Yuzuru Hanyu. Star of the show. Sometimes removed from the rest of the world by a language barrier.
At Skate Canada International this week, the Japanese media – who do understand him of course – liven up the place and fill it up too. There are at least 90 media accredited for this event, most of them Japanese. Out back, there are three enormous television trucks, all from Japan. The little one in back is for TSN/CTV, the host broadcaster.
On Thursday night after a men’s practice, the final one of the day, Hanyu held court in the mixed zone to a group of intrepid Japanese reporters. He spoke, of course, in Japanese. And this is what he said, through translation:
Asked about his stamina (especially in light of his performance at Autumn Classic in Montreal a few weeks ago), Hanyu said his issues weren’t so much about stamina, but that he just wasn’t really able to do the jumps accurately with the music. And in the weeks since, that is what he has paid most attention to.
Granted, he was really annoyed with himself for missing elements at Autumn Classic, but once that dust cleared, he promised himself that he will shed his skin. There is a Japanese expression about shedding one’s skin to renew oneself. We have it too. But Hanyu told himself that he would shed 20 to 30 skins. So far, he admits he has shed only one. In other words, there is room to shred further. (So look out, fellow men’s competitors.)
He also promised himself that he would practice to prevent making any sort of mistakes at all. He can’t promise that he wouldn’t. It would be chocolate ice cream if he could. But he’ll work towards it with a ferocity. Every time he practices, he searches for points to improve.
And what about the ground-breaking quad loop? Yes, it has a higher base value than the two different quads he’s done before, the toe loop and the Salchow. Every little bit helps, after all. But Hanyu just considers it one more quad to add to his arsenal. The key is not just adding a jump that is more difficult, but to add a variety of quads. The more quads you have, the less likely you will be subject to the penalty of repeating them, he said.
“All quads are difficult to me,” he said. “It’s just a different type of quad that I can add to my repertoire.”
Hanyu said he’s getting accustomed to the mental and physical energy required to do four quads in a long program. But for now, his focus is only on doing two quads in his short program today (Friday.) Then he’ll turn his attention to the quartet of quads.
Hanyu was smiling and engaging until he was asked the final question: “What do you think of Shoma Uno?” Of course, Uno won Skate America last week with a quad flip that is deemed more difficult than what Hanyu does. Hanyu has not performance a quad flip – yet.
Was Uno a new rival? Hanyu was asked. (From his own country, no less.)
Hanyu said, his face changing: “Uno is not my only rival. Obviously, if you talk about the flip, Boyang Jin does the quad Lