This is your first ice show since turning pro. What is your state of mind going into this event?
Uhm, I started to plan everything, including the venue, after holding the press conference announcing that I would turn pro in July. While there was not much time, I was able to create this while relying on many staff and having (them) fulfilling my requests. First of all, I’m full of gratitude just for that alone. About this show “Prologue”, to me it is the prologue to the story from here onward. This might get really abstract, but from now on, I’ll hold a new resolution in my heart and take one step at a time towards my goal, my dream: what I’ve experienced, and the strength that I received from everyone. I planned and constructed this show thinking that I’d like to share those things with everyone once again and want to connect them to my next steps.
(Can you say something) about your arrangement of the first 6-minute warmup?
To be honest, when I thought about the placement and the order of the performances, where to put what, to me there was the press conference, then I went back to the past a little bit, there was the Pyeongchang Olympics. After that, I thought once more about how my life has progressed until now, and with the exhibition at Beijing at the very end, I wanted to make that akin to reaching the present. I first skated SEIMEI, which is also a representative program of mine at the Pyeongchang Olympics. Having the 6-minute warmup and skating with all of the lights on, which is unthinkable for ice shows, are all my ideas. To be honest, I wondered what kind of reaction I would receive. Also, I couldn’t help being anxious, wondering how focused I could be doing the 6-minute warmup at a venue that’s not a competition. Actually, I haven’t heard everyone’s feedbacks yet. But my impression after finishing the first day of Prologue is that everyone was really satisfied, judging by their expressions and reactions, so in that sense, I think that might have succeeded.
Is “A Fleeting Dream” the program that you choreographed yourself?
Yes. It’s the program that I skated after “Romeo & Juliet”. It’s a bit hard to express (the concept) in a few words. What I wanted to put in it when I first choreographed it is that, when I just let the music play as I skated, the cool down movements that everyone likes just clicked into place. It fits this program, or should I say, this song. At that time, everyone did say that they would love to see the cool down routine. As there were fans who said that seeing the cool down alone would be enough for them to be satisfied, my first thought was “well then let’s put it into the program”. After that, I got deep into the song, including its title ‘A Fleeting Dream’… Also, I really really love Final Fantasy X (which was the source of this piece) and it was from my generation. I thought about various things while creating it, including my own dreams. My original ‘dream’ of becoming the 2-time Olympic champion. After that, I once again set my dream on the quad Axel and chased after it. In a sense, I couldn’t accomplish it as an amateur, competitive skater. In a sense, I wasn’t able to become the first person to ratify the quad Axel under the ISU system. In that sense, it might have been a dream that unfortunately ended, so it’s a fleeting dream (lit. a dream that would end some day). Somehow I couldn’t do it although everyone expected me to. I wish that I can, yet I’m so tired that I don’t want to do it anymore. Somehow, the more people cheered me on, the more I was neglecting my own feelings and breaking down. I didn’t want to hear it anymore, but I still want to live up to everyone’s expectations; I intended to express that dilemma I have in my heart (in this program).
I asked for MIKIKO*-sensei’s help with “A fleeting dream” and the last program “Haru yo, Koi”. It’s the first time that I included this much projection mapping into my performance, so I think everyone’s perspective of a figure skating program has also changed. Moreover, I actually think that the skate that you see if you are in the venue and really close to the rink, from a point of view similar to mine, versus if you look down from above or through the camera are totally different. Therefore, it’s a program that I hope everyone will definitely enjoy in those aspects as well.
*T/N: MIKIKO is a Japanese choreographer and director who has worked closely with J-pop groups such as Perfume and BABYMETAL. She helped create Japan’s hand-over segment at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Closing Ceremony.
Were your feelings during the performance different from when you’re at competitions?
For SEIMEI, I skate it while 100% recalling the Pyeongchang Olympics. About the (program) structure, it actually became approximately 4 minutes and 7 seconds. There were also slightly fewer jumps. Although it would have been dismissed if it were the original program, I purposely tried doing 3 triple Axels, since I can do it now as a professional. I was extremely nervous. How should I put it… In competitions, there would be the judges in front of me. But having a big audience right in front of my eyes, to be honest, feels like I’m being put to the test, and I skated feeling like I have to give it a try. It was good anxiety.
What kind of physical strengthening and preparation did you have heading to this event?
Firstly, physical strengthening was truly exhausting. I did the show from beginning to end over 5 times. After all, I normally put everything I have into a program, so it’s unthinkable to skate again afterwards. But I think I have been able to carry myself through till now somehow. Also, there’s a world that I want to express, my performances and the VTR in between them. I wanted to give those things a story line, to create something that can deliver my thoughts to everyone more easily, one that would properly convey my intention, so it was a lot of hard work editing and actually asking those who helped me create it while keeping that in mind. It was something that took until this morning to finish, so of course there are still things I want to do, and things I wish I did differently. I could not do everything by myself, and above all, I think that it’s not common for an artist to have their intention respected this much and to have such a big audience cheer for them as one like this, so I’m glad that I’ve done my best, with all my heart, on all those occasions during my so-called amateur skater era. I’ve felt that I want to continue doing my best with everyone going forward as well.
Hanyu-san, what do you think your future story will become?
To be honest, I might have said this in the press conference where I announced my turning pro, I don’t have anything specific as a goal just because I’ve turned pro. This is, in a sense, something happening for the first time in my life. Until now, I’ve always lived my life since I was 4 years old with the goal of winning the Olympic gold medal. That’s why I’m in a bit of a limbo right now. But firstly, I’m putting my efforts every single day so that Prologue can be a success, and I focus on each of my jumps and my performances as each day goes by. Such things will probably accumulate, and they’ll again lead to a new stage called Yuzuru Hanyu. And by amassing all these experiences, I think I’ll be able to build a new foundation for myself. So I’ll do my best at what I can do right now, and I want to overcome the limits of figure skating once again. I hope that’ll be my story from now on.
How did “A fleeting dream” express the worldview of Final Fantasy X?
It’s hard to express this to someone who doesn’t understand gaming at all. It’s kind of like dancing, singing and expressing emotions with spirits. Also, there’s a scene in the water in the fantasy landscape. I thought about the performance with MIKIKO-sensei based on that and used that place as a reference while creating this piece. In a sense, I myself also think that there are many people who truly support me with their souls. Back then (when I was performing) Notte Stellata, everyone’s thoughts were shining. I once said it was like a sky full of stars. In the program this time, the light of everyone’s support is blinding. I’m skating together with everyone’s thoughts, yet I don’t want to look at them anymore, but I want to skate with them again. At the end, everyone’s thoughts gather and I once again continue to skate; that’s what I intended to express.
On August 10th, Yuzuru Hanyu (27), who turned professional having won two Olympics back to back at Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018 for Men’s figure skating, and turned to pro held an open practice called “SharePractice” at Ice Rink Sendai in Sendai City.
However, there are people who want to watch my practices. In that situation, I thought it would be nice if I could create an opportunity for them to watch my athleticism, or should I say, my attitude of continuously pursuing things, which I fundamentally have in myself. That’s why I created this event of sharing my practice session.
Since it has been decided hastily, the programs that I can perform and the music that I can play were quite limited, I think. However, skating clean to SEIMEI with the same layout I did at the Olympics, I mean PyeongChang Olympics, was my goal this time.
And also I find myself having a strong resolution of wanting to prove that I am better than I was at that time. So today, I skated that program until the end.
Q: Why did you choose “SEIMEI” for this practice session?
Actually, people probably have a strong impression of the SEIMEI program that I skated at the PyeongChang Olympics. However, I could not skate it clean at that time, and although there were of course other parts that probably made up for it, I must admit that, given the conditions of my ankle and other things, I could hardly give a performance that I had wanted to do back then.
At that time, the probability of my being able to skate that program clean was not that high, so this time, what I wanted the most is to show that I have become better than myself at that time – that would be the strongest point.
Q: You continuously did (SEIMEI) 3 times, and that made us think it is very unique to Hanyu-san.
Well, actually in my usual practices, I could do it 3 times consecutively. Of course, for example, I would omit some more transitions in between, but I do practice it 3 times in a row, so it was a little closer to what you can see at my usual practice. Well, in fact, I can skate it clean 3 times (laugh). I think there was a part where I was spinning wheels since I was too excited.
Thank you. Well, frankly speaking, regarding the live streaming, I do not use my own music pieces, one thing is that it costs a lot. However, this time, I also wanted to allow everyone to watch for free, so I shared it for free.
In fact, when I think about applying (for the rights to use) the music pieces that I want to use and various other things as well, I think it might cost a much more huge amount of money, so I’ve been thinking a little about what I should do from now on, or how I can do the activities on my channel itself.
But I wanted people to know how Yuzuru Hanyu would basically practice, or, people might have a very brilliant image of figure skating. I want them to see that behind such an image, there is me who looks unrefined and is desperately struggling while practicing. I thought I’d like people who have no interest in figure skating to watch it even a little, and this is the reason I shared my practice session.
In fact, I’ve been steadily practicing combination jumps with the (quad) Loop, and when I think about whether they have high enough success rate to be put into actual performances, or if I need to do such difficult things in the activities that I’d like to do in future, (I think) I might not need to do them since they are not even beneficial in terms of scores, but I just wanted to show that I have a potential to this level.
What are your thoughts on your home rink in Sendai?
Well, actually, I used to practice quadruple toe loop (in this rink) right behind me, over there, and fell a lot of times. And I’m nostalgic remembering that I used to explain “it falls short of rotation since I do like this, then I fall this way.” In fact, being able to practice here is something special. Of course, I no longer have the chance to practice together with various skaters now. Yet, I still have a special feeling for the fact that I do not have to leave this town and I’m able to continuously brush up my skills by practicing at my home rink. While I want to keep growing here, I’d also like to contribute to this city, and work hard to do many things to support my beloved hometown, even if only a little.
Well…I just came to think that finally I’m standing at the starting line. Now, in front of everyone, for the first time as a professional (athlete), I’m able to show my skating. Then among other things, I think that there’s some meaning as well in the fact that I could skate SEIMEI clean at this very beginning. Of course, Sochi Olympics, PyeongChang Olympics, and Beijing Olympics, all of them are my irreplaceable memories, and have become my experiences as well. Exactly because they were there, now I’m finally at the starting line, and can think that “I’ll be able to become better and better from now on”. So please let me ask for your continuing support.
While some people might say you don’t need to continue challenging the 4A, but you dare to do it. Why?
Well, I usually practice at midnight. So my body did not move as I intended*, and that made me really regretful, but I will practice it more and more, and I absolutely want to show my landing of the 4A. I will continuously work hard for it, as if I bet my life on it. Please support me.
At this point, I think this place would be my primary training base. Nevertheless, if people would come here when I’m actually practicing, that might cause trouble for the facility staff, so I beg everyone for your understanding and cooperation especially on that matter. I want to continue practicing here from now on, and above all, if possible, I think I want to do ice shows in Sendai or in Miyagi prefecture.
Thank you very much for always supporting me. In addition, regarding the Beijing Olympics, actually I could not land the 4A and could not get a medal either, but yet I saw that everyone kept cheering for me, and while hearing everyone’s voice, honestly, I myself wanted to succeed more and more or wanted to get a result. From now on, I want to have an insatiable appetite for “results” again, including the 4A. I also want to create more opportunities to show my performance in front of everyone, so I’d appreciate it if you are looking forward to it. Thank you.
Why did you choose this rink which is familiar to you, and what are some memories from this rink?
OK. Well, this place is… I think probably a different company owned it, and before it was renewed, I started figure skating here. And still now, this is the base of my activities and I mostly practice here. With that in mind, I thought I want to show everyone my practice here. And above all, I love Sendai very much. Honestly, when I moved my practice base to Canada, I went there crying and feeling that I didn’t want to leave Sendai – I love Sendai to that level. So now that I can skate in Sendai, I’m happy. Additionally, I’m thinking of doing various things in Sendai, including my future activities. So I’d like to continue on, together with the people of Sendai.
Honestly, after all, in Sendai, there is only one rink available all through the year. For figure skating, ice hockey, speed skating as well as short track, the practice environment can be said to be severe. I believe you’ve been practicing under such hard conditions – I know well about it since I’ve been practicing here too – in such a harsh environment. Nevertheless, please keep your ambition of getting better and better. I’m also continuously becoming better and better here. You also are skating on the same rink (as me) so I’m sure you can be better. Please have hope, and work hard while envisioning the ideal image of yourselves. Thank you very much.
Have you decided your future plans? Are you going to show the 4A in a program?
OK, well, what was to say first? Yes, my future plans. Regarding my future plans, I have more concrete visions for the things that I plan to do within this year to some degree. Actually, there are a few things that I have decided to do, this or that, within this year. And I’m practicing for them now. However, I’m thinking of announcing it at a different time, so it’s still a secret. Hehehe. Yes. About the activities to do within this year, I have a feeling that they will soon be decided, and they have been put into motion after the press conference so honestly I’m very busy and find it hard to do. Well, as I’d like to work hard on various things even if I have to cut down on my sleep, please look forward to it.
And then about the 4A, I think it would be great if I’d have a chance to jump it in a program if possible. However, its success rate has not reached that level yet, and honestly speaking, I did it today but the level of the 4 and a half rotation now has reached only the same level as what I did at the Japanese National Championships [in 2021]. But considering my ankle condition, since it is a jump that would put a huge load on my left ankle, in that sense my left ankle has been in a better condition compared to the Japanese Nationals, and also my right ankle has recovered to some degree, so that I can challenge it like this. From now on, I will leverage my experiences from the (Beijing)* Olympics or the experiences as well as the knowledge that I had accumulated by then, so that I will be able to become much better. Thank you.
*T/N: Multiple outlets (Sports Hochi, Nikkan) have reported that Yuzuru says Pyeongchang here but based on the context of what he’s talking about (the 4A) and the fact he corrected himself on a similar mistake a few times in post-presscon media, we believe he meant to say Beijing.
Today, It is half a year after the free skate at the Beijing Olympics. Starting as a professional athlete, what is the difference you feel between them?
Well, after all, while I do the activities as a professional athlete, there are some points that I find different from the competitions. Let me see.. How can I put it…For example, it’s not just doing a 6 minute warmup and then doing one program and finishing up. It’s not only skating for the sake of getting scores, but of course, there is the need to put out a program that everyone would be willing to watch. For me, in addition to that, I think I have to give a performance like SEIMEI which I did today, namely the program that has the same quality, or even higher quality than the ones for the competitions, the performance where I step up a gear. Well, you might have thought while watching my today’s practices, it is much tougher. Hehehe. It is really hard, and, honestly speaking, when I’m trying to build up the structure of my new show* and practicing for it, I’m doing it while feeling that it’s truly tough. But even in such a situation, I want to carry it through until the end without dropping the level (of my performance). So I’d appreciate it if you could look forward to both the style of the coming show and expect an even higher level of explosive power from me.
*T/N: “New show” would mean the ice shows he is now working on, potentially the ones in Sendai or Miyagi that he referred to in Part 2 of this article series.
Oh, in fact I really want to quickly go back to my team I’ve trained and show my appreciation to them. However, as I said earlier, I’m now building up a lot of different plans, or I’ve been shooting and editing YouTube videos. They are really like beginner’s works, but I also think they feel like mine. In that sense, I’ve been kind of running around all over the place and can hardly have a chance to go and meet them, which makes me feel apologetic. Having said that, I received an email from Ghislain again this morning, and he was like “I’m watching you!”. Thinking of their attitudes of trying to watch me until the very end or really sending me various pieces of advice from afar, I really want to go to see them quickly to show my appreciation.
Ghislain, yes – Ghislain and Tracy and Brian.. I haven’t been able to see them for a very long time, so I really want to go and see my coaches and tell them, “Thank you very much” and “Please support me from now on”. In addition to them, here in Sendai, there is Nanami-sensei who uses this rink as her home base, also Soji-sensei. And I’m wondering if I can get a chance to meet and show my appreciation to Mami-sensei as well as Tsuzuki-sensei. I really want to do so. I wonder if they would watch this (live streaming) video, but in reality, it’s better if I am able to go to see them in person and convey my deep appreciation to them. Hehehe. Oh boy, I really want to see them.
Could you tell us a bit about your state of mind after the press conference and the thoughts behind your new jacket?
Firstly, about my jacket: it was a sudden decision to create a new jacket for my new start, and actually, I received it just this morning. So this is a tentative style. From here, I’m thinking of doing various things in future. As for the thoughts behind it, well, I put in the idea of using colors that are a little bit reminiscent of SEIMEI.
And the next question was.. oh yes, (my state of mind) after the press conference. Well, I’ll tell you that I’ve been spending my days being very nervous until today. Of course, while doing various activities, there are many things that I have to do by myself, I mean, do by myself as a professional athlete. I’ve also taken initiative in doing things that I used to let others do, as well as considering various things. There’re quite a lot of things like that. So it was very hard and I’ve been doing them while thinking that I had to cut down on my sleep a lot.
However, as for my feelings, I actually think that I even need to practice harder than when I was a competitive skater, and I’ve been actually doing it that way. So let’s say I used to work hard being chased by the things called competitions, but now I feel like I want to go beyond everyone’s expectation. Hehehe. I think that would probably be much harder. But in fact, I’ve actually been able to have fulfilling days in my life. But in such an environment, as a professional athlete… as I have experienced many injuries as a competitor, and after all I cannot be allowed to cancel the event when I become a professional athlete,* and also I don’t want to disappoint the expectations of everyone who is looking forward to watching me. So from now on, as a professional athlete, above all, I will try to avoid getting injured, and will work hard to let everyone watch me perform at a high level every time.
*T/N: It seems he thinks this way for himself. He is not referring to others.
Could you tell us about the reason you named it “SharePractice”, about the decision to take individual interviews (with the media) after the practice session, and also about Ohtani, who is your age and matched Babe Ruth’s great achievement*.
*T/N: the day before this, Shohei Ohtani became the first baseball player after Babe Ruth (1918) in major league history to have at least 10 home runs and 10 wins in the same season.
OK, so first of all, about Ohtani-san. I really appreciate that you gave a comment for me when you did an interview at the All-star Game. Once again, I think you have obtained an unattainably great achievement that seemed impossible in this era. Congratulations to you. I can hardly come close to you, and I’m really honored to be in this “Ohtani generation”*. I’d really like you to work hard as you have been doing, and as I have just stepped up onto the professional stage, I’ll do my best to be able to catch up with Ohtani san. Maybe I cannot, I guess…(laugh). It’d be my pleasure if we can meet again.
*T/N: As Shohei Ohtani and Yuzuru Hanyu were born in the same year (1994) and had remarkable achievements in their respective fields, the media came up with the terms “Hanyu generation” and “Ohtani generation” to show their significance compared to their peers. In interviews, Shohei and Yuzuru often exchanged compliments by acknowledging the other person as the representative of their generation, saying they are only a person living in the other person’s generation.
And then, what was next? Oh, yes, about the interviews, I remember! Regarding the interviews, honestly speaking, I could not receive them individually so often at open practices or during competitions. Well, I can only do the brief ones for each. But I thought I would definitely want to put individual interviews (into this practice session) however difficult it would be, so though originally I was thinking of doing all the interviews in the mixed zone, I insisted on it, saying “please let me do that”, and so I did. I’d be really happy if people from each media company would take their time to write (their own article) about this person called Yuzuru Hanyu.
Also about the title, “SharePractice”, I decided not to put a space in between (the two words) and made it SharePractice. I think of it as one word, or a newly coined phrase. At first, I thought of “Open Practice”, “Open Training”, and many other phrases. But when I thought about the things that I can own together with everyone and that we can go on fighting together in future, I thought “Share” would be the most suitable one for me. On the other hand, this is an event and at the same time, I want people to watch me fight it out until the end – which is the greatest purpose and theme of this event, so I decided myself to title it “SharePractice” without omitting the word “Practice”. That’s it. Thank you very much.
Note – you can find our translation and comment by going to this specific version of the video link here– our comment should appear as a ‘highlighted comment’ up the top. It would help us a lot if you could give the comment a ‘like’ on Youtube as it will improve visibility for other viewers!
Y: Well, there are too many things I’ve packed in it, and I can’t really say everything [I’m thinking], but truly, I’ve been able to skate precisely because everyone is watching like this. And I think some sort of meaning can be created because people watch my performance, so right now, I’d really like to thank everyone.
Q: How did you feel as you skated until the final moments of the Beijing Olympics?
Y: It made me think deeply about a lot of things. Until now, there have been many periods where I had put in all my effort but it was no use. The ‘Yuzuru Hanyu’ in everyone’s memories, like at the Sochi and the Pyeongchang Olympics, may be mostly one of someone successful. But having competed up to this point, I’ve seen myself hit rock bottom many, many times. So in that sense, this time again, having grown up…I think being rewarded isn’t everything in life. But, right now, in this unrewarded present, I’m happy.There are a lot of unreasonable things, but I’ll work hard to be able to face forward and to keep walking, even just a little.
Q: How do you feel now that you have finished your performance?
Y: Well, I gave it my all, I really did. I did my best for the free skate as well. Well, I think I gave it my all in both the short program and free skate, so I think I can say I’ve competed with all my might. When I say I gave it my all, I mean I gave it my all, including the 4A. Today is another day I was really nervous, but I put all my feelings, all my happiness into the performance. I think, somehow, I’ve been able to express various things of my skating life in this performance.
Q: Did you enjoy the practice sessions after the free skate?
Y: I had fun, and more than anything, I was happy to be seen by everyone.
Q: You said that the practice after the free skate was “fun”, was that “fun” something you hadn’t experienced recently?
Y: Ahhh. Actually, last season, until the free program “Ten to Chi to” was ready, as a form of physical training, I tried to skate cleanly all of the programs that I couldn’t do so before.
I skated “The Phantom of the Opera” on the second day of the practice, “Notre Dame de Paris” near the end of the practice session, and the “Ballade No.1” layout in which the 4T was in the second half and 3A was the first jump. There were such a variety of programs, and somehow, in a way, I had digested them all. I was thinking that I could take back what I had left behind and move on. But… I wondered if that was just a form of self-complacency.
I thought that if there would be people watching me skate, then at that rink, I wanted to properly show them the good parts of those programs that I had wanted to show. That’s why I was happy. I realised that I really like having others watch me while I skate. It’s my origin, but I went back to it and thought about it again.
Q: I guess the World Championships will depend on your ankle ?
Y: Now, yes, what can I say? Well for the practices until yesterday, I’ve been taking, let’s see, about four painkillers where I normally take one.
So, well, I was skating on the edge of my limit, thinking that if I didn’t do jumps that use my right foot such as the loop, flip or lutz (*), well, then,.. I could survive the landing! The rest, I managed with fun and adrenaline.
Today, we had a practice for the opening, or finale, well, the finale. So, when I practised my parts , I only took one painkiller today. I wondered how far I can bear with just one dose, so I tried it, and well, it hurt like hell. Hehehe. I could only jump Axels. I tried loops and flips, and then I thought, “Oh, this is no good,” so I could only do Axel,
I’ve taken about six painkillers today, So I think I’ll give my ankle a proper rest… I don’t know, normally it might be just a problem with my ankle, but since I’ve been enjoying myself so much, I’m sure I’ve been making a lot of moves to protect my ankle (**), and my body has lost its balance, and I’m sure it’s probably hurting in various places.I’m sure it hurts in many parts of my body by just attempting jumps. So, I’m going to give myself a proper rest, although I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to recover from that.
For me, I still haven’t made up my mind clearly about anything, including my future.I’ll think about a lot of things and make an overall decision before deciding on the World Championships.
(*) T/N: we think this might have been a typo or Yuzuru misspoke here. The original text would mean “If I didn’t do jumps that don’t use my right foot such as the loop, flip, or lutz”. We’ve edited the translation so that it fits the logic of what he’s saying more. He also didn’t attempt the loop, flip and lutz that much at post-competition practice sessions.
(**) T/N: “protect” here means he was unconsciously trying to cover the movement originally using his right ankle, with other parts of his body.
Q: About skating competitively. By “I want to carry Yuzuru Hanyu’s skating to the end” (in an earlier interview), do you mean you will continue to do so next season as a competitive skater, or is it something different?
Y: Well, I don’t think I mind the field. Yes, with so much fame, so much demand… well it’s a little weird for me to say demand…but… the skating of ‘Yuzuru Hanyu’ that many people are looking at like this, I want to turn it into something much, much more convincing. After all, because I want to deliver performances that will make even more people want to watch, and ones that they will want to watch more of… I still don’t really know whether that would be at ice shows or in competitions, whether that would be rewarded or unrewarded. So after thinking a lot about it… well, wherever it would be, I want to continue delivering performances that can make everyone think “I like Yuzuru Hanyu’s skating after all” after watching me.
――（外国メディアが）英語で質問していいか？ Q: (From foreign media) Can we ask you something in English?
Y: OK. Sure
――ネーサン・チェンについて Q: (What do you think) about Nathan Chen?
Y: (After saying he would answer in detail in Japanese) Uhm, I think that he possesses everything that is asked for in today’s figure skating. It’s amazing that he has been landing so many quads in such a precise way. I can’t keep landing quads with a precision as high as his, so I think he’s amazing indeed. I can say this because I’ve won 2 Olympic golds: to figure skaters, the Olympic gold medal is more important than anything. I want to praise him more than anyone for finally being able to get that medal. I want to congratulate him more than anyone. He truly is a brilliant skater, it’s really hard to put it into words, but from the bottom of my heart, I really think that he has everything that (is asked for) in today’s figure skating, in current competitive figure skating. Thank you.
Y: Um, well, I think of course the [quad] Axel this time was the closest I’ve gotten, up until now. I feel that maybe this is the utmost of what I can do for now, the best of Yuzuru Hanyu’s Axel so to speak. And also, of course, the fall on the [quad] Salchow was a big [loss], but, I skated while kind of thinking of it as being incorporated in what made this story of “Ten to Chi to” possible.
Q: In your finishing pose, you lifted your arms for six seconds. What were you thinking during that time?
Y: Yes, that’s right, that pose signifies the “heaven” of “Ten to Chi to [Heaven and Earth and]”, and, well, in a way, in my mind I envision it as if I am sending my spirit to the heavens. It’s the same pose that I had in the program “From Russia, With Love,” which I skated when I was nine years old. So, it’s kind of like projecting my current self on my past self, and it’s hard to explain succinctly, but there are a lot of emotions swirling around. Well, in a way… hmm how should I put it, it’s difficult. I think that the story of my program continues up to that point, until I’ve finished that pose, until I’ve sheathed the [metaphorical] sword, until I’ve exited the rink.
Q: You put some ice on your face when you exited the rink…
I was thinking that I was truly thankful. To be honest, uhm. Such a thing happened in the short program. Well, of course I was frustrated, somehow… yes, in my opinion, I’ve accumulated a lot of things and also put out the right efforts until now, and I think I’ve done everything that I could think of. I’ve done all of it till this day thinking “Ah, (those efforts) are not rewarded”. However, truly, in the end, I felt thankful thinking “thank you for letting me jump to this level until now”.
Q: Were you able to enjoy the Olympics this time?
Y: No, it wasn’t enjoyable at all. No, [because] there was so much going on.
Haha, I can’t express it in one word, after all. The Sochi Olympics were its own event, and I won feeling a lot of regret. In a sense, that might have been the occasion where I was able to improve myself. I think Pyeongchang was where I put out all the improvements that I’ve made. This time, how to say it. It might become clearer after some time has passed, but I think it’s been an Olympics where I fought my best with all of my pride.
Y: Um, to be honest, I’m really conflicted on how in-depth I should talk about it. Well, I’ve been thinking that I could probably talk about it if I won. Frankly speaking, I don’t know how I should put it, but probably, uhm, I received a lot of treatment. I feel like that’s solely why I could somehow keep standing.
