The men’s short program (SP) was held, and Yuzuru Hanyu (ANA), the reigning Olympic champion in Sochi ’14 and Pyeongchang ’18, finished in first with a score of 103.53. After his performance, he reflected on his SP in an online interview.
A: In the beginning, it’s Jeffrey Buttle who picked the music. At first, I was looking for a piano piece, but, well, Jeffrey-san wasn’t really able to decide on something either. So, even after going over 2-3 choices, in the end, there wasn’t one that really just came to me. And in the midst of seeing the news and the current state of the world, I think ultimately a kind of light-hearted piece [would be better], uhm, since everyone is watching me skate even during these tough times, I thought maybe something of a cheerful theme (would be good).
Q: [What are your thoughts] Heading into the free program?
A: First, I think it’s important to recover properly. However, I think I’ve had amazing practices before this. Though in reality, that’s not reflected in the score. As for the jumps, all I can say is that I’ve landed them. I hope I can properly deliver another good performance tomorrow.
Q: [What are your thoughts] upon finishing your skate?
A: Well, to be honest, I think I was able to enjoy it, but looking at the score, I can’t say that it was a good performance, therefore, my current thought is that I would like to revise it while doing my best to prepare for tomorrow.
A: For the time being it’s that I didn’t push to maximize the technical (aspects) at all. Also, well, I think my jumps are (usually) high-earning in GOE. I think it’s an issue that I wasn’t able to properly obtain that.
Q: What were your feelings upon entering the venue?
A: Now that you mention it, it felt like I couldn’t really hear any voices. On the contrary somehow, the cheers that everyone gave for today’s new program and when they saw the new costume felt like they were resonating inside my heart. It was like I received that support in a new way.
Q: You put in 2 quads. What do you think about their quality?
A: Well, I’ve landed them, so you could say 50% I guess… However, about the scores, I haven’t seen the details actually so I can’t say anything. But in terms of GOE, it wasn’t good so, uhm, I’m thinking it’d be great if I can figure out things such as how to upgrade it a little bit more, how to allocate time in the 6-minute warmup, etc.
Q: (Your thoughts) on doing a rock number after a long while?
A: Um, well to be honest, it was a little unfortunate not to be able to hear (audience) cheering, but, well, I think I was able to somehow feel that maybe those watching on TV or those watching online were cheering very loudly me on, so I was able to skate while having fun.
A: To speak in detail, first, I was sent the stepwork. Well, the placement of the steps themselves were in reverse.* Also, things like the incorporation of the music and hand movements, well, there’s a lot that mostly I arranged. And, regarding the jumps too, I conveyed the overall timing I wanted to do for them, and then, there were also the [parts] Jeff arranged. So I wanted to ask various things about how all of that would fit in if it went with my original timing, but I didn’t get a reply at all (laughs), so yes, I choreographed it by myself while going through trial and error.
*T/N: This is our guess but we assume he means that because he was sent the video of the choreo that was presumably shot front on (the way the audience would see his performance), he would have had to mirror the steps instead of copying directly what he saw on the video when actually skating the choreo.
Q: Anything you are particularly emphasizing (in the program)?
A: Well, I think it’s maybe something like “push and pull.” I’m trying to add in a lot of different things. Really, in a certain sense, I think I’m trying to emphasize that everything in the program is worth paying attention to. However, amongst all of that, it’s to be balanced with the jumps. Also, well, I tried to insert various things while considering the artistic aspect, like where I could take a breath and really ride it out, all while everyone is watching.
Q: Did you arrange or put anything from your old performances (into this program)?
A: Of course there were things that seem to be now associated with my name, which are things that I want to highlight, and things that I extracted (from my old programs). However, afterall, I took a lot of care thinking about how to choreograph this program and for this music.
The Japanese National Championships will start from 25 December at Nagano’s Big Hat. Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Gold Medallist Yuzuru Hanyu (ANA) attended the public practice at the venue on the 24th. For Hanyu, who had withdrawn from the Grand Prix series due to the effects of COVID-19, this competition will be his first this season. After the practice, he was interviewed online.
Q: How was your feeling after the public practice, and the thoughts behind deciding to compete at the Japanese National Championships?
A: It’s been awhile since I’ve practised on a rink with so many people so there were certain senses/feelings [of being on the ice with them] that I didn’t quite grasp but in a sense, it was a fresh feeling and for me, truly something that I haven’t had in awhile so it was fun as well.
