A: (Introducing himself) I am Yuzuru Hanyu, who has been selected as a representative to the World Championships. This time, I am going to the World Championships as a representative who is also the Japanese National Champion, so ―while of course there is the current situation in the world―firstly as a Japanese person, I will take pride in that and work to be able to go to that competition. On top of that, I would like to properly deliver a good performance and of course heading towards the Beijing Olympics, to secure spots [for Japan’s Olympic team], so, I want to put in my best effort to fulfill my role.
Q: You will compete against foreign skaters at the World Championships for the first time in this season. Who are your potential rivals and what rank are you aiming for?
A: Yes, well, to be honest, we won’t really know until we compete together. Of course, there is a certain standard of figure skating rules, but the standard can change depending on the atmosphere, the ice rink, or the way the scores are calculated. If you don’t know what it is like to be there, you can’t simply compare. In that sense as well, the Japanese National Championship scores are probably not going into official (ISU) records.
In this season, the Grand Prix series, Skate America, Skate Canada and many other competitions have been cancelled and the ISU has said that the scores of these Grand Prix series won’t count as official scores this time. So, I don’t think we can simply compare scores. The score 318 ―or was it 315, or was it 318?― that I gained myself is not officially recognized either. I don’t feel that I’m winning or that I want to be in a certain position, simply by comparing scores, at least at the moment. Of course, I’m interested in Nathan’s progress. But what I’m going to do, what I want to improve, is not only that, but the quad Axel and also how to evolve and deepen this program itself, so, I think that’s the most important thing.
Q: What is your advice to Kagiyama, who is competing for the first time in the World Championships?
A: Yes, earlier, when he was asked things like if there were any skaters he had his eye on or what kind of rank he wants to achieve, I could tell that he was really trying to lie about his feelings. (Turning to look back at Kagiyama) I think there is no need for that. I think that his strength is in his competitive spirit, his ambition, and his vigor. Of course, he might not be able to win with just that alone, but it is his most important weapon right now. I want him to treasure that.
The first time that I competed in the World Championships that I was able to get a bronze medal was, of course, a very big turning point for me. Although, that year, and that season itself was a very big turning point for me. I have never forgotten my performance at that time, and I think it was the energy and the vigor that I could only have had at that time, that helped me to reach that position. (Kagiyama) has even said that he wants to win the Japanese National Championships, so I hope he won’t lie to himself about those feelings, and I want him to do his best with those feelings in mind.
A: Of course, well, this time, although all competitions* are over, all skaters were doing as much as possible to prevent the spread of infection, but of course among skaters there were those who contracted COVID19, um, and went to Russia’s Nationals, or Russian National Championships but I think there are still many who suffered and were unable to go, and in turn others who contracted COVID19 and recovered and are doing their best to compete. However, as athletes, as long as there are after-effects [of the virus], we must not contract it, and we as the younger generation should not be the ones to spread it either. I really believe that it is our responsibility. So, I think the first and foremost thing is for us athletes not to get infected.
*T/N: Unclear if he is referring to just JPN Nationals events alone or other countries’ nationals and GP series/overall competitions as well.
I don’t know if I am in a position to say this, but when I think about the Japanese National Championships overall, I saw that each and every skater was wearing a mask immediately at the Kiss & Cry to prevent infection, and seeing that made me want to do my best to take care of myself in the future. I think the best thing about the event was that we could see things like that and also noticeably see that many people, including those who came to the venue, were making efforts to prevent infection.
Well, of course, speaking of holding events, figure skating events, including competitions, are in a large part classified as entertainment. So, I think there is a risk of spreading the infection. However, there were many people who thought that we should take care of ourselves even more to prevent the spread of the disease, after watching this competition. I’m really glad that the Japanese National Figure Skating Championships was held for that reason, and at the same time, I don’t know what the World Championships will be like, but I think all the skaters here have to show the world and Japan what we can do.
Yuzuru Hanyu (ANA), the winner of the All-Japan Figure Skating Championships and the consecutive winner of the Olympic Games in Sochi ’14 and Pyeongchang ’18, gave a joint interview after the men’s medalist press conference on the 26th, and talked about his innermost thoughts.
Q: Are you thinking of anything (career-wise) after the World Championships (next year)?