Q: What was your strongest emotion heading to the rink in that state?
Y: The response was good. Well, amazingly, (I thought that) this is the rotating speed of a quad Axel. Landing after such rotations might be a bit dangerous, it might be impossible for a human to do it. But in a sense, I think that I’ve been able to do the best quad Axel that I can deliver.
Q: What were you feeling while in the air [while doing the quad axel]?
Y: Hehe, what should I say? I think it’s probably something nobody other than me has felt.
Q: Will you still continue your challenge for the 4A?
Y: Please give me some time. I’d like to think about it a bit. The amount [of effort] I put in this time was really everything I could.
Q: [from Chinese media] You can also do it at the exhibition…
Y: Am I included in the exhibition?
Q: [from Chinese media] If you do have a chance [to perform in the exhibition], what kind of feelings would you like to express [to your fans/audience]?
Y: Um, I really truly want to express my gratitude to everyone. I don’t know if my performances this time lived up to everyone’s expectations, and I don’t know if I was able to connect all of the support I received from everyone to it. Honestly, I also really feel sorry. That’s why, I hope my feelings of gratitude will be able to reach everyone through my performances, even if just a little bit. Thank you very much. I ask for your support once more.
Y: Rather than get stuck… it’s more like… um, when I say I got stuck, I mean that I got stuck in a hole that I traced before, which is what happened in 2019 in a short program. The mistake in that Short Program in 2019 was probably because um, during the 6 minute warm-up, I was fixed on my jumping position down to the millimeter, and I ended up jumping in the same spot later [in the actual competition]. This time, I was already aware of that past mistake, and I had that experience in my mind. So, during the 6 minute warm-up this time, I adjusted my position a little bit. And so, during the actual program, I went in with the perfect form and the perfect timing for the jump, and the moment I tried to take off, there was a hole there. It was a hole from a toe jump. So there’s nothing I could do about it.
Q: You skated in the main rink for the first time this morning. Looking back on your preparation method, what are your thoughts?
Y: Well, it was pretty good, if anything. The 6-minute warm-up was also really good. I also felt really good about my physical condition. Well, of course, facing the Free Skate, I’d like to stay in this good condition. Today’s mistake was something that I couldn’t have prevented, no matter what I did. Well, looking ahead towards the Free Skate, I want to properly put everything I have into it.
Q: How did you feel when skating after the [quad] Salchow?
Y: Well… kind of like, “well, that happened”. In any case, to my senses, that kind of thing wasn’t a mistake to me. So, I think that’s why I was able to continue on with the program without it affecting my mind at all.
Q: Were you able to refocus your feelings [after the mistake] today?
Y: Rather than refocus my feelings [after the mistake], how do I put it… it’s like when you see something, and with just one small piece coming out of place, I wasn’t quite able to bring it all together. It is what it is, yes.
Y: Well, I’m really thankful to be even getting 95 points with [that kind of error]. I think that’s because I was able to complete the other elements with high quality and I’d like to commend myself for that. How to put it. Well… truthfully speaking, I wondered if I had done something bad. Hahaha. Like somehow…was it because I had done something bad that it turned out this way? It was the sort of mistake where I could only think about that kind of thing, yes.
Q: Did you have any strong sense of this being ‘the Olympics’?
Y: Of course I had. Well, the atmosphere was different from usual [competitions]. Um. But I was really in a super concentrated state, in a condition where there was nothing out of place, so if I try to search for the cause of the mistake, I won’t be able to sort them out. I don’t think there were any mistakes with the skating element. It’s like… I wonder if I did something to be hated (laughs), like I skated while thinking I must be really hated by the ice.
Q: What was the reason behind you arriving 2 days before [the SP]?
Y: Um… for me personally, since I became a Senior skater, I’ve felt that the longer I stay [at a competition], the more I become listless, and my condition gradually worsens. Things like the World Championships are also long [events] but if I do things for too long, then I get into the competitive mindset too much, and tire out. When the Team Event members were announced, that was when I decided I would cut it close [in arriving].
Q: You’ll be heading into the Free Skate not as the leader of the Short Program for the first time (at the Olympics)
Y: Well, hopefully one in which I don’t get caught in the ice [laughs]. Rather than the saying “one good deed a day”*, I’m wondering if I now have to do like ten good deeds a day [to avoid this happening again] (laughs). But, I think I’ve done enough practice to justify that much. I think I’ve come here with a lot of confidence in my performances. As for the rest, well, maybe only God knows. In any case, there’s still time. Also, by making good use of the time after the short program [until the free], and really taking in everyone’s feelings, I want to turn my performance into something complete. Thank you for having me. Thank you, I’ll do my best [in the free program].
*T/N: Referring to a Japanese proverb, 「一日一善 」 “[doing] one good deed a day”
A: Thank you for your hard work! U~m, I was really able to concentrate, I think. Of course, I was more nervous at the start, eh… but I was kind of trying to adjust to the feel of the ice. I think I was able to internally adjust, little by little, and ultimately was able to focus while practising. I think it was a good feeling.
Y: Well, of course… um, I think my condition changes every day, and also, this is the first practice after arriving so I feel like I’m not doing it with all my strength yet. But little by little, I hope I’ll make some improvements even here (at the Olympics)..
Q: What have you been putting your efforts into since the Japanese National Championships?
Y: Well, indeed, I’ve been practising the 4A. Well, I practised it while thinking that it’s really hard. However, it is, after all, the goal I want to achieve no matter what. Well, for me personally, I think it’s absolutely necessary for me to rise to the top at this Olympics. I’ll do my best.
Q: This being your third Olympics, what’s different from the past ones?
Y: Well. In all the previous Olympics, I went in thinking something like if I just put out what I had been practising and doing up until then, I’d be able to win. But this time, I’m in a position where I still have to up my level. In a sense, it’s similar to [what I said] at Japanese Nationals but, I think the tension of a stage such as the Olympics is indeed something unique.
Y: Hm~ I haven’t yet. Anyway, um, since I’ve come here I’ve been feeling pretty good, and today I was able to practice while feeling that my rotations were coming pretty easily. First and foremost, I want to rotate [the jump] fully.
Q: What was motivating about the team competition?
Y: Ah, um, well rather than encouraging, I felt relieved thinking that the rink seemed to be in good shape.
Y: The Short Program? Hehehe. The Short…well. Of course, I’m thinking rationally about it, and I end up thinking a lot about the 4A. But the Short Program is the Short Program. I’d like to really pour a lot of love into the Short… um…yes, one by one, I’d like to accumulate everything I can, heading into the Short Program
*T/N: The original article said 4A4A but we think it was a typo
Yuzuru Hanyu has his hand on the door of history’s first quadruple Axel. He challenged it for the first time in competition at the Japanese National Championships 2021. Though [the 4A] was judged to be of insufficient rotation, he showed that he was closing in on the ‘truth of rotations’. And then there is one other person, a human who has taken on this world of ‘4.5’. The person who is the leading expert on ‘twisting’, who has landed a 4.5 twist in practice, Kenzo Shirai. Shirai spoke about the 4A from the viewpoint of achieving such ‘rotations’. revolutions.
I’m watching Hanyu-senshu’s 4A challenge with bated breath. What both gymnastics and figure skating have in common is the question of how you create the twist (horizontal rotation) and how you control it, so I’m thinking about various things from the perspective of a gymnast while watching.
During your competitive days, you had 6 eponymous ‘Shirai’ skills. There was the 3.5 twist, the quad twist, which were all high speed rotation skills that overturned the common understanding at the time. In the world of gymnastics, horizontal rotation is known as ‘twisting’ but does it have points in common with figure skating’s quadruple jumps?
In the case of gymnastics, we use both vertical rotation and twisting (horizontal rotation) but we have a leg and arm that establishes the axis and allows us to control rotations which is the same [as figure skating]. In addition, as the number of revolutions increases, I think the thinking around ‘how do we create more rotations’ is similar. I twist to the right (clockwise direction) so my right arm is my ‘axis’ arm. Hanyu-senshu’s jump just happens to go in the opposite direction. I think the theory behind rotation is something gymnastics and figure skating have in common.
The air position and positioning of the arm varies depending on the athlete. Some athletes don’t cross their legs. There are athletes who bring in their elbows in order to narrow their axis and athletes who stretch their elbows out to help regain balance. The air position and positioning of the hands and face in figure skating is also different depending on the athlete. Hanyu-senshu jumps with his elbows spread outwards so he might be the type who does so to balance his rotational axis. If he draws in his arms, the rotational axis becomes narrower but the axis is more prone to instability. The balance between the speed of rotation and the axis differs between athletes.
I have this impression that, before the Axel, Hanyu-senshu keeps his head still and then jumps. In gymnastics also, when you’re connecting skills, if your head moves, you may not be able to enter the rotations in an ideal way, so the positioning of the head is important. Maintaining the position of my head from the start to the end of the skill was my forte as well. Having said that, even though ‘you must not move your head’ is the theory up until doing quad (twists), when it comes to challenging the 4.5 twist, you are to move your head.
Up to doing the quad twists, I tried not to move my head and the right shoulder that I was using to lead into the movement since I was focusing on the axis. I’ve learned since childhood to do it that way since the rotational axis is important for being able to land. But when it was time for the 4.5 twist, I didn’t have time to focus on my axis. When I put 4.5 revolutions in the air and then thought about how densely the movement was packed, there was not enough time no matter what I did. Up until the quad twist, first I’d establish an axis after jumping up and then have time to start twisting, but for the 4.5 twist, I couldn’t make it unless I condensed the time I took to establish the axis. And if I were to describe how I did it, it was that from the moment I jumped, I’d start twisting both my leading right shoulder and my head in the direction of rotation.
To change the method of training that you were taught since childhood requires a change in thinking and courage doesn’t it?
Of course. When I was taking on the 4.5 twist, I tried various things that failed. At first, I was trying the method of ‘rotating a quad and then adding a half rotation after’ but even when I established a good axis and tried rotating 4.5 times, I couldn’t complete the rotation in time no matter what I did and fell sideways on the landing. It was the equivalent of a step out in figure skating. It was when I changed the approach to start rotating the same moment I took off that I landed it for the first time. Based on what I’ve deeply felt in my experiences until now, the more you feel like you have a really good swing (on takeoff) or establish a good axis, the less you can achieve the new skill. You only succeed at it when the internal feeling is closer to an ‘oh shit’ level of strangeness.
On top of that, I was still a high school student when I succeeded at the 4.5 twist so I didn’t have any muscles yet and had not increased the height of my somersault. Therefore, it wasn’t increasing the height or air time but thinking about how much I could compress the movements into my rotations that allowed me to succeed. Of course, I think you can’t succeed if you don’t get sufficient height, but I think there’s a way to succeed at “4.5” without having the height and airtime.
I’d like to ask you about whether there’s a possibility the 4.5 twist and the 4A are connected. Firstly, in the case of Hanyu-senshu’s 4A, he’s rotating in the opposite direction so he needs to open his left shoulder, doesn’t he?
The foundations of gymnastics and figure skating are different so this is talk from an amateur’s point of view, but for Hanyu-senshu, my impression is that he opens his left shoulder and leads the rotation with his right arm. For the triple axel, at the moment of takeoff, he doesn’t open his left shoulder and jumps towards his right arm, which he raises forward. The moment he raises his right leg, he keeps the rotational axis around his right side while trying not to open his left shoulder. With this method, he’s only creating the rotation using his right arm. However, if he opens his left shoulder and starts the rotation from there, he might be able to get more rotational power.
If you start rotation from the left shoulder, there’s this feeling you won’t be able to shift to the right rotational axis – what do you think about that?
I think it’s fine if you only use the left shoulder at the start. Open it up at the start and create power for the rotation from there, try to shorten the time between takeoff and opening the shoulder and then catch up to your left shoulder with your right shoulder soon after. The method is that you’re not starting by creating an axis with your right side, but instead, you start rotating first with your left shoulder and add in the rotational axis with your right shoulder.
I can picture how you can generate strong rotational strength. It does indeed change the method of how to create the axis.
In my case, when doing the “4.5”, my way of thinking was not ‘create an axis first’ but rather ‘fix the axis I created at the time at the point of landing’. After I’m in the air, I’ve already let it go. If, while in the air, I got the sense of ‘this is where my axis is’, then I was able to decide how to position my feet when I landed. If I created the axis in the air or tried to fix it, I couldn’t ensure I completed all 4.5 revolutions.
You land on both feet in gymnastics but because you land on one foot in skating, fixing (the axis) on landing is difficult.
In Hanyu-senshu’s case, he’s very good at using his hip joint. In the Free Skate at the Pyeongchang Olympics, in the final 3Lz, he was able to land with one foot when his head was low. Being able to react like that in that instant is something other athletes can’t do and is Hanyu-senshu’s strength. Therefore, if Hanyu-senshu himself can understand this idea that ‘I can respond by landing in this wide variety of ways at the moment of touchdown’, I think he may be able to lighten the degree of focus on the axis. If you think only that you must establish the axis, you may be late to enter the rotation, or you can’t put enough power in the takeoff and there are various kinds of effects from that. If you think about just taking off and rotating as you imagine and then think about how you can recover the axis on landing, you may be able to find a different kind of balance. If it’s Hanyu, he definitely has the ability to respond that way.
I feel that it’s possible theoretically but it’s so different from the theory for jumping the Axel that it’s a shocking idea.
In the same way as you’re taught to not open your left shoulder going into the Axel, we’re also taught from childhood in gymnastics too that you should not open your shoulder when you do the twists. [Opening the shoulder] isn’t something you do normally, but what you’re attempting isn’t ordinary. I think if you don’t also do something out of the ordinary with your technique, you probably can’t achieve the 4A. Because there is a textbook way to jump, everyone can do the 3A. But for the 4A, Hanyu-senshu has to write a new textbook. I think he can do it.
