Holidays are so sparse, short and hyperbusy that I forget how it feels to have an entire day all to myself with only basic chores to be accomplished.
Today I was left with three solid hours in hand of plain nothing. It felt exotic.
I spent it mostly watching clips from the recent ISU Grand Prix while having indigo on my hair. You know, I really deserve some fangirling because when I was genuinely young the fangirling was nearly impossible. You try it without internet, without any computer connection, without a computer at all, with the sole technological support of a colour tv set (without a VCR obviously) and a land line in the corridor. Believe me, it was very very hard.
One day (it was 1990 or maybe 1991 or something), while watching tv, friend F. inadvertently developed a crush for Philippe Candeloro during the Euros, so she called me on the land line because she knew I was into figure skating and a former skater myself. She said she had gone to the newsstand and asked for a magazine about figure skating only to discover that no such thing existed so she wanted to ask me what shall she do. I sighed through the land line, standing in the corridor, then I told her that the only thing she could do was waiting for the next international competition to come around and make sure to be home that day and close to a tv set with her eyes peeled and prepared to burn everything into her memory. I told her that she was lucky because Worlds were only two months away (only Euros and Worlds were broadcasted in Italy back then and there was no way to know the results of Skate Canada or Skate America before the Euros, during Euros the journalists would read out the results and that was it). So friend F. waited for the Worlds, and after that season she decided to never watch figure skating ever again because you can’t live with only two competitions a year and all those feels.
Then came the VCR, then came the animated gifs.
Then came the mines, then came the ore
Then there was the hard times, then there was a war
Telegraph sang a song about the world outside
Telegraph road got so deep and so wide
Like a rolling river
Sorry, I got carried away a little, I was a huge Dire Straits fan back then. Being on holiday is exhilarating.
Anyway, some 20 years later I happened to see Philippe Candeloro (who I never liked particularly) in an ice show so I told friend F.
So the Grand Prix is still a big deal to me because I wasn’t able to watch it for half of my life (it didn’t even exist when I was young, Skate Canada and Skate America were separated events) and now I can watch it endlessly and even attend to it in person if I want. Still I wasn’t ready for the Grand Prix we got this year. You know, the first season after the Olympics is supposed to start slow, be understated, experimental, stuffed with reasonably good skaters trying to take advantage while the medals are home enjoying some deserved rest.
You’re not supposed to see blood running, not metaphorically, let alone real blood.
Oh how much I had underestimated Yuzuru Hanyu. My bad. The signs were there, they have been there for years (feel free to check my tags and categories), I know the signs. You should never underestimate a skater, any skater, who routinely does a counter turn into a 3A for no apparent reason outside showing off and gaining a little bit of extra GOE/components. Never. Repeat with me, I shall never underestimate a skater, any skater, who does a counter turn into a 3A for no apparent reason outside showing off and gaining a little bit of extra GOE/components.
Of course Yuzuru Hanyu is the only one who does that.
That entrance is and remains the hottest thing I have ever seen performed on an ice rink. He changes it from time to time and I taste the small, delightful differences. At the GPF in Barcelona (min. 2:18). Try it. Have you ever skated? Do you have a corridor? Go to the corridor, do a counter into a waltz jump and then a spread eagle out and feel it.
Just to remind you that Hanyu has recently turned 20, so he is of drinking age in his own country and we can now use words such as hot in the same web content where he appears, it is perfectly legal.
What I mean here is that I wasn’t emotionally ready for this Grand Prix. I was pretty busy this Autumn and I was mostly watching the Zusammenfassungen on Eurosport DE. Then at the CoC things went scary and I was left shocked and speechless, initially because he could not stand up after the collision and it took forever for the medical staff to get to him, then because of all the blood, then because of the gauze, later on the nearly fainting, generally the haunted eyes and all the medical updates in Japanese when I only know the kanji for Yen.
As much as I tried my best to rationalize the whole thing when it was still raw, it’s really not supposed to be like that and we know.
The GPF was incredible. Honestly, the last time I found a competition so emotionally charged, it was the Albertville Olympics. Luckily VCRs had appeared by then so I do have the recordings and I pore over them regularly, but I’m so skilled at burning routines into my memory anyway, that I can picture the young Petrenko in my mind whenever I want, to the point that when I saw him at last, at an ice show a few years ago, I was able to recognize him off ice, in his sweatsuit and sneakers, literally at the other side of the ice palace, while he was practicing a perfect 3A in a darkened corridor leading to the the warm up zone. It could have been anybody but I was so sure it was him, because of the way he carried his shoulders, and then it was him of course.
