would become easier to understand, it would have to. Perhaps in the future, [after] performing to where I’m satisfied, I’ll retire from competition, become a professional [skater], become a coach/mentor, etc. So, in that progression, if that kind of technology is needed, there’s that option too. After all, I think that as a top athlete, [it would be good] to become a means of opening up something new. 

*T/N: Yuzuru is referring to his graduation thesis in which he explored the topic of 3D motion capture technology being applied to figure skating, and he stated his hope that in the future there could be AI-based scoring incorporating new technology. He talked about his thesis and thoughts on his university career in his recent article featured in Waseda University’s Campus Now magazine; translation can be found here.

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We are the Axel with Wings translation team, made up of fans of Yuzuru Hanyu. We hope to share videos of him and Japanese figure skating content with more people around the world. We aim to do our best to accurately capture the spirit of what's said. Hope you enjoy our videos and other contents.

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