Q: You withdrew from the Grand Prix series. What was the thought process behind deciding to compete at the Japanese National Championships?
A: Well, my thinking hasn’t really changed. If I were to speak frankly, if it were based on my own personal considerations, where possible, I did not want to participate in activities that could be connected to spreading the virus [COVID-19]. And right now, throughout all of Japan, well, within what they are calling the third wave of the virus that is coming at us quickly, I was conflicted about whether it was okay for me to compete. However, when considering the World Championships – since the Four Continents has been cancelled – it was absolutely necessary to compete here firstly to qualify for the World Championships, so I feel the decision to compete is for the sake of tying it with my own hopes.
Q: How were your training conditions during the pandemic, and how did you pass the days?
A: Well, everyday I’m alone and practicing without a coach. Also, yes, stuff like aftercare* was difficult too. As much as possible, I’m not in contact with anyone aside from my family. I really did not go out at all. But even so, for me, it was an environment where I could focus on my skating, and I think maybe I was able to get in some good practice.
*T/N: Likely he means aftercare like massages and treatment after exercising etc.
A: It seems if I start worrying about something, I find it easy to enter into a spiral of negative (thoughts). But, since I was alone, I was able to deeply analyze things such as techniques on how to control it when I fall into it. Also, it was a good opportunity to experience how my condition gets worse, or my condition improves, not subject to external factors but originating from myself.
Q: What are the highlights of your programs this season, and the jump layouts?
A: With regards to the free program, the quads are loop and Salchow, and in the later half I plan to put two quad toeloops. In the short program, in the first half it’s the 4S and 4T-3T combination. In the second half I plan to do a back counter 3A.
Q: What would you like to express [in your programs]?
A: In terms of the FS I skated today, of course there is a theme to the story and a story I want to convey, but I truly would like for it to speak to the feelings of the people watching it, or something within themselves, without it being restricted [by my own interpretation]. In regards to the SP, I haven’t skated it yet today but…um, let’s see. If it can make people feel like raising their arms in the air, I would be happy.
A: Well, it was the first day of practice so well, I [did so] while properly confirming my senses/feeling [for the rink/competition]. Well, I don’t think the skating itself has exactly come but I am confirming these one at a time. I skated today’s practice while thinking anew about the best way to get a feel for the ice.
Q: Was it a good feeling to skate to Ballade No. 1?
A: Well, I can only say I will leave that to the impressions of people watching in the audience, but well, I was really nervous today. But I felt again…well, apart from Pyeongchang, it was my first time running through Ballade No. 1 in front of everyone so while being very nervous, I felt like I was once more preparing myself to skate to this program.
Q: What was your reason for changing the programs?
A: Um, I think just with this question, the interview will probably be over. Firstly, at the Grand Prix Final and Japanese Nationals, I think it’s very fun to raise the difficulty [of my layouts], and the happiness at the moment of accomplishing them is immeasurable, but, well… I think the skating I’m aspiring to is not just doing difficult things.
I did Origin, did Otonal, but perhaps it’s not something that fits my rhythm/pace. Firstly, when it comes to technical things, the more I put in difficult elements, the more I neglect the portions of my own skating, and something I hate is separating my mind from the music because I must do so to set up for jumps. A big [factor/reason for the change] was not being able to tolerate that. And also, in terms of music, I selected those pieces Origin and Otonal after the Olympics had finished, when I myself was in a very ambivalent/floating mood, feeling like I was constantly that young boy who was always chasing after Johnny Weir and Plushenko.
Therefore, I think it’s indeed true that the Otonal at Japanese Nationals was good and Skate Canada’s Origin was good but, after all, I was thinking that I could not perfect them as my own performance. Because the ideal was that hard to reach. That ‘ideal’ was probably not me, but I think that of Plushenko-san and Johnny-san’s shadows*. Therefore, when I thought of it, this was not my skating and thought this once more when performing Seimei during Medallist on Ice. When I skated Seimei…well, it’s not really about a cover and original song but I really felt a difference similar to that within myself. Truthfully, Seimei and Ballade No. 1 are kids who, as legend-like records** to be passed down, so if I had been able to, I wanted to let them sleep. But, even so, during Medallist on Ice, when I borrowed their power – and maybe it was because of my mentality at the time – I thought I was able to be myself to a staggering degree. So, yes, for a little while longer, I thought it was okay to borrow the power of these kids, yes.
*literally he says their ‘backs’ were the ideal, essentially the ‘backs’ who he was chasing after or their idealised image in his head, but I’ve taken the liberty to use a more common English expression.
**he uses しまっている which is a suffix usually used to denote something that’s not ideal/good – here it’s attached to 記録を持ってしまっている – holding the records. Our interpretation is that he’s saying it’s almost a bad thing that they have those records because it gives these programs a particular weight because of their ‘legendary’ reputation that he doesn’t want to risk/harm by performing them again.
Q: What’s the degree of completion for your 4A, will you fight with it at the World Championships?
A: U~m… well, if I can’t jump it then I cannot put it in, though I’ll do it if I can. I think I was indeed able to practice it during this month-long period. I haven’t landed it, but somehow or another, I think its condition/shape has gotten better.
A beautiful and powerful melody sounded somewhere around Tokyo. Chopin Ballade No. 1. The performer is Ms. Kanon Matsuda. Moving to Moscow at the age of 6, she is the most noted young pianist who has studied at the Moscow Conservatory since 2014 as the first Japanese to receive the Russian government special scholarship.
Off to the side, behind Ms. Matsuda, a young man leans, with closed eyes, sometimes following the rhythm of the music with his body. The man is Yuzuru Hanyu, a figure skater who performs to this song for his short program in the 2017-2018 season.
Hanyu wiped the sweat off his neck with a handkerchief, took a sip of his drink and took a breath. Then he returned to Ms. Matsuda. Art and sports: the two young talents began to discuss “expression”.
H: Yuzuru Hanyu, M: Kanon Matsuda
２人にとって、ショパン『バラード第１番』とは？ For these two, what is Chopin's Ballade No. 1?
H:It was a wonderful performance. I'd like to skate to such piano music.
M:Thank you very much!
H: What does Ballade No. 1 mean to you?
M: I played this song at a recital in Kagawa Prefecture, where I'm from. After that, it was decided that it would be included in my debut CD (Matsuda Kanon Debut Recital). So, it is a good memory for me.
H: Actually, I was listening to that CD all day yesterday.
M: Really? I'm so happy to hear that!
H: I heard that you interpret songs like stories. What kind of story do you think this song has?
M: I try to think of different stories each time. But this time, I was trying to think about the relationship between Soames and Irene in the Forsyte Saga by Galsworthy, and try to include Soames's feelings for Irene in the music.
H: Wow! That is really impressive! Do you read a lot?
M: I do. I love reading.
H: For me, about this Ballade No. 1 - of course, I have strong feelings. How can I explain: I can be myself. I feel like I can assimilate myself into this song.
M: I see.
H: I don't own it before I perform it, like "I want to express this" or "I want to express that". Within myself, something is being completed while I'm actually performing it.
M: That's amazing!
H: When I watched you perform, I thought that you place importance on the way you exert force, breathing out and breathing in. Maybe that is similar to the feeling of skating. So, listening to your performance, I’ve learned that I have to do something like that, too.
M: I'm so happy to hear that. Thank you very much. I watched the Sochi Olympics on TV at home in Moscow. Unlike other sports, figure skating is an artistic competition that further expresses what you feel listening to music. From your skating, I feel passion and a lot of energy is transmitted.
演奏・演技を通して観客に伝えたいことWhat do you wish to convey to the audience through your performances?
H: As you mentioned earlier, "to think of a different story each time". But does it mean that you do so each time you perform, even for the same song?
M: Yes. Even if I try to think the same as before, I can't do it easily. If it's raining: "Oh, it's rainy" and I try to play with a slightly sad feeling, or try to play with the feeling of hope.
H: Do you decide on the story before going onstage?
M: Yes. I decide it vaguely. However, if there's a character I clearly want to convey, I go over and over it in my head until just before I go onstage.
H: But there are many cases where classical piano music doesn't have a concrete character. There is a lot of influence from the outside weather or the atmosphere in the venue, isn't there?
M: Yes. Exactly.
H: I thought that you are expressing things such as human nature, things that you've experienced so far and the background of your current thoughts .
M: How is it in figure skating?
H: I think it's close to the sensation of producing sounds. Of course, the song exists already, it is not something you create yourself, but I hope people will feel: "This person is not just skating along with the song".
M: I see. I see. You mean putting your own meaning into the song?
Something like putting meaning into every step?
H: Instead of "putting", it's more like "entering". Everyone who's listening and watching, and even me who’s skating, all have different pasts, different experiences. For example, a sad song -if you experienced something sad recently, will make you feel extremely sad,but if you've just had fun and are feeling excited, the way you feel it will be different. You may be able to see something like hope comes after sorrow. I really want to pay attention to those kind of things. There are many things I want to convey, but I want to convey a different "something" to every person watching.
M: I think that sense you have is wonderful.
Do you embrace passion in music or pursue depth?松田:羽生選手は美しさや表現力について、どのようにお考えですか？
M: What do you think about beauty and the ability to express it?
H: Figure skating is explicitly technical. The ultimate goal is to land all your jump and other elements cleanly in a high-level program.
Within that framework, if you think too much about "Let's tell this" or "Let's tell that", you will mess up, make more mistakes and, in my opinion, end up not conveying what you want. And it messes up my feelings, too.
How about you? What do you do when the situation doesn’t line up with your expectations?
M: There's no doubt that "Things did not go as I expected" moments happen during concerts and recitals. But, for me, the sound is the ultimate. I have to consider the quality of the sound, so I think more about the images of the songs and the messages I would like to give rather than the technical aspects.
H: For example, even if one note eludes you while you are playing, do you completely forget about it after that moment?
M: Yes, it completely disappears after that moment! [laughs]
If you don't shut out that mistake, you could make the same mistake again, and then the music itself would stop.
You need to keep playing the images and stories, otherwise, the song doesn't continue. So, I sweep away the mistakes.
And, in fact, if someone points it out - "You made mistakes today, didn't you?", there are times I wonder, "Did I?"
H: Yeah, there are also times when I forget mistakes in my jumps, etc.
M: How do you choose the songs for your programs?
H: For my free skate, I've chosen the songs myself for the past 5-6 years.The standard I follow is how much interest I have in the program. I'll be skating that program everyday for a year or two, so there will definitely be times that I'll get tired of listening to the song. It is a huge deal whether I can be passionate about the song or not.
So, you can't pursue a song without "depth". But, in the case of figure skating, if the song is too difficult, people watching will end up thinking, "Oh, it’s difficult."
M: I understand what you're saying.
H: That's why I pay a lot of attention to what kind of songs are easy to convey to people and easy for me to use to express what I want to express.
M: Amazing! But that is a difficult thing. In my case, I have to play for an hour and a half for a recital, so I also have to calculate whether I'll have the physical strength or not. Physically, it's easier for me to only play slow music, but the people listening will get bored of that, right?
Because of the support, we can try our best to achieve our dreams.羽生:松田さんは６歳からモスクワでピアノを学んでいて、今はロシア政府の特別奨学生としてモスクワ音楽院に在籍しているんですよね。
H: You have studied piano in Moscow since you were 6 years old and now you're enrolled in the Moscow Conservatory as a special scholar of the Russian government, right?
Does the Russian art sector cultivate young talent?
M: Yes. And I think Russia has a solid support mechanism for the arts.
Basically, at the music school from which I graduated, all students are exempt from tuition.
However, there are strict exams. Those who don't meet the standards will be charged tuition the following year or will be expelled unless they can pass.
It's tough, but I think the system's great. Currently, at the Moscow Conservatory, the top 40 Russian students are exempt from tuition fees.
I took the same exams as the local Russians, unlike foreigners, and was selected to be a special government scholar.
H: That's so impressive! I'm also supported by subsidies sponsored by the revenue of a sports lottery (toto BIG) as a JSC top athlete.
Skating is a very costly sport, so with this subsidy mechanism and the power gained through the support of my fans, I'm striving towards my dreams.
M: I'm grateful to everyone for supporting me. I think I will try my best in the future as well.
Each movement, a sound. Adding meaning to everything羽生:松田さんは6歳からずっとモスクワで暮らしてるんですよね。現地でのスケート人気はどうですか？
H: You've been living in Moscow since you were 6 years old, haven't you? How is the popularity of skating there?
M: I have. Figure skating is very popular.
There are many skating rinks in Moscow. There’s a rink at Red Square in the winter as well.
So it's an environment where many citizens enjoy skating on a daily basis, as well as supporting skaters.
I've also been asked, "Let's go skate", but, if I get injured, my performance will be affected, so I've never gone skating unfortunately.