A: First of all, for me, the biggest thing is whether the World Championships will actually happen.
Well, first of all, being able to use my body is the most important. Because training on the quad Axel has a big impact (on my body) after all. Well, it’s not something that I can practice consistently, so to some extent, I have to train properly and build up my body. Well, I had decided not to do a quad Axel in my training for this competition. How can I put it, I’ve building up my body to prepare for the competition, so I think now my sense of the Axel has been changing once again, but as soon as this competition is over, after my body recovers, I will make sure to build my body to suit the quad Axel, and then train for it, then see how much I can do with the quad Axel. I haven’t been able to do it yet. I’m trying to quickly bridge the gap between my current image of the Axel and my body as soon as possible. I think it depends on how well I can execute it after I’ve become able to do it. Well, more than anything else, I don’t know if the World Championships will be held yet. I don’t know how next season’s competitions, including the Grand Prix, will go. Anyway, my current feeling is that I want to put out the best effort I can while keeping an eye on the situation of the world. Beyond that, I don’t know yet.
Q: Is there anything you felt was important or difficult while practicing without a coach?
A: Yes, I think there are absolutely aspects where I can’t be completely objective about when I’m by myself. Like when we’re talking like this, or when this becomes various articles in newspapers or the news (on TV), and I watch myself speaking through television. Similar to when I do that and am like ‘ah, it would have been good if I had said in this way’, or ‘I should’ve said this’, it’s the same in skating where there are parts you cannot be objective about when alone. So I think having a coach is an incredibly important thing, insofar as being able to provide new points of view and ones outside of your own. On the flipside though, I think precisely because I have an abundant amount of experiences, because I have more experiences compared to other athletes, it’s easier for me to have a more objective point of view about things like how I break down [under pressure], how I can produce good performance, how it becomes a bad performance, that sort of thing. So while reflecting on various things, even while being without a coach, I think I was able to leverage those experiences and connect my actual performance at Japanese Nationals this time with the training I was aiming for up until this point.
Q: About your planned layout. Up until now, you’ve put your combinations in the second half of the program. This time it was slightly front-loaded. What is the point of this? And what about your layout if you add the quad Axel?
A: Well if I did add the 4A I think it’d be my first jump. To put it simply, the reason for putting a combination in the first half is because the rate of success is higher there. Before deciding on this layout, there was originally a period where I couldn’t jump the loop. I couldn’t even jump the Salchow, and the toe-loop was in a dicey condition, so there was a period where I was in no position to put quads in the second half. Precisely because of that, I was in the process of putting a combination in the first half. So I went with that flow and then slowly while practising, I became able to jump the loop again – the Salchow was of course stabilised and then I stabilised my loop little by little, so I thought okay, I can put the loop and Salchow in my FS program layout. I did think about doing 2 toe-loop combinations in the second half and doing an Axel combination as the last jumping pass, too. Right now, if I look at the Free Program as a whole, instead of making the last jumping pass a combination, the Axel combination in the first half looks better – I think that’s the primary reason. Starting from the sound of the koto at that point [in the program], the mood picks up, I jump the Axel and then the loop, but originally I thought about making it a solo Axel jump, then solo loop, otherwise a 3Lz solo jump. Somehow I felt that the music creates a feeling of a bigger wind soaring through, so the jump that would express it best would be a 3A with a rippon 2T and then leading into the 3Lo with that momentum, which is the reason for putting it in the first half this time.
Q: The Beijing 2022 Olympics are getting closer. What’s your position on it at the moment?
A: This is speaking frankly but in the current situation where the Tokyo Olympics cannot go ahead, in my personal opinion, we’re not in a position to be thinking about the Winter Olympics. Of course, there are sponsors, commercials, and because this is an event where so many countries compete, of course there is a lot of money involved in that. Because of that I think there is a whole world that we don’t know. However, I’m not involved in that. As a single competitive figure skater, the Olympics is not a sport festival or event but, as an athlete, my ultimate goal. If we only think from that perspective, I’d like the Olympics to go ahead and of course I’d like to participate and win. However, against the backdrop of that, the current reality is that even the Tokyo Olympics cannot be held. Even if postponed, we still don’t know how it will turn out. For example, if we’re in a situation where taking the vaccine is compulsory or whether the audience will be able to attend… And also, balancing the cost, whether the Olympics is something that should be held. Truly, I think there are many people thinking about various factors, with a lot of different opinions. Therefore, within all of that, I’ve personally stopped myself from thinking about the Olympics, my ultimate goal. Therefore, rather than thinking whether or not I’ll participate, whether or not I’ll continue to compete until then, it’s more like I’m shutting down my thoughts about that a little right now.
Q: What is the ultimate goal of your skating career?
A: In any case, I’d like to land the 4A in competition. That’s the ultimate goal I’ve said countless times. However, this time, with such a long period of training alone, the difficulty of the 4A… Firstly, I wonder if I will be able to get there. When I think about how there were times when I felt like it was almost a wild fantasy, I won’t say there weren’t times where I wondered if it was okay to make this my ultimate goal. However, if I were not to lie to my own heart then, if I did not try to get there, truthfully speaking, my reason for skating… In this society, in this current situation, it feels like my reason for training, the reason for wanting to keep skating would vanish. So that’s why I’m still pushing ahead against the impregnable wall known as my 4A, though the hurdle is very high. It’s a wall so tall to the extent that it feels like there are no handholds or anything. Even so, I don’t want to leave it as just a dream. I will absolutely grasp it in my hands, and I want to look beyond that wall where there are no other walls. I think that may be the only reason I am able to skate in this current situation.
Q: What about the current status of the (quad) axel?
Q: Once the COVID19 situation improves, will you go back to your training base overseas?
A: Well, to be honest, I don’t know how the world will be. However, to confirm, I don’t think the training I’ve done thus far has been wrong. Um, in the end since I was able to apply the various things I have experienced thus far, and finally like a “veteran”, I was able to accumulate the [efforts of] various training, and without doubt as this was reflected in the results of this competition, I think I can finally say I did my best. And so, the training plan of a four-quad free program including a quad loop from this time will become a strong foundation for the sake of the quad Axel later. I think for now, making that go well should be the only thing I think about. Regardless of whether that will happen upon returning to Toronto or in Japan, and improving my body, my senses, and my technical and physical fitness is definitely something I think I know best. In any case, in the last one year I have gone through a lot of trial and error. That’s why, to utilize [what I learned from] that, whether it’s in Japan or in Canada, first I want to put in the work in training to improve the technical aspects needed to rotate and land a quad Axel. Is this okay? Did that answer the question?
Q: (This year) You graduated from university. Aside from training, what other kinds of things did you do during the pandemic?
A: Well, the time I spent with my family greatly increased. Usually I’m in Toronto and it’s not often that my whole family is able to get together and spend time. And by this it’s not that it was fun to be together like this, but rather we were able to think together about skating. Above all else, I thought that being supported by my whole family while I was skating is a great fortune. And, yes, I didn’t really go out, since I wasn’t doing anything but skating. Although (saying I was) doing nothing except skating might be a bit of an exaggeration. I did not go out at all, aside for skating. Um, that’s right. I felt maybe I was able to focus more on skating than when I was in Toronto. And… what else was there? Ah, university. Fortunately I was able to graduate from university. Regarding my thesis, yes, I might present it someday, I might not. I’m not really sure about that. I did as much research as I could think of, and of course there were connections to the training that I myself have done up until now. Above all, I thought that maybe [with my research*] the rules [of skating] would become easier to understand, it would have to. Perhaps in the future, [after] performing to where I’m satisfied, I’ll retire from competition, become a professional [skater], become a coach/mentor, etc. So, in that progression, if that kind of technology is needed, there’s that option too. After all, I think that as a top athlete, [it would be good] to become a means of opening up something new.
*T/N: Yuzuru is referring to his graduation thesis in which he explored the topic of 3D motion capture technology being applied to figure skating, and he stated his hope that in the future there could be AI-based scoring incorporating new technology. He talked about his thesis and thoughts on his university career in his recent article featured in Waseda University’s Campus Now magazine; translation can be found here.
2014 Sochi and 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic gold medallist Yuzuru Hanyu (ANA) secured his 5th Japanese National Champion title with a score of 215.83 in the Free Skate and an overall score of 319.36. These are his comments in an interview with Fuji TV after the performance.