A technique that is out of the ordinary. I think Hanyu-senshu has the power to overturn this concept of “the usual”.
It’s a skill no one has done before, so any method is the correct answer. Therefore it’s an even more simple principle. For techniques everyone can already do, judges/referees also understand it so, in a sense, they have a ‘preferred’ method of execution. But for new skills, the correct way is how the person who completes it does it. Therefore, the way Hanyu-senshu executes it would become the ‘correct’ way to do the 4A. He’s challenging a world no one has reached yet. I will cheer for him!
Yuzuru: I think I decided that I would aim for a third Olympic win when the team selection ended, after I was selected as a representative [for Team Japan] and I received this jersey*, around when I was about to attend the press conference. When I put my arm through this jersey, it was like “Ah, this is the Olympics.” But, since I already have attained two consecutive wins, the thought of losing that is certainly scary. As it is right now, I think the chances of me losing are, without a doubt, higher than they were at Pyeongchang . But when I put on this uniform, it made me think “I’m going for the win, I have to win.”
*T/N: Referring to Team Japan Olympic team jacket
Q: Have you been following Shohei Ohtani’s activities?
Shohei Ohtani, baseball player; often referred to as Yuzu’s contemporary due to their age (both are born in 1994) and similar athletic excellence
Y: To be honest, it’s kind of thought that in figure skating, a skater’s prime is around age 23 or 24. But if you look at something like baseball, you may hear that an athlete really gets into their peak around their 30s, early 30s. So I wonder if it is ok to really say we are of the same generation, but, seeing an athlete my age doing all of that, maintaining what is perhaps his best shape ever, and also having to go through difficulties related to surgery, and then breaking new, unprecedented territories [in his sport], that really encouraged me. Challenging the quad Axel is perhaps also still in a world of the unknown to me, but in a sense, [watching Ohtani] really gives me a lot of courage.
Q: What is your envisioned schedule to succeed at the 4A?
Y: To be honest, after Pyeongchang [Olympics], I thought I’d be able to land it in the following season. Hahaha. That’s how much confidence I had in my Axel jumps, and also the lack of awareness I had about how truly difficult the quad Axel is. However, ultimately, various things happened, like injuries and whatnot, so there were times I couldn’t really focus on the quad Axel. The more I tried to focus on the quad Axel, the more injuries would follow. And the more I focused on it, the more keenly I’ve realized how hard it is to rotate more than a quad. I think that’s what these four years have taught me. In fact, I’m going for a quad and half turn now, but it’s only recently that I’ve been able to get my axis [right] like this, so it’s been really tough.
Q: How many quad Axels do you allow yourself to do per day?
Y: Ah, well, it’s not like I decide on a specific number to do. However, it depends on my physical condition at that time, so of course, there are some days that I decide it’s ok to not do any quad Axels. Still, [on those days] I’d think about how I should practice the triple Axel for the sake of the quad Axel. Then I’d think about how many triple Axels I should jump that day, or if there’s something that can give me the same feeling with a quad jump, even if it’s not the quad Axel, then I’d think about how many quad jumps I should put in after the triple Axel.
――羽生選手が思う言葉の力は Q: What do you think about the power of words?
Y: Uhm, I’ve been competing for a long time until now, and I’ve always wanted to accomplish what I say. Therefore, in a sense, I use my words as chains and pressure. Because of them, I always think that I definitely want to accomplish [what I said]. I think it’s probably thanks to such words that I can accomplish so much without giving up.
Q: Does saying things out loud also give you encouragement?
Y: In my case, rather than giving me encouragement, it’s more accurate to say that it allows me to organize my feelings and the plans I have in mind. Also, things like how I feel when doing the jumps; because I say these things out loud, it often allows me to arrange [my thoughts] and results in good things.
Q: Why did you change [your goal] to a three-peat [at the Olympics] after wearing the [Team Japan] jersey?
Y: Yes…well, as I’ve said in yesterday’s conference – it was an [on-the-spot] interview in a box though – I’m frustrated. I spoke about it being close to ‘q’ or around the point where it could be called ‘q’ but I couldn’t jump [a jump that was close to q]. I guess there was the fear of somehow letting it end there. I also felt like I’m somehow betraying those who said that I could jump it. I don’t know if they were saying that I must be the one to do it but since there are people who are saying that I can do it, I feel like I’d be betraying them somehow if I gave up and didn’t try it. So in coming to the Japanese National Championships, I feel that I must not give up on it here, I suppose. I feel that I must commit to trying it until the Beijing Olympics. The other thing is that the Olympics are not a place where you try things out, it is after all a place where you must win. To me, that is. I also achieved two consecutive victories so I absolutely do not want to let that go. Precisely because of that, I’ve realized that I absolutely want to win, with renewed determination.
Q: You said that you can’t win as you are now, so how will you be able to win?
Y: Well, to put it simply, I want a competitive layout where I’ll be able to properly get +GOE on the 4A. Honestly speaking, I think a layout incorporating the 4A and the 4Lz or 4Lo is unrealistic. Furthermore, in the month or so that I have left, I think what I can do is probably just the Axel. I want to properly train on the [quad] Axel. Also, in regards to the Short Program, there are many places that still aren’t perfect. [I want them to be as perfect as] the Salchow was, to the point where I can think ‘that was good’. So apart from [the Salchow] – though I don’t know whether I’ll be able to earn more points – I want to train nonstop.
Q: You’ve spoken about your body deteriorating [with age] but it looks as though it’s getting better and better.
Y: Um, well, yes, when I was about 24-25 years old, there was a period where I really felt like my growth had stopped, indeed, where I felt like I had lost the ability to complete a Free Skate. But as I said, I’m probably at my best now. Without doubt. It’s likely because I was able to establish my own training method. I was able to plan it myself. Being able to establish and implement a figure skating training regime tailored to myself was possibly the most significant thing, I think.
Q: You said at the GPF two years ago that your ideal ‘Yuzuru Hanyu’ was when you were nine years old. Is that still the case today? Without that kind of innocent confidence, would you be able to face the quad Axel?
Y: My strong point at that time was that I could win. So, yes, if you were to ask me if my emotional approach back then would work against the 4A, I’d say not really. The confidence that I had back then, like I could win no matter what, I don’t know how to put it… When it comes to winning, I think [that confidence] is what you need the most. But the reason why I could have such confidence was because I was practicing the best I could back then. I thought I was practicing more than anyone else. I was able to practice while thinking that I was better than anybody. The Olympics is where that kind of thing is even more necessary. So of course, I want to practice hard on everything, including the (quad) Axel. And I think I was the strongest when I was 9. Well, the word “strongest” is a bit mixed up with what I said earlier. I am definitely the strongest now in terms of technical ability. But mentally, I feel that I was the strongest and brightest back then. Therefore, I want to cherish the person I was back then.
Q: What do you mean by saying the approach to the 4A is a little different?
Y: It’s not a jump that you can do based on mere confidence. Hehehe. The fact it’s not a jump that you can just naively and recklessly force yourself into jumping is something that I’ve come to believe after these four years of throwing myself at it. Therefore, the ability to strategize and calculate the finest of details is important to succeed at the 4A. In regards to that, my present self is better without doubt [than before/his approach when he was 9yrs old].
Q: Last year, you were gaining weight [on purpose]. Have you slimmed down this year? What’s your approach to your physical condition?
No, I didn’t intend to slim down but I also didn’t plan to put on weight. You could say I’m kind of in the middle of it. Um, to be honest, I wanted to be a little slimmer going into the Japanese Nationals. Like maybe it would be good to be a little lighter. However, if I compare it to last year’s weight, yes, if we talk about [the time of] Japanese Nationals, it’s about 2kg. Ah, maybe not 2kg, maybe 1kg lighter. I’m about 3kg lighter than I was at the World Championships  and World Team Trophy. I’m not sure which one is better. It’s just that I haven’t figured out which is best.
Q: You have been training in Sendai for a long time now. How do you feel about spending time in your hometown? What gave you emotional support when you were injured?
Y: Well, I’ve been in Saitama and I have also gone to many places for competitions, but in the end, Sendai’s landscape is the one that remains in my heart. Of course, there are things like urban development and places that are changing quickly, but even if the only thing there is nostalgia, you could say it makes me feel relieved. I’ve gotten used to a really warm feeling. Um. Well, of course there were tough periods when I was injured and a large part of my life has consisted of things like hurting due to injuries, not having a rink and being unable to train. I’ve truly been through that kind of pain multiple times. But…hm. Somehow, to live this way now, to talk in front of everyone, to perform for someone somewhere to watch and feel some sort of emotions from it, I think those moments are truly wonderful. Right now, I’d like to always feel the happiness that stems from those things.
Q: Do you plan to continue training in Sendai after this?
Yes, I will work hard in Sendai. Maybe. Maybe? (laughs)
(End of the interview)
Thank you very much. I ask for your support again, everyone!
Yuzuru: I was tired. Um, with the 4A included, my run-through, well, even though it wasn’t a complete run-through, I was able to practice to the same extent as last year, I think personally I’ve completed about 60% of the training, so I feel like it wasn’t up to par. But as expected, [the 4A] puts a burden on the body to the point where you can’t really compare it to the 4Lo.
Y: Well, in the morning practice, I wasn’t really expecting that I could rotate it. In any case, the actual competition was most important. I practised with the intent to rotate it properly there. However, I was really unable to jump it, so I was somewhat despairing. Um, up until the actual competition, I was really frazzled. Well, with all those things in mind, I felt once again that it’s really difficult to be trying a jump in competition that I hadn’t landed decisively yet.
Y: Well, I think I did what I could. On the first day, when everyone saw that Axel, they were probably thinking ‘Ah, Hanyu’s Axel has really improved’. Actually, it was only able to improve to that extent in the last two weeks. Until that point, I was just constantly throwing myself into it, couldn’t create my axis and the rotations were also getting more and more insufficient. I was slamming my body against the ice over and over again, and doing jumps that seemed like they were going to kill me. Somehow, the jump eventually came to take shape. But it’s not something I can do every day. Therefore, while I think everyone might be feeling something like ‘oh, he’s almost landing it, isn’t he?’, the truth is that there’s still a lot to do, even to get there. How tough it is to create the axis, to have the confidence to create the proper axis, then you know it’s impossible unless you rotate the thing 100%. Well, if I were to be able to do that in competition, right now, I think there are places I can compromise on [for those considerations]. Even though I’m frustrated/kuyashii about it.
Q: Will you continue to work on it for the Olympics?
Y: To tell you the truth, the output was worse before the NHK Trophy, but I was finally able to land the jump without falling before the NHK Trophy. And then, just as I thought ‘oh, I can stand on it’, I sprained my ankle the next day. With the sprain, various kinds of stress piled up and then I developed esophagitis, a fever and various other things. I was truly unable to do anything at all for a whole month. During that time, I thought maybe I should give up. I’d gotten this far. It had taken form. I wasn’t falling on it anymore. Therefore, even before arriving at these Japanese Nationals, although [the jump] got better than [before] the NHK Trophy,… how to best put it. Honestly, I thought this should probably be okay, that maybe it would be okay even if I gave up at this point.
Y: Um, I was really happy to receive so many comments from everyone like ‘this is something only Hanyu can do’ and ‘if it’s Hanyu, he can do it’, but I really felt inside that I was at my limit. So I was feeling like well, this is fine as it is. I worried and agonised about it a lot. There’s a part of me that says “Just a little more… since I’ve come this far, I do want to land it!’. So, well, I may cause a great deal of worry or bother for everyone, but I will push myself just a little bit more.
Q: You were throwing yourself at the jump until about 2 weeks ago, did getting to this point serve as a catalyst in any way?
Y: I’ve been establishing a training method little by little. I was able to do various things, for example: realizing I need to train a certain way for this particular purpose, and another way for a different purpose. I feel like finally, these little ones* are solidifying little by little. After all, even if you understand something, it’s not something you can do immediately, just like that. As I thought, it’s completely different from the 3A. I think I have to keep gathering more and more information, even from here on out.
*T/N: Affectionate way he refers to his jumps as his “children” or “little ones”
Q: What was the thing that made you return from thoughts of quitting?
Y: This will be a long answer, is that okay? Shall I shorten it? Well, to be honest, I am indeed a little frantic. I know there’s the fact that if I don’t jump it soon, my body is going to decline gradually. But there’s no doubt I’m behind the time limit that I set for myself, so there’s also the pain of wondering why I’m this far from jumping it. And along with that kind of pain is the question of ‘well, if I’ve done this much and still can’t do it, is there the need to do it?’, that kind of thing. There were definitely things that tempted me to give up. But ultimately, on the last day of training before coming to the Japanese Nationals, I jumped and fell on about 4 attempts that would be judged as ‘q’. At the time, after giving much consideration, I realized that I didn’t want to give up on it at Nationals. Since I’ve come this far, since it’s everyone’s dream, the dream that everyone is betting on me for, I thought I want to fulfil it for everyone — well of course for myself, but also for everyone.
Q: When you speak of practice that feels like it’s going to kill you, how many jumps do you think you’ve attempted now?
Y: I wonder how many. I haven’t thought about it myself. But I do currently limit my attempts per day. However, even though I limit the number of times I try the 4A, I jump the triple Axel and single Axel as practice for the quad Axel…well, I jumped them many times in the public practice this time. I’ve done those kinds of practices single-mindedly dozens of times. And then… the mental aspect plays a huge part in this but no one has jumped this jump before, and you could also say it feels like no one is even capable of doing it. So in order to find the process to be able to accomplish it, it truly is like you’re walking intently alone in the dark. Therefore, each time, I’m practicing [so intensely] while thinking I might hit my head, fall over, and die from a concussion or something*, yes.
[To Shoma Uno who was waiting for his turn to be interviewed] — Shoma, sorry!
*T/N: Our interpretation is that this is Yuzu expanding on his answer in Part 1 where he was talking about the toll it took on him to be falling on the jump over and over again; it’s his way of describing the difficulty of training the 4A and a fear he had, rather than a real incident.