H: I've been taught by Russian choreographers in the past. What I was taught was sharpness and power, as well as how to use breathing, how to move my body, things like that.
And today, I got the same sense from your performance. I felt empathy.
What was the most beneficial thing you’ve cultivated in Russia?
M: Professor Elena Ivanova of the Gnessin Academy of Music has spoken with me for the last 12 years I've been studying.
[How can you embrace passion in music or pursue depth?]
"Never play sounds that are meaningless." Be sure to create meaning in every sound.
She told me to practice thinking of words or to create stories to the phrases. She’d tell me to read this book, watch this movie, look at this picture - stuff like that, in order to do so.
H: I see. Interesting. I've learned something.
M: She also taught me how to use my body. I have smaller hands and thinner arms than most pianists, so how much power to put in, what kind of sound comes out when I do so, where to draw power from. She taught me such things.
H: The characteristics of our bodies also have a great influence in figure skating.
Style, height, length of limbs. When I was taught by a Russian teacher, I was told, "Because you have long limbs, utilize them more." I’m once again reminded of that specific advice.
And, actually, this season, I'm using a song Seimei (from the soundtrack of the movie "Onmyoji") in the free program, but even in this program, my choreographer told me that I need to make sure that every single movement , every simple action has meaning.
Today, I talked with you and realized that we have a lot in common.
Aiming for a new stage, on each different path羽生:松田さんの今後の目標や予定を教えてください。
H: Could you tell me your goals and plans?
M: In June 2017, my second album, "Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition" was released. Since autumn, there have been a lot of recitals for that album. So, I'd like to do my best to play with pleasure for everyone.
The 8th song on the album is "Mercutio" (from "Romeo and Juliet"). Personally, I’m imagining and wonder how it’d be if you skated to that song.
H: I'd love to go to a recital to listen to that song. I wonder if it’ll be the middle of the skating season. [laughs]
M: The Pyeongchang Olympics are coming. Please tell me about your enthusiasm.
H: I want to properly manage my physical condition and such for the Olympics. Also, since injury is inherent in sports, I need to be careful of that hope that I can do my best every day. That’s my current feeling.
M: Please do your best! I’m rooting for you!
They use rinks that are only half the size of international standards, but a bright and cheerful challenge proceeds under a leader who has the unique background of having competed in the roller skating world championship.
リマ市内の中心部にある遊戯施設内で、子どもたちの声が響き渡る。２０１１年に完成したという同国初の常設リンク「アイスランドパーク」だ。 Children’s voices echo in the play facilities in the center of Lima. It’s the first permanent rink in the country, Iceland Park, which was completed in 2011.
「日本から来たの？ ここでユヅル・ハニュー（羽生結弦）を知らない人はいないよ」。日本から見て地球の反対側にある国の子どもたちが口々に１４年ソチ五輪の男子金メダリストに親しみを込めていた。 “Did you come from Japan? There’s no one here who doesn’t know about Yuzuru Hanyu.” Children from countries on the other side of the globe from Japan are familiar with the 2014 Sochi Olympic men’s gold medalist.
Himena Olmaturia (17), who won the first competition, is very passionate about skating: “Peru is a nation known for being good at football or volleyball. I wanted to try a different sport. I feel like I am flying when I skate in the rink.”
However, it is difficult to say that the facility is suitable to prepare for the Olympics. It is 32 meters in length and 14 meters in width – about half of the international standard (60 meters by 30 meters), which is considered desirable for the Olympics and other competitions. Covered with a vinyl curtain, it is not a completely indoor facility. Water drips from the ceiling, hitting the ice.
Even though the government provides uniforms, it doesn’t allow the establishment of a federation because the facility is a private entity. For this reason, Peru is not a member of the International Skating Union (ISU).
Their technical skills are also similar to the level of beginners in Japan. Olmaturia, one of the top skaters, has learned to 4 single jumps out of the 6 types of jumps. More than half of the skaters have less than a year of competitive experience.
Still, they are full of passion. In the choreographic practice, while music flows, the atmosphere becomes lively like at a real competition and the skaters’ motivations rise up. An expensive apparatus for practicing jumps was handmade by a supporter.
Mr. Lois, who teaches the skaters, talked about his dream. “Practice environment, great talent, discipline – Japan has everything necessary for competition. Even if it takes 10 or 20 years, I would like my skaters to win the Olympics and world championships like Japanese skaters.”