Apart from Hanyu’s nearly perfect routines at the GPF in Barcelona (ok they were extraordinary), I was highly impressed by the way Fernandez dealt with the pressure, rising from a bad SP to perform a fantastic LP and gain silver. I also saw an amazing Tuktamisheva, who overcame her difficult road to Sochi to grow into the beautiful and confident skater she is now, but then again, she was looking great already last summer, when I went to see her practicing at the Mishin summer camp. I felt sorry for Zhang Peng, because they make such an odd and beautiful couple, and happy for Cizeron Papadakis, they’re a joy to watch.
I loved the way Hanyu and Fernanded made this team Orser so shiny, supportive and powerful. Just look at the medal ceremony and the gala.
Dear Brian Orser, every time I see you, with that Pooh you carry around for Yuruzu, what I see is 1985. Remember 1985 Brian? We were enemies back then. I would practice my Axel in the corridor next to the land line, you would do the same, only in Tokyo and with three rotations. And in that electric blue outfit of yours, on weird ice frozen in stripes by mistake. I never really landed an Axel of course, but then again, you know it’s much more difficult in roller skating. Anyway, the reason why we were enemies was Alexander Fadeed. Yes, it was because of Sasha. Alexanduru as they say in Japan. Oh rest assured I also detested Kurt Browning for the same Sasha reason, but in the end I could not find in me to root against Victor Petrenko, because of the way he carried his shoulders. I loved that so much that even now I can recognize him in a darkened corridor at the other side of the ice palace. But I will also admit that I was also supporting Hamilton and Boitaino . And now I have the guts to smile happily in front of team Orser. But you had Cincinnati, and Calgary of course, and here we are now, on the same side, it’s bee a long journey, hasn’t it. I have a huge respect for your silver. And nowadays the ice is far better in Japan and we have Twitter. It feels good being here, on the same side. Against Morozov.
I may not be a competitive person myself, but I do understand strong individuality. When this interview came out where Yuzuru Hanyu describes himself as not particularly modest and having a greedy personality obsessed with winning, I knew exactly what he was talking about. He wants a perfect routine for the next Olympics, which will make the history of the sport. And before that he wants to win everything as long as he can stand on his skates, which means that nasty collisions and major earthquakes can slow him down a little but only as much. I wonder if he knows he’s already making the history of the sport.
I wonder if he thinks that maybe the Sochi gold was undeserved because his routine was flawed (but still the best out there) and because he didn’t get to compete against Plushenko (obviously not his fault). It certainly isn’t a competition I like to talk about. I hated Sochi, mainly because it was one giant Putin stunt. I hate that Putin burnt Lipnitskaia for his greed forcing her to compete in both team and individual. I hate that Putin carries around Plushenko like one of the wild animals he likes to ride. I hate that Plushenko is enduring countless surgeries to let him. But I am also aware that he’s not doing that for Putin, he’s doing that for the same reason Yuzuru Hanyu deems reasonable to skate in a bloodied costume to win a medal in a minor competition (because he still won silver half an hour after that collision of course). And I’m here for that very same reason after all.
But I still hate seeing those acupuncture plasters on the skin. Can you see them? No, I don’t hate it really, I’m a shiatsuka. But I see, beyond the rhinestones, I know, and I worry.
Now the Fernandez chapter. To be completely honest, I used to have mixed feelings about Javier. As it happens, I despise Morozor, especially as a choreographer, so I tend to have problems with his students even when they are good, and Fernandez is excellent. So when he left Morozov I started to look at him with different eyes, but then he said that irritating thing just before Sochi (and Sochi was irritating enough already), that his advice to gay athletes in Sochi was to keep a low profile, something Morozov would say. It really took this bromance with Yuzuru Hanyu to make me appreciate Fernandez, and the romance with fantastic Miki Ando (a former Morozov student herself) we’ve discovered last month. Now I couldn’t have hoped for a better podium in Barcelona.
And it’s Japan nationals already in a few days in Nagano.