A: Firstly, while looking at it objectively… I think it’s significant that I was able to properly believe in the training I did and trust the feeling in my body. More than anything yesterday – though it was in part precisely because it was that type of program – there were parts in that first competition where I had exerted a bit too much power, so frankly, it’s good that I was able to feel that yesterday.
Q: You began the program with a 4Lo and then a 4S and it scored you high marks A: Well, firstly when it comes to the loop jump, it’s very difficult to get flow from that jump. For me, it’s been awhile since I’ve maintained the flow and completed the loop jump with positive GOE. It’s a point that I am very happy about. In regards to the Salchow and toe-loop, they are jumps I have a lot of confidence in and two jumps that have accompanied me for many years* so I had confidence and completed them.
*T/N: Here, his language sort of personifies his jumps as people/things who’ve been ‘doing’ skating together with him so we’ve tried to express that feeling through the translation
Q: What kind of feelings have you put into this program?
A: The setting of this music features Lord Uesugi Kenshin.* In any case, I myself like competing, and in the act of competing itself, how to put it, the fun of it is in things like (figuring out) how to focus, and these kinds of exciting things are what I can’t get enough of. However, in all of that, (there are feelings like) fighting and still not winning, or (things) you can say are painful, like being consumed by anguish. Also, like when I come in first place, someone else will be 2nd or 3rd, and I am feeling that it is like there is a “sacrifice,” or a cost, so I am somewhat influenced by Lord Kenshin’s overall sense of values he held towards battle. Right now, in this world, there may be many things people have to fight against, so it would be nice if everyone could come to see something like a “core” or will within themselves as they head into battle (upon watching this program).
*T/N: Referring to 16th century/medieval Japanese warlord Uesugi Kenshin who ruled over part of northern Japan. The music for his free program this time is taken from a 1969 taiga genre (historical) drama called “Heaven and Earth” about Kenshin. In an earlier comment, Yuzuru pointed out that he resonates with Kenshin’s overall view of battle/competition as always having come with a cost, or a “sacrifice.” Earlier comment was translated here.
2014 Sochi and 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic gold medallist Yuzuru Hanyu (ANA) secured his 5th Japanese National Champion title after 5 years with a score of 215.83 in the Free Skate and an overall score of 319.36. After his performance, he answered some questions in an online interview.
Q: (Your feelings) After ending the short & free programs
A: Last year, I was pretty frustrated, so I think it’s good I was able to get a little revenge, but, well, more than anything else, ultimately, hmm, in these kind of circumstances, [I felt] bad about calling [my] coach would be kind of bad*, so more than anything, um, if it’s something I can handle on my own, I internally decided that, given the current circumstances, I shouldn’t call my coach if I wanted to be able to go into the competition with confidence. Well, in these conditions, [I thought] being able to do a good performance like this was really good. And also, even though I have been working alone, I want to express my gratitude to the many who have supported me thus far.
*T/N: Our guess is that he is trying to express that he does not want to trouble his coaches during the current circumstances since he can handle it on his own.
Q: What are the difficulties of doing things (i.e. practice, training) alone?
A: For instance, last season, there was Uno-senshu who competed in the Grand Prix series by himself* and amidst all that I felt that certainly that must be difficult to do. Also, I myself had a little trouble [last year] at the Grand Prix Final with my coach*, and I had to do the short program alone, and I had the experience of that not going well. Ultimately, [this year], my doubts and worries have increased a lot by doing everything all by myself for this long period of time, but although I’m doing it alone, it’s precisely because of the fact that I’ve been training alone that I was again able to feel that somehow, somewhere I’m connected [to others]. This time too, [I’ve received] support from afar, and of course this includes things like messages and words I’ve received, and conversely, not just these kinds of tangible things but, I think there are also many who are sending me support from very far away, so above all I very much want to express my gratitude to them.
*T/N: Referring to skater Shoma Uno who competed without a coach for part of last season.
**T/N: Referring to how in GPF 2019, Coach Ghislain was to be accompanying Yuzuru but ended up getting delayed due to his passport getting stolen.
Q: (With your efforts being rewarded) in the free program, what is your response?A: First, well, in this program I myself have great attachment to it. If I listen to the music I get very emotional. Of course, in each individual movement there are various meanings imbued into them. However, in all of that, if the jumps are not completed as well, I think what I want to convey with the program as a whole with its flow does not come across. So, although it was the first competition [of the season], with regard to things like what I wanted to convey, I think I was able to show a little of what I wanted to in this program, as the jumps were not interrupted.
