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.
Y: Ah well, there was one big jump (4T-3T) that I managed to eke out. But as I’ve been practising the 4A, and also the other jumps… um, the World Championships last year – last year? Last season?? In contrast to last season’s World Championships, I was able to properly practise all my other jumps so I think that’s probably what allowed me to pull off [the combo] last minute. However, uhm, regarding the Salchow and Axel, I think they were very well controlled jumps.
Q: This was the first competition and first performance of your Short Program this season, what were your feelings prior to it?
Y: To be honest, in the official practice, there were various things that happened like my edge getting stuck and me popping my jumps, so I was a little worried. I also had memories of failing the first Salchow jump at this venue, so I was nervous because I was in the exact same position. However, the moment I landed the first quadruple Salchow, I think I was perhaps able to calm down a little and complete my performance.
Q: (What are your thoughts) heading into the free skate?
Y: Of course, I intend to challenge the quad Axel, so firstly, um, for the official practice, I want to take care until the very end to avoid injuries, recover my body, keep up my concentration and do my best heading into the free skate so that I can get through it as usual.
Q: What is your response after performing your program? Is it a program created for winning the Olympics?
Y: At first, I asked Jeff to do the choreography for the program, but there were many things on my mind, like I wanted to do more, create more, do things in a certain way, so I consulted with Jeff, Brian, Tracy, then also had Shae join in, and the program was created through this collaboration.
Of course, I think the jumps are not of the utmost difficulty that I can do, but in terms of the program layout, there is only about one crossover before the jump, there almost isn’t any crossovers in it. I certainly want those aspects to be seen, and even in terms of expression, it may not be as refined in value as my representative programs such as “Ballade No.1” or “SEIMEI” yet, but it is a program with a strong sense of a narrative woven into the music, so rather than only the jumps, I want to make it a program where everything in it can be seen.
Q: What is the strong feeling you put into the program? How did you construct the program?
Y: To be honest, I didn’t have strong feelings about it at first. When I asked Mr. Kiyozuka to arrange the piano for the piece, we had a phone meeting, but I didn’t have any specific storyline in mind at that time, so I conveyed to him that I wanted the piece to be overflowing with passion, yet also carrying some sorrow and subtlety, and had him arrange it for me.
In the end, I asked Shae to join us, and what I was able to portray was… um, it was a difficult time for me because I hadn’t made any progress with my [quad] Axel at all, so (in the process of creating the performance), various memories flickered from the darkness at first. Things like memories of everyone, and something akin to the path I had taken. They’re not memories that I recall [specifically], but they spread out like the glow of fireflies. After the first spin, I turn all of that into the energy to push forward with all my might. But at the end, the story is that, within the feeling of being in a daze or an out of body experience, there is something — and even I don’t know what it is — that I’ve caught in my grasp. Jeff created the foundation of this program, and Shae added the story, a very emotional one. And so I was able to skate it truly as a new program with a lot of emotions like I do at an exhibition gala.
Q: What did you discover while practising your 4A?
Y: After all, ehh… in yesterday’s conference – is it okay to call it a conference? It was in a box, I guess, but I spoke about this then. Being able to grasp the axis is extremely… Well, as expected, the quad Axel is difficult. In particular, the motion of rotating the Axel jump and the way you create the axis are different, plus you’re jumping a completely different trajectory to other jumps, so it’s really hard. About that point…um, precisely because I decided that I wanted to jump the Axel in a (particular) way, I thought maybe it would be right to apply that to the other jumps, too. Conversely, when I could do other jumps cleanly, I also consciously applied that (technique) to the Axel gradually…ehh, how do I put it? I think they all accumulated on top of one another and slowly got better.
Q: When aiming for competition, what preparations did you make for your mentality and physique?
Y: Well, before coming here, well, you could say that I did some simulations, meaning practice in the same manner as a competition, for the Short Program. I hadn’t been able to skate the Short Program clean even once, so I was extremely nervous. But somehow, I guess [the clean skate] was saved for the actual competition. Still, it’s because I kept making mistake after mistake that I could understand why I made them and how to practise. Well, truly, to talk about the first competition…I had already been practising like it was a competition, so I went into it thinking I’d probably be able to do it. Thank you very much.
