After one week of watching and re-watching recordings and clips of the ISU Grand Prix Final, especially those with myself in it, I have come to the conclusion that I’m too calm and composed, as a fan. I should have definitely cheered louder. Not to mention Pooh. My Pooh-pitching was laughable, it ended up at the feet of the medical team (mental note, there was a medical team right next to the ice, this was very reassuring, after last year’s Cup of China). Thank you ladies of the medical team for handing my Pooh to the flowers girls, and sorry again.
So, I need to cheer louder, but not if Javi is next to skate (after his SP you can see Yuzu turns right to ask the public to be silent, well, that was exactly were I was, so I shut up and rushed back to my seat). I need to find more aerodynamic Poohs and I need to practice pitching them more effectively.
But first things first. When I bought the plane and event tickets for the ISU GPF in was still July. Yeah, I was pretty sure it was going to be a major, defining moment for the entire discipline. Am I superstitious? Not at all.
So I was feeling slightly delirious while packing for Barcelona.
When I entered the hotel lobby an entire synchro team was coming down the stairs and two ladies with a full-event pass around their neck were waiting for the lift. I could not book the Princess hotel of course, where the athletes were staying, but I was still able to the get the other hotel five minutes down the road.
The person at the lobby looked terribly bored though. She welcomed me this way:
“Are you here for the skiing?”
To which I replied:
I did not want to upset here. She had that “whatever” in her eyes.
It was Thursday night and despite me being the goddess of figure skating divination and everything, I was pretty nervous about the Men’s competition. Everyone was. Even Eteri Tutberizte looked nervous, she was sitting in the next cluster of seats chewing a gum. It’s true that she never smiles. Nobu Sato smiles sometimes. She never does.
So, Hanyu goes around with two bodyguards, each carrying a mysterious trolley, Kikuchi-san with the indispensable mat, Kobayashi-san plus two other Japan Federation ladies, and Orser hugging Pooh-san.
When Hanyu’s SP score was announced I had already returned to my seat, upon Hanyu’s kind request, and nobody seemed to realized it was a new world record. It took a few moments to sink it. This kind of things always hit differently live, we were all in the zone.
Long after that, outside the CCIB, we waited and waited at some sort of stage door until Hanyu appeared, entourage in tow. He waved a bit before heading to the hotel, he was clearly giving space to Javi who was out next together with Brian Orser. Orser signs autographs like a rockstar. Javi loves photos apparently. Then we all walked together to the traffic lamp and we crossed the road to the hotel, under the puzzled eyes of the riot control unit which was there for our safety, presumably, but could nothing for our mental health.
The next morning, we saw a kingfisher at the park. A naked man running along the beach, with water at his loins. We had beer and tapas before noon (call it jetlag). Also we went for a coffee at the bar of the Princess like actual stalkers (nobody complained though and we were served some very nice coffee, recommended).
The practice was celestial. I’m not a fan of transcendence in general, but the practice was heavenly. Up until Patrick Chan made eye contact while I was standing next to the ice, that was totally creepy.
If you plan to visit Barcelona, or any art city really, please don’t do that after going to an elite figure skating practice. You will be totally useless and you’ll find yourself sleepwalking back to the ice rink in no time.
Anyway. Day after day the riot control unit was more depressed (they were probably missing the war, like John Watson), security at the door kind of stopped complaining about our water bottles (metal, too heavy), the people guarding our sector became less strict so I was allowed very close to the ice a couple of times.
That’s me inside the green circle, at the Men’s medal ceremony (credit to Inside Skating)
Some skaters are exactly like they look on tv, while others are not. Boyan Jin is actually smaller, even scrawny, but he is also more entertaining. Same for Medvedeva, she’s so small, but she is beautiful and we should treasure this special moment before she has to go through the unforgiving transition of growing up a figure skater, ie having to relearn the jumps because of wider hips. Chan’s eyes are bigger, they’re so big and scary that each time he was on the giant screen the Canadian guy next to me gave out a nervous laugh. Even the other guy, the one with the backpack full of all the flags so he could cheer for all the skaters alike was a bit less cheery with Chan.
Chan’s SP was so terrible that I felt bad for him. That had never happened before, so it counts as an effect of being there in person. I felt sorry for him, which actually made me feel worse because pitying athletes is worse than simply rooting against them. He even looked scared during practice. So I was happy to see a good FS from him, it was a nice skate. Technically average nowadays, but artistically remarkable. I was glad he delivered a decent FS to erase that uncomfortable pity I was feeling for him, but then he also delivered one of his snarky interviews to the Canadian press about Hanyu, so now I’m back despising him again.