A: For me, something happened at last year’s Japanese Nationals and also the Grand Prix Finals. I felt like I wasn’t really growing, that I was slowly becoming unable to fight, those sort of thoughts were in my head. For a moment, I thought that I had become tired of competing, and I could probably give up at any point, though I think there are probably many people supporting me who don’t want that to happen. But within that fight, I realised once again that I love the feeling of accomplishment you get in a competition, the feeling of being able to do things, overcoming things, the suffering of being able to overcome hardships, etc, those feelings that exist because of competitions. Also, bringing up Uesugi Kenshin*, well, things like his perspective on battle, within that there was (a sense of) aesthetics you could say. Also, he had conflict with the fact (there were always) sacrifices that resulted from fighting, and so I think ultimately he ended up becoming a monk. So in that way, like reaching a state of enlightenment or understanding, I think maybe something like Lord Kenshin’s sense of values is kind of similar (to mine). I tried to skate while linking these kinds of things together with my performance.
*t/n: Referring to 16th century/medieval Japanese warlord Uesugi Kenshin who ruled over part of northern Japan. The music for Yuzuru’s free program this time is taken from a 1969 taiga genre (historical) drama called “Heaven and Earth” that is about Kenshin’s life. Kenshin was educated at a temple for some time in his youth and for the rest of his life was regarded as an honorable warrior, known for his religious devotion to the Buddhist god of war, Bishamonten. In an earlier comment, Yuzuru pointed out that he resonates with Kenshin’s overall view of battle/competition as always having come with a cost, or a “sacrifice.” Earlier comment was translated here: https://twitter.com/shinjistarxx/status/1342787528550723585
Q: What are the key details you’re mindful of in your choreography?
A: All of it. Hehehehe. I think if any one detail is missed this program will probably… not just this program, but especially the programs in the last 5 or 6 seasons, probably would not be complete. More than anything, the fact I was able to jump seamlessly without exerting too much force was the best part in being able to complete the expression [of the program].
Q: Is the sense of continuity an important pillar [in your programs]?
A: Yes it is. Therefore, I think a performance like yesterday’s [short program] is still a little unrefined. There are of course emotions I’d like to show, but within that, it’s not the feeling of ‘yeah I jumped that, yahoo!’ or ‘Eyyy~’ but more…something smarter – if it was Robbie [Williams], he’d express it in a smarter way, because it’s English rock… um, how do I put this. It’s not really about a particular country’s [rock style] but I think it’s a kind of rock with more room to play with. Yesterday I thought I am probably not able to express that yet, but reflecting on it last night, I want to do a performance with more freedom and make it feel more alive.
Q: How do you want next year to take shape? A: In any case, this time I have trained for a long time by myself and well, there were of course problems in the Short Program and honestly speaking, they are not performances I can call perfect. In particular, in regards to today [Free Program], I feel very reassured, in myself and also I think those watching can feel reassured that, as they were able to see, I can do an original performance. That the way I trained was right. I think I’ve found a training method that is suitable for my current body condition, one that helps me grow, so from here on I’d like to keep refining it further and I hope that I can continue [training] without injuries while challenging harder jumps.
Q: At the end of your program for a few seconds, what did you see?
A: What was it? It wasn’t as though I was thinking about anything in particular. It’s just…how do I put this… I felt like I had received a huge amount of various kinds of energies, and it was like I had finally come out of this battle, so I stood there afterwards – that sort of feeling. It wasn’t really like I was looking at something but rather, it felt like I was watching from a different place.
Q: What is the meaning behind the choreography of the beginning?
A: Well, it’s Shae’s [idea]… how should I put it, it’s kind of like a rough image but, I heard that it is an image meant to be like a warrior’s armor and helmet, originally. (Gesturing with his body and hands) Like, [she had] an image that here would be the armor, and here would be like a helmet. In my mind, “Heaven, and Earth, and”* ends with [the word] “and,” which of course, I’m using from the title of the taiga (historical) drama as is, but in my mind, I had an image of heaven and earth, and humanity, or a person, perhaps myself, like an image that it’s “Yuzuru Hanyu.” I think (with gestures) that in this space, it’s maybe in between heaven and the earth, then (in that space) I meant for it to be an image of as if I am there.
*T/N: Referring to the title of his program, 天と地と (“Heaven and Earth, and”), which is taken from a 1960s taiga (historical) drama of the same name.
Q: This song makes good use of the sound of the biwa. (Japanese lute)
A: Well…hmmm, the biwa sound in the beginning of the song is taken as it was from the original piece. In terms of the flow of the song, it’s full of determination, like we’re going to fight, or filled with a sense of preparing to go into battle. And at the end, after the Ina Bauer, the biwa sound while spinning is not a sound that exists in the first place, but a sound that I brought from a different piece of music* and layered it with a different song to make it original. There during the ChSq, the image is of [Kenshin] who doesn’t want to fight anymore, but that he must continue to fight in order to protect. In the end, when Lord Kenshin is entering his priesthood, he is reflecting on the half of his life thus far, so with that image in mind, I tried to overlay the sound of the biwa there.
*T/N: Different song or different part from the same song, it’s not clear
Q: How about the koto? (Japanese harp-like instrument)
A: I wanted to make the program even more ‘Japonesque’. At that part, in my mind, the feeling is meant to be like after [Kenshin] has fought Lord Shingen*; it is after their fight at Kawanakajima, and they are enveloped by fog and then separated (from one another’s view) so they are (left to) face their own selves. I thought it would be nice to have the sound of the biwa to feel that sense of facing yourself, where your own heartbeat is ringing in your ears, and maybe also that sensation of blood flowing, and then suddenly that sense of bloodlust and the need to kill subsides. For this program, I chose the piece myself. In picking the music, I made quite many versions editing it too, including the sound itself. However, I’m not a musician, so I do wonder if it matches the skating.
*t/n: Referring to another 16th century Japanese warlord, Takeda Shingen, who was famously known for having a long-standing rivalry with Kenshin. The two clashed many times at the site of Kawanakajima, which is located in present-day Nagano (incidentally close to Nagano Big Hat, the arena where this competition was held).
Q: What meaning does this competition hold in your competitive career?
A: I think what I said when the competition first started was everything. Should I call it my own desire, um, it’s a very personal opinion, so even now I’m still conflicted whether I can stick with that. It’s very personal, and if the World Championships happen, if I don’t get closer to it in advance a bit, I have the impression that it’d become difficult later. So, um, it felt like reaching for the light that I want to grasp for in the dark world that is the current COVID19 pandemic.
Q: What do you think about restarting at Nagano this time?
A: Of course, even though I have a good impression [of the venue], on the contrary, exactly because I have a good impression of it, I was afraid of breaking that, and feared that I would be caught up in it. I’ve had a long competitive career until now, finally. Rather than the techniques or the technical level, it’s so cool to be able to use your mentality, or your experiences in interpersonal sports like Federer in tennis and of course, Kodaira in [speed] skating. I honestly think it’s hard to make use of those things in figure skating. Even when I’ve become a veteran, I can’t utilize them well. But I’ve finally been able to make it work at this competition.
The men’s short program (SP) was held, and Yuzuru Hanyu (ANA), the reigning Olympic champion in Sochi ’14 and Pyeongchang ’18, finished in first with a score of 103.53. After his performance, he reflected on his SP in an online interview.
A: In the beginning, it’s Jeffrey Buttle who picked the music. At first, I was looking for a piano piece, but, well, Jeffrey-san wasn’t really able to decide on something either. So, even after going over 2-3 choices, in the end, there wasn’t one that really just came to me. And in the midst of seeing the news and the current state of the world, I think ultimately a kind of light-hearted piece [would be better], uhm, since everyone is watching me skate even during these tough times, I thought maybe something of a cheerful theme (would be good).
Q: [What are your thoughts] Heading into the free program?
A: First, I think it’s important to recover properly. However, I think I’ve had amazing practices before this. Though in reality, that’s not reflected in the score. As for the jumps, all I can say is that I’ve landed them. I hope I can properly deliver another good performance tomorrow.
Q: [What are your thoughts] upon finishing your skate?