Q: Regarding the Beijing (Olympics), you spoke of it being “a continuation of your efforts thus far.” What are your thoughts now after finishing the SP?
Y: Hm, yes… in any case, I don’t know until I have finished the free skate. Also, there is tomorrow’s practice as well, and practices make up the competition too, so I want to treat each [opportunity] seriously, and uhm, firstly, I want to keep practicing to properly land the 4A at this competition. And if the Beijing Olympics come after that, I want to do my best to do a worthy performance here at this competition in order to secure a spot. Excuse me, and thank you very much. I look forward to speaking to you after the free skate. I’ll do my best, thank you.
Yuzuru (Y): Ah well, truly… today, I think the most important thing for today was to stabilise my axis. I wasn’t focusing too much on my rotations. Therefore…well, I think I was able to do what I needed to do today. Well, it seems like I always say this, but that’s how I’m feeling today. I’m still not in the condition to give 100% on my rotations. Nevertheless, I was able to properly stabilise my axis on ice while confirming the feel of the ice today.
Y: U~m… well, the times where I was able to land with that feeling [today] are when I could maintain a good axis. The other thing is that there are times when I rotate with a lot of power, putting 100%, well perhaps 110% of my power into the rotation, I felt like falling on Axels that were around the ‘q’ mark (1/4 underrotated). After all, that’s something [I haven’t mastered]… balancing both of them (axis and power) in practice is still difficult as expected, yes.
Q: The number of Axels you’ve landed clean in practice is…
Y: Uhm, none. That’s right.
Q: What are your thoughts towards the Beijing Olympics?
Y: You seem happy fufufufufu. Um. Well. To be honest, the day before yesterday, I was [practising the 4A] thinking that if I couldn’t land it, I would have to keep trying until the Olympics. The truth is, personally, I’ve thought that an Axel around this level should be okay. Well, in terms of the form… how do I put it? I don’t think it will be called clean and it may not get a positive GOE, but in its form, it has become a 4A. So it’s like ‘well, have you done your best?’ I’ve been pursuing the 4A for 3 years already – well, I’ve focused on it especially for the last two years. I’ve really practised and faced it head-on, and it’s gotten to this level. So I did feel like ‘isn’t it already enough?’. But in my last practice [before coming to JNats], I was just holding on, and jumping the Axel nonstop for one and a half hours. And when I couldn’t do it, I was thinking ‘ah, I’ve come all this way’, ‘ah I’m tired’, and while really being all over the place in various ways… But, somehow, it’s not just my jump alone. Well, the person jumping [the 4A] is me, and indeed I was the one who said [I would do it]. But everyone…if everyone is saying that it’s only something that I can do, I thought of accomplishing it as a sort of mission.
Y: Um~ Well, I don’t know. If I can land it here, maybe I’ll be satisfied. I haven’t given up on the thought of landing it here. Therefore, today as well, I tried to accumulate what I could and needed to do today. Tomorrow is the Short Program so I don’t have intentions of practising the Axel then. But in the practice the day after the SP, on the day of the FS, I may land it in my performance. I’d like to attempt it properly without throwing away this dream and without giving up. But I’ve come here accepting that the Beijing Olympics may be the extension to this journey. Yes.
Q: Is it correct to say the last quad Axel you did was two-footed and slightly under-rotated? Are you going to do the quad Axel in your free program?
Y: Yes. Um, the answer to both questions is ‘yes.’ Uhm, the rotations seemed lacking to me as well. Well, I do feel that I landed it with both feet while creating a proper axis. But, as I said in reply to the question just now, today wasn’t a day for me to work on rotation, personally. That’s why I think (what I did today) was ok. Also, as for putting it into the free, well, today the music was a little off, and the music I submitted was the wrong one, so I gave up on it halfway through the later half. But, well, I think I want to do it with the Axel in the first half of the program.
Q: Today, when you were going for the (quad) Axel, did you enter it by slowing down a little? Did you learn any sort of trick for it?
Y: Well, ultimately if you can’t grasp the axis, the rotations won’t be fast either. Um, of course there are various strategies to it. Um, if it were as simple as going for the jump recklessly jumping and just rotating, well, maybe I could have landed it sometime last year. I’ve thought about a lot of things, and well, how to put it, even if I talk about it in detail, I don’t think what I want to say will come across, so there’s not much I can say. But, my intention is to first make an axis. Then, if I can grasp the axis quickly and properly, then I can do the rotations quickly as well, so in that sense, it’s more controlled now in speed compared to before (past 4A attempts).
