Romeo

I used to find the thing with the rhinestones a tad ridiculous, I was like, really? Lace, frills, ruffles, nude details, oh please! But now I totally understand it and what it was supposed to mean, I think.

Of course that costume is so emotionally charged now that it could as well be made of plastic wrap and aluminum foil, but it’s not only that, there’s more.

Hanyu was Romeo for three years in a row. Everyone says it is a Leonardo di Caprio thing but I don’t see Leonardo di Caprio (my limit probably) in Hanyu’s free skating routines, I see the very young, reckless, vulnerable, tragic Romeo from the folio.

For three years we’ve seen this young Romeo skating his heart out to Armstrong and Nino Rota in wild abandon. Nailing huge jumps, mastering otherworldly edges, falling with incredible grace, always ending up breathless and spent, sometimes even limping.

Dead. How many times have we seen Romeo die on stage? We do like it, uh? When Romeo dies on stage. Well, next time you need to see Romeo die in front of you, you head to YouTube and type Hanyu Romeo. You choose one. I particularly like Nice 2012. When I first saw it, I thought his blades where making a noise on the ice I had never heard before.

I love RJ1 because everything was so raw back then. Yes, I love how perfect and imperfect it was at the same time. The next year RJ2 was much more polished of course, but when I saw the new costume at the beginning of the season, I was not happy about it. I was ready for a difficult six-months. Chan still looked unbeatable. Plushenko was hovering over Sochi and between Hanyu and Plushenko I was prepared to root for the best out there. So I really didn’t see the point of a costume that talked about Romeo’s fragility, instead of Romeo’s strength like RJ1 costume used to do. Weren’t we all worried enough already?

I just did not know how strong and determined Hanyu had become in the meanwhile, and I was to discover it around December, when it became clear that in Sochi there would be only one man for me.

That ridiculous costume was starting to make sense. When you can land magnificent quads, when you routinely enter your 3A from a counter turn, when your Ina Bauers make people stop breathing for real and not only metaphorically, not to mention the perfectly centered spins, all those triples in the second half, the alien lines, and you’re Romeo for the third year in a row, then the white lace studded with rhinestones is totally an option.

It’s been a year since Sochi Olympics and I think I no longer need to boycott it. Last year I decided not to cover the Olympics, but of course I watched the competitions, although I tried hard not to modify my schedule in any way to accommodate them.

So when the men’s FS happened I was at my parents’. I was recording it at home, so I merely asked if they didn’t mind a figure skating competition in the background.

For how much figure skating they have witnessed in their lives, my parents are still completely oblivion to the technical aspects. My father is moderately interested in the number of revolutions skaters complete in their spins and jumps and how they don’t get dizzy (although he never really believes my explanations), while my mother definitely knows about interpretation, she has a trained eye, also she’s clearly a natural.

But they are both old school. According to them skaters should never ever fall. My father is a pilot so of course his idea of falling is that of falling from the sky, something you must want to avoid at any cost. While my mother thinks that falling automatically leads to bad interpretation, because nobody can recover mentally from a fall in less than 4 minutes.

I have tried to explain that this obsession for falls has inhibited skaters from attempting quads in competition for decades, factually holding back the evolution of the sport. And we have a new score system now that appreciates a fallen quad as long as it’s fully rotated. And anyway, do you have any idea how many falls my parents have witnessed live during local roller-skating competitions during the Eighties when I was skating myself? Hundreds! Maybe thousands. Yet they never got used to it. They would always go poor girl poor girl.

So the Olympics men’s FS was a terrible competition for them to watch, since everyone was falling and falling hard. My mother was shaking her head all the time. My father was slightly disgusted because the skaters actually looked dizzy.

We watched a few skaters, the competition was dreadful, everyone was stiff, unfocused, terrified, falling and falling and falling again. When Hanyu took the ice. Before the music even started, my mother stopped in the middle of the room and asked who’s that boy.

I answered that’s the best skater we’ve had on the planet so far.

Then Hanyu proceeded to fall on the 4S and my mother froze. I told her did you notice it was a quad? That’s why he fell so hard. The he put both hands down on the 3F, he landed a couple of other jumps shakily and in general his delivery was slower that usual. Yet my mother, who had never seen Hanyu skate before, remained glued to the tv.

When Romeo died, and please note that unlike RJ1 in RJ2 he doesn’t stab himself at the very end, but before the final spin, so he’s dying during that long spin, which is exactly how you feel at that point, at that point my mother took refuge in the kitchen muttering poor boy poor boy so amazing.

I am not new to losing a competition, both as an athlete (I was losing all the time) and as a fan, so I can still hold the fort while looking relatively clam. I patiently remained seated and watched Patrick Chan through narrow eyes. He landed the quad-triple combination perfectly and my hear sank. The he fell here in there, and he looked so heavy, it was perfectly clear he could never ever wear lace. I swear I did not grin. I never root against, it’s bad karma. But I shouted through the kitchen’s door he’s not a poor boy you know, he’s the best skater we’ve had on the planet so far.

When my mother was back Chan’s scores where out and I said well the poor boy won. I confess I said it with a smirk. My mother stared at the tv in disbelief.

– Did he? But he fell!

– Well, he fell less than the others did, live with it

I can be very cynical, but my mother secretly thinks that a competition should be invalidated when everyone falls, so don’t count on common sense here.

I really don’t remember what they showed on tv right after Chan’s scores. I was too busy taking in how happy my mother was that Hanyu, a skater she knew nothing about just half an hour before, had just won the Olympics. Now every time I see Peter Liebers, who skated a pleasant routine just after Hanyu, I remember the cheer.

But there’s a video on YouTube with Hanyu in the backstage watching Chan on a small tv e staring blankly at his scores, with a hundred photographers around and there’s this guy who points at him, meaning hey, you won, you’re an Olympic gold now. And Hanyu, in his white lace and pink and green rhinestones, asks in that high-pitched voice that always comes out when he tries to speak English (completely different from his own voice when he speaks Japanese):

– I’m the fistr?

A Japanese Romeo sometimes struggles with consonantic clusters.

So you see, I cannot help loving the thing with the rhinestones now.

Sochi Olympics Figure Skating

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