“At the end of the day, he’s pretty much maxed out. What we see today, what we saw at NHK, that’s the best he can do. Whereas this is just my base and I’m building on it. I’m in a whole different strategy plan than he is. I’m not going to try and compare each other because I don’t think we’re on equal terms.’’
And this is the statement of a skater who doesn’t even have a technical coach because he thinks he’s too good to need one.
Other skaters who look different in person. I have to admit Zhang and Peng look better in tv close-ups than live from a distance, I love them, but they don’t cover the ice like I was expecting. Shoma on the contrary, covers the ice magnificently, better than on tv. The Shibutanis were very good. Normally I don’t care much about the Shibutanis but I really enjoy their programs and performances this year. Poor Alex looked like he was going to throw up right after the FS, Lord Grantham style. He seems fine enough in the recordings, but he was actually deadly pale and clearly sick. Alex, you were fantastic out there! Get well soon! [waves]
Oh, the guy from NHK is really tall! He was at the kiss&cry and he’s definitely taller and also kind of handsome I have to admit.
As for the synchro, it’s better in person, but it will never be as exciting as roller skating synchro is. It’s the only competition were roller figure skating is superior to ice figure skating, because the “heaviness” of wheels can be made into an element of the choreography. Personally, I liked Nexxice best. It’s interesting to note that Brian Orser watched the entire Nexxice practice.
Back to the next practice and to the FS, I think it is safe to declare Seimei amazing. I saw Seimei three times in two days, what else can I say.
You watched it on tv. Personally, I was right next to the kiss&cry, together with some very nice Japanese ladies and Japanese kids looking at Hanyu with very wide eyes. This gave me excellent opportunities to use my domo arigatou gozaimaaas and sumimasen. After the FS Javi hugged Kikuchi-san and they smiled a lot, he hugged Hanyu and Hanyu bowed his head and his legs gave way a little and they laughed.
It was all about the performance. The Men’s competition faded away a little, not because of Hanyu’s commanding score in the SP, but because of the way Hanyu was carrying himself. It’s something you see sometimes in accomplished ballet dancers, when they perform in contemporary works. A sense of mastering the stage.
We were all hopelessly delirious, especially me as you can see.
The gala was something. It was so funny, especially Boyang Jin with the terrible trousers and Medevedeva with her irresistible music choices. But then Requiem was devastating and at the end they were all jumping like crazy. Hanyu did the quad loop in front of me then he proceeded to convince Javi to jump and I couldn’t hear the words but I was very close and the gestures were pretty clear so this is their imaginary conversation:
Yuzu – Go! Jump! It’s your public.
Javi – I can’t, I’m wearing this bulky hoody
Yuzu – Unzip it! Take it off.
Javi – But…
After the gala we met Patrick Chan in the street. A couple of girls were asking for autographs but I looked on.
We were really hungry so we headed to the shopping mall next to the CCIB to fetch some food. It was crowded, everyone was loud, and apparently local women have a very small personal space, they touch you while you’re queuing up together (at least men don’t do that). I have a huge personal space and I’m claustrophobic, so I slowly started hyperventilating. Before I could reach the exit of that hellish place I was crying a bit, so I had to sit down on a bench, with kids running around me and screaming. Apparently I can handle Saigon, I feel great in Shinjuku, I enjoy a game at the Yankee Stadium, but I can’t handle the proxemics of a Spanish shopping mall on a Sunday afternoon. Being indoors really sucks. I finally succeeded in reaching the outside, so I went to stand in a quiet corner. It takes me at least half an hour to stop hyperventilating so I had time to have a good look around and so I noticed that the fans had gone home while the skaters had changed clothes and were chilling out outside the Princess. Kobayashi-san and the other people from the Japan Federation were chatting next to me. Later Radford joined me, followed by Poje and they started texting. Meagan Duhamel arrived in jeans and tshirt. Luca Lanotte passed by, together with a stunning girl I don’t know. Then the Russian girls, Medvedeva, Tsurskaya, Radionova, maybe heading to the beach.
At some point a cab stopped right in front of me. Kikuchi-san emerged, followed by Hanyu’s mom (she’s tall and smart), followed by Hanyu himself. He looked around, smiled, waved to everyone and simply walked to the hotel entrance.
I was left there, smiling and waving stupidly.