[ENG TRANSLATION] Yuzuru Hanyu x FRAU Interview 211010

Photo by Norio Kidera

Original article was first published 10 October 2021

Translation: @axelsandwich
Proofreading: @shinjistarxx


Yuzuru Hanyu, the top athlete driving the figure skating world. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, he did not return to his training base in Canada but continued training all alone and marked his first victory in 5 years at the Japanese National Championships at the end of last year. In order to meet with Hanyu-senshu, who possesses extraordinary strength and artistry and is continuing to advance his craft, we travelled to Sendai, the city of forests overflowing with greenery.  


Figure skating is a sport that has an artistic facet that judges according to a standard of beauty. He spoke about how the most important things are high attention to detail and awareness. 


[Figure skating] is a competition [judged] by the perfection and beauty of its moves/skills but, as you are judged by human beings, you have to put out performances that appeal to people with differing values. It’s because I have high standards for the details that I fixate on and am aware of [in my performance] that I can continue to give my all. Though it’s important how objectively I can evaluate myself, if I just fixate on what I want to express, I feel I’d only be able to put out self-centered performances, so a program can firstly only be complete if it can convey something to the audience. If it’s a happy program, I’d wish that the people watching could do their best the next day, and that it could prompt them to move forward in their hearts. If it’s a sad program, I’d like it to be a way for the people watching to connect with their pain and experiences. I’ve only lived 26 years, but I’d like to express my own story and feelings. Not only in relation to the past, but my feelings towards the future, and the things I’m experiencing currently… though it’s very varied. 


Currently during your off-season, you are commuting every day to your practice rink. Can we ask you about your motivation?


The results of your hard work is everything. I think the number one happiness is the moment the results come. It’s not anything like ‘oh I’ll get to eat this or buy this if I work hard’ (laughs), it’s because I want to taste the happiness at that moment of accomplishment. Even if it’s a small goal, I try to follow through and accomplish something every day. 


We’ve heard that though you’ve secured countless titles, you’ve never once thought that you were mentally strong?


Of course this happens at competitions but even at ice shows, I get so nervous that I feel sick and there are many nights I can’t sleep. But that’s because I have high ideals. So I can only give my everything. If I can live by the choice that I’ve judged as the best one, not only in practice but during times of rest and including occasionally when I’m not even thinking about anything, I think you will definitely become stronger, even if you don’t get the results you wanted at the time. 


You’ll often bring pressure onto yourself by saying things like ‘I’ll win the next competition!’ 


It’s because I believe I can do it. I think putting my wishes into words has a good impact on my mind. When I feel like I’m going to be crushed down, I change that to motivation and keep working hard. Though I do get overwhelmed and there are times my stomach hurts, I hope I can turn that power in a good direction. It’s because I get nervous that I can, single-mindedly, concentrate and tackle problems head on. 


In competitions in recent years, we know you have chosen music with Japanese themes like ‘Ten to chi to’ and ‘SEIMEI’. What do you think of your identity as a Japanese person? 


To be honest, I wasn’t thinking about it like that; on the contrary, I feel that it’s not a good thing to be stereotyped as persevering and polite because we’re Japanese. And I think there are people who have a complex against that. It’s because everyone is different from each other that they are good. When I meet with foreign athletes, there are differences in our values and each person’s attitudes towards skating is varied. But ultimately, when it comes time to do something together, we can unite. That is the sort of diverse society that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) stand for, and something I think is very important. 


Last September, you graduated from the Human Sciences e-School course at Waseda University after studying for 7 years. 


In skating and also in studying, knowledge is important. In regards to SDGs’ activities as well, I did research into items that attempt to keep the limited resources in our natural environment sustainable and I want to choose those kinds of products [to use]. I’m personally interested in the problem of rubbish, so I try to normally carry around reusable bottles in training. Even though it may be small, I think one way to keep moving forward is to ask myself what I can do. 

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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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