A: Well, to be honest, I think I was able to enjoy it, but looking at the score, I can’t say that it was a good performance, therefore, my current thought is that I would like to revise it while doing my best to prepare for tomorrow.
A: For the time being it’s that I didn’t push to maximize the technical (aspects) at all. Also, well, I think my jumps are (usually) high-earning in GOE. I think it’s an issue that I wasn’t able to properly obtain that.
Q: What were your feelings upon entering the venue?
A: Now that you mention it, it felt like I couldn’t really hear any voices. On the contrary somehow, the cheers that everyone gave for today’s new program and when they saw the new costume felt like they were resonating inside my heart. It was like I received that support in a new way.
Q: You put in 2 quads. What do you think about their quality?
A: Well, I’ve landed them, so you could say 50% I guess… However, about the scores, I haven’t seen the details actually so I can’t say anything. But in terms of GOE, it wasn’t good so, uhm, I’m thinking it’d be great if I can figure out things such as how to upgrade it a little bit more, how to allocate time in the 6-minute warmup, etc.
Q: (Your thoughts) on doing a rock number after a long while?
A: Um, well to be honest, it was a little unfortunate not to be able to hear (audience) cheering, but, well, I think I was able to somehow feel that maybe those watching on TV or those watching online were cheering very loudly me on, so I was able to skate while having fun.
A: To speak in detail, first, I was sent the stepwork. Well, the placement of the steps themselves were in reverse.* Also, things like the incorporation of the music and hand movements, well, there’s a lot that mostly I arranged. And, regarding the jumps too, I conveyed the overall timing I wanted to do for them, and then, there were also the [parts] Jeff arranged. So I wanted to ask various things about how all of that would fit in if it went with my original timing, but I didn’t get a reply at all (laughs), so yes, I choreographed it by myself while going through trial and error.
*T/N: This is our guess but we assume he means that because he was sent the video of the choreo that was presumably shot front on (the way the audience would see his performance), he would have had to mirror the steps instead of copying directly what he saw on the video when actually skating the choreo.
Q: Anything you are particularly emphasizing (in the program)?
A: Well, I think it’s maybe something like “push and pull.” I’m trying to add in a lot of different things. Really, in a certain sense, I think I’m trying to emphasize that everything in the program is worth paying attention to. However, amongst all of that, it’s to be balanced with the jumps. Also, well, I tried to insert various things while considering the artistic aspect, like where I could take a breath and really ride it out, all while everyone is watching.
Q: Did you arrange or put anything from your old performances (into this program)?
A: Of course there were things that seem to be now associated with my name, which are things that I want to highlight, and things that I extracted (from my old programs). However, afterall, I took a lot of care thinking about how to choreograph this program and for this music.
The Japanese National Championships will start from 25 December at Nagano’s Big Hat. Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Gold Medallist Yuzuru Hanyu (ANA) attended the public practice at the venue on the 24th. For Hanyu, who had withdrawn from the Grand Prix series due to the effects of COVID-19, this competition will be his first this season. After the practice, he was interviewed online.
Q: How was your feeling after the public practice, and the thoughts behind deciding to compete at the Japanese National Championships?
A: It’s been awhile since I’ve practised on a rink with so many people so there were certain senses/feelings [of being on the ice with them] that I didn’t quite grasp but in a sense, it was a fresh feeling and for me, truly something that I haven’t had in awhile so it was fun as well.
Q: You withdrew from the Grand Prix series. What was the thought process behind deciding to compete at the Japanese National Championships?
A: Well, my thinking hasn’t really changed. If I were to speak frankly, if it were based on my own personal considerations, where possible, I did not want to participate in activities that could be connected to spreading the virus [COVID-19]. And right now, throughout all of Japan, well, within what they are calling the third wave of the virus that is coming at us quickly, I was conflicted about whether it was okay for me to compete. However, when considering the World Championships – since the Four Continents has been cancelled – it was absolutely necessary to compete here firstly to qualify for the World Championships, so I feel the decision to compete is for the sake of tying it with my own hopes.
Q: How were your training conditions during the pandemic, and how did you pass the days?
A: Well, everyday I’m alone and practicing without a coach. Also, yes, stuff like aftercare* was difficult too. As much as possible, I’m not in contact with anyone aside from my family. I really did not go out at all. But even so, for me, it was an environment where I could focus on my skating, and I think maybe I was able to get in some good practice.