Q: Are there no worries about your right ankle?
Y: Yes, that’s correct.
Q: What will you do for the SP, and why did you choose it? And what is the condition and progress on your injury?
Y: Um… um… What should I start with? Ah, let’s start with the short program. The reason I picked the short… First, I was quite troubled thinking about it. Um, I myself don’t even remember what exactly I said last time, or rather, it was the time before that, but like I said when I won 4CC  and when I returned to Ballade No.1, I have been seriously searching for a piano piece. And so, I was looking for a piece while constantly thinking about what a short program with a “Yuzuru Hanyu”-like expression would be, and what would be something that only “Yuzuru Hanyu” could convey. And, well, I couldn’t really find anything for a while. I wasn’t able to find something that I could say “that’s it,” something that would make my heart pound, and during that time, I came across “Rondo Capriccioso”, a song that I had wanted to try from way back. And so, I felt that if I wanted to skate to this, if I skated to the piano version, I thought it would perhaps become more “me-like.” But, instead of using the already existing regular piano version, I thought of how last season, during the time I was going through a really difficult period of being really down, skating with Mr. Kiyotsuka’s* music really gave me the energy to live on and keep skating, and so I thought that if I did my program this time to Mr. Kiyotsuka’s piano, maybe I would be able to skate it with better spirits as well, and I would perhaps be able to skate it with more of my emotion put into it. So I requested Mr. Kiyotsuka to compose the music this time. Not compose, but rather arrange. So I’m using an original version of the piece.
*T/N: Referring to pianist Shinya Kiyotsuka, the artist of “Haru Yo Koi,” to which Yuzuru did an exhibition program previously
Y: And then, as for my ankle, um… it happened during the run-through of the free program. During the run-through, from the beginning of the free program, I attempted a 4A, and when I went straight into the next Salchow, um, the edge (of the skate blade) got stuck in the ice. And I had just had the edges sharpened, so I was skating while thinking that something felt wrong. Um, well, I thought it couldn’t be helped, the edge really was caught in the ice, and I should have been able to pull it out but I couldn’t, and my ankle cracked. So, the direct cause of my sprained ankle was the Salchow, and if I had been jumping just the Salchow alone, there would have been no problem. Ultimately, I think it was because I was practicing the 4A as well, and plus the fact I wasn’t keeping up with maintenance of my edges properly. Um, something like that, and as a result I ended up getting a sprain.
Y: Um, what should I say about the progress. Well, since I already know a lot about sprains of the right foot, so I was intently thinking of just how to heal it quickly, and so I did things like KAATSU* training, using it to give pressure (to the muscle) to promote healing, and I also used ultrasounds, and low frequency waves, just a variety of things, since well, what I can do (while in) Sendai by myself is limited. So by doing all that, I worked towards healing it. Yes. Thank you, and I’m sorry this became so long.
*T/N: We are not 100% sure what kind of training and treatments he is speaking about in this answer, but this one seems to refer to a training called “kaatsu” which uses training bands to put pressure & restrict blood flow as a form of physical therapy and to help speed up recovery.
Y: Thank you~ I’ll see you again during the actual event.
※The following is obtained through his representative confirming
Q: Is it a declaration that you’re aiming for Beijing [Olympics]?
Y: I have made up my mind. I feel I’m ready for it. And so, yes, it’s a declaration that I’m aiming for it.
Host (H): Next is a special figure skating segment. There are only 5 days left until the All Japan National Championships, which will decide the Olympic team. Within those athletes, this athlete’s challenge is the focus of many.
H: Yes, it’s Hanyu-senshu, who has vowed to succeed at the 4A this season. Is this a feat achievable by mankind? We investigated this possibility from 3 points of view.
Narrator (N): The absolute champion, Yuzuru Hanyu. From repeating as the double Olympic champion onwards, he’s continued to carve out historical achievements one after another. Right now, the great target he’s aiming towards is to land the unprecedented quadruple Axel. The Axel jump is the only jump in figure skating with a forward takeoff. It’s a difficult jump that requires one to return to the fear of directly facing your field of vision and requires half an extra rotation. If he succeeds, he will land the world’s first quadruple Axel. This alone is what is stirring Hanyu’s spirit.
Yuzuru (Y): Breaking the limit (laughs). In a way, I think of the 4A as a ‘wall’ that humans have created up until now. I’ve created it myself, and I want to overcome it. I think it’s probably the current limit for us figure skaters. I want to write the ‘chapter’ of surpassing it.
N: He seriously started working towards [the 4A] in the 2018-19 season, after his second Olympic victory. The camera has not captured this hard work but instead, Hanyu told us about the difficulty of the 4A over and over again.
Y: It feels like doing a long jump while rotating at the same time.
Y: The trajectory when jumping the quad Axel is completely different to the one when doing the triple Axel.
Y: I can visualise it. Properly. I’ve landed it in my dreams.
Y: I’m tasting the frustration and the feeling of despair from day to day from not being able to land it but…
N: Even for the absolute champion, he had not been able to overcome this challenge in three years. This ‘wall’ is truly high.
Can the quadruple Axel be jumped? We sought the opinions of three specialists.
N: He had challenged the jump himself in the past and knows its difficulty well: pro skater, Takahito Mura.
Mura (M): The feeling while in the air is both longer and more forceful, completely different and unique compared to jumping other quads or the triple Axel so far. Firstly, in order to simply achieve the rotations, you must build up your physical ability.
N: The absolutely essential condition is to strengthen the base: the body. However, the progress in this area seemed to already be felt at last year’s Japanese Nationals.
M: When he picks to take off for a quadruple jump, usually he’ll skate relaxed, then tighten and take off like ‘pon’. When he changed his training and re-built his body, it felt like he suddenly took another step up in an instant. When I saw that, I thought ‘wow, amazing.’ That was probably because he was finally getting to a point of being familiar with the [quadruple] Axel.
N: The one who looked into the data was Professor Sakurai from Toin University of Yokohama.
What he was researching, from Ice Scope data that measures the jump height and distance, was the angle of the jump.
Sakurai (S): This is the triple Axel but his distance was 3m 20cm and the height was 64cm, which means that he was taking off at an angle of 22-23 degrees. I was surprised at this. The world record for long jump was also around this angle. This is the ‘optimal angle’ for achieving distance in a jump.
N: The record American Mike Powell set [for long jump] in 1991 – 8.95m – was achieved with this virtually identical ‘optimal angle’. This is in Hanyu’s grasp.
Y: Yes, I think the height can’t be more than 80cm and the distance probably can’t be more than 4m.
S: Yes, it’s virtually the same angle. The data aligns exactly. Therefore, jumping at this angle, it’s better to think of how to take off while jumping far.
N: Finally, there’s this legend who fired up Hanyu’s challenger’s spirit.
Y: Isn’t Uchimura-san super cool? Being able to land a H level skill. Even if he had to focus only on the horizontal bars, he was able to continue competing. [When I compare myself to Uchimura], I think I’m still pretty young, that I can still keep going.
N: In fact, the hero of the gymnastics world is deeply interested in the quadruple Axel
Uchimura (U): Looking at [the 4A] from the perspective of a gymnast, thinking about how I should be watching it, I got really obsessed and really went back and forth [on the video]. When I first watched it, I was thinking ‘this isn’t something humans can do’.
Isn’t it a bit insane??
N: With a level of difficulty that Uchimura was not expecting, how would the king go about tackling this?
U: I don’t know much about figure skating so it’s a poor analysis but his highest point is here. If he twists a little more prior to this point…
Gymnastics is a skill where we are twisting as soon as possible.
N: Even though gymnastics and figure skating both involve the twisting of the body [to rotate], they use the body in different ways.
U: Are his upper and lower body a little too synchronised? In gymnastics, we are led by the upper body – the lower body follows the upper. His upper body… if he twisted it a little earlier, I think his lower body would follow it like ‘boom!’ But after all, if it’s not high enough, he can’t twist sufficiently but if he can jump a little further, he’ll get a little more flight distance and be able to rotate…
Interviewer: [Hanyu] said balancing the two was difficult
U: Yes. I really understand. I haven’t done it, but I get it (laughs)
U: Humans can’t overcome [the 4A]. Only Hanyu-kun can.