*T/N: Likely he means aftercare like massages and treatment after exercising etc.
A: It seems if I start worrying about something, I find it easy to enter into a spiral of negative (thoughts). But, since I was alone, I was able to deeply analyze things such as techniques on how to control it when I fall into it. Also, it was a good opportunity to experience how my condition gets worse, or my condition improves, not subject to external factors but originating from myself.
Q: What are the highlights of your programs this season, and the jump layouts?
A: With regards to the free program, the quads are loop and Salchow, and in the later half I plan to put two quad toeloops. In the short program, in the first half it’s the 4S and 4T-3T combination. In the second half I plan to do a back counter 3A.
Q: What would you like to express [in your programs]?
A: In terms of the FS I skated today, of course there is a theme to the story and a story I want to convey, but I truly would like for it to speak to the feelings of the people watching it, or something within themselves, without it being restricted [by my own interpretation]. In regards to the SP, I haven’t skated it yet today but…um, let’s see. If it can make people feel like raising their arms in the air, I would be happy.
A: Well, it was the first day of practice so well, I [did so] while properly confirming my senses/feeling [for the rink/competition]. Well, I don’t think the skating itself has exactly come but I am confirming these one at a time. I skated today’s practice while thinking anew about the best way to get a feel for the ice.
Q: Was it a good feeling to skate to Ballade No. 1?
A: Well, I can only say I will leave that to the impressions of people watching in the audience, but well, I was really nervous today. But I felt again…well, apart from Pyeongchang, it was my first time running through Ballade No. 1 in front of everyone so while being very nervous, I felt like I was once more preparing myself to skate to this program.
Q: What was your reason for changing the programs?
A: Um, I think just with this question, the interview will probably be over. Firstly, at the Grand Prix Final and Japanese Nationals, I think it’s very fun to raise the difficulty [of my layouts], and the happiness at the moment of accomplishing them is immeasurable, but, well… I think the skating I’m aspiring to is not just doing difficult things.
I did Origin, did Otonal, but perhaps it’s not something that fits my rhythm/pace. Firstly, when it comes to technical things, the more I put in difficult elements, the more I neglect the portions of my own skating, and something I hate is separating my mind from the music because I must do so to set up for jumps. A big [factor/reason for the change] was not being able to tolerate that. And also, in terms of music, I selected those pieces Origin and Otonal after the Olympics had finished, when I myself was in a very ambivalent/floating mood, feeling like I was constantly that young boy who was always chasing after Johnny Weir and Plushenko.
Therefore, I think it’s indeed true that the Otonal at Japanese Nationals was good and Skate Canada’s Origin was good but, after all, I was thinking that I could not perfect them as my own performance. Because the ideal was that hard to reach. That ‘ideal’ was probably not me, but I think that of Plushenko-san and Johnny-san’s shadows*. Therefore, when I thought of it, this was not my skating and thought this once more when performing Seimei during Medallist on Ice. When I skated Seimei…well, it’s not really about a cover and original song but I really felt a difference similar to that within myself. Truthfully, Seimei and Ballade No. 1 are kids who, as legend-like records** to be passed down, so if I had been able to, I wanted to let them sleep. But, even so, during Medallist on Ice, when I borrowed their power – and maybe it was because of my mentality at the time – I thought I was able to be myself to a staggering degree. So, yes, for a little while longer, I thought it was okay to borrow the power of these kids, yes.
*literally he says their ‘backs’ were the ideal, essentially the ‘backs’ who he was chasing after or their idealised image in his head, but I’ve taken the liberty to use a more common English expression.
**he uses しまっている which is a suffix usually used to denote something that’s not ideal/good – here it’s attached to 記録を持ってしまっている – holding the records. Our interpretation is that he’s saying it’s almost a bad thing that they have those records because it gives these programs a particular weight because of their ‘legendary’ reputation that he doesn’t want to risk/harm by performing them again.
Q: What’s the degree of completion for your 4A, will you fight with it at the World Championships?
A: U~m… well, if I can’t jump it then I cannot put it in, though I’ll do it if I can. I think I was indeed able to practice it during this month-long period. I haven’t landed it, but somehow or another, I think its condition/shape has gotten better.