N: A challenge that will rewrite human history. Where can one find the place of success for the 4A? The defending champion facing his first competition of the season, this year Hanyu will stand on the All Japan National Championship stage once again.
H: You could say, in a sense, that he is also continuing to challenge the limits but Uchimura’s words certainly seem to be filled with enthusiasm doesn’t it? Once again, these are the words from the three people who are exploring the possibility of a 4A from Hanyu-senshu
Mura: Even with reduced speed, the quad is possible
Sakurai: The ultimate angle to release longest flight distance
Uchimura: Twist the upper body first
H: Uchimura-senshu is looking at it from the viewpoint of gymnastics, it feels like perhaps the viewpoint from a different sport may be a good impetus somehow.
H: Yes, what he calls prioritising the upper body…
Yuzuru Hanyu, the top athlete driving the figure skating world. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, he did not return to his training base in Canada but continued training all alone and marked his first victory in 5 years at the Japanese National Championships at the end of last year. In order to meet with Hanyu-senshu, who possesses extraordinary strength and artistry and is continuing to advance his craft, we travelled to Sendai, the city of forests overflowing with greenery.
[Figure skating] is a competition [judged] by the perfection and beauty of its moves/skills but, as you are judged by human beings, you have to put out performances that appeal to people with differing values. It’s because I have high standards for the details that I fixate on and am aware of [in my performance] that I can continue to give my all. Though it’s important how objectively I can evaluate myself, if I just fixate on what I want to express, I feel I’d only be able to put out self-centered performances, so a program can firstly only be complete if it can convey something to the audience. If it’s a happy program, I’d wish that the people watching could do their best the next day, and that it could prompt them to move forward in their hearts. If it’s a sad program, I’d like it to be a way for the people watching to connect with their pain and experiences. I’ve only lived 26 years, but I’d like to express my own story and feelings. Not only in relation to the past, but my feelings towards the future, and the things I’m experiencing currently… though it’s very varied.
Currently during your off-season, you are commuting every day to your practice rink. Can we ask you about your motivation?
The results of your hard work is everything. I think the number one happiness is the moment the results come. It’s not anything like ‘oh I’ll get to eat this or buy this if I work hard’ (laughs), it’s because I want to taste the happiness at that moment of accomplishment. Even if it’s a small goal, I try to follow through and accomplish something every day.
We’ve heard that though you’ve secured countless titles, you’ve never once thought that you were mentally strong?
Of course this happens at competitions but even at ice shows, I get so nervous that I feel sick and there are many nights I can’t sleep. But that’s because I have high ideals. So I can only give my everything. If I can live by the choice that I’ve judged as the best one, not only in practice but during times of rest and including occasionally when I’m not even thinking about anything, I think you will definitely become stronger, even if you don’t get the results you wanted at the time.
You’ll often bring pressure onto yourself by saying things like ‘I’ll win the next competition!’
It’s because I believe I can do it. I think putting my wishes into words has a good impact on my mind. When I feel like I’m going to be crushed down, I change that to motivation and keep working hard. Though I do get overwhelmed and there are times my stomach hurts, I hope I can turn that power in a good direction. It’s because I get nervous that I can, single-mindedly, concentrate and tackle problems head on.
To be honest, I wasn’t thinking about it like that; on the contrary, I feel that it’s not a good thing to be stereotyped as persevering and polite because we’re Japanese. And I think there are people who have a complex against that. It’s because everyone is different from each other that they are good. When I meet with foreign athletes, there are differences in our values and each person’s attitudes towards skating is varied. But ultimately, when it comes time to do something together, we can unite. That is the sort of diverse society that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) stand for, and something I think is very important.
Last September, you graduated from the Human Sciences e-School course at Waseda University after studying for 7 years.
In skating and also in studying, knowledge is important. In regards to SDGs’ activities as well, I did research into items that attempt to keep the limited resources in our natural environment sustainable and I want to choose those kinds of products [to use]. I’m personally interested in the problem of rubbish, so I try to normally carry around reusable bottles in training. Even though it may be small, I think one way to keep moving forward is to ask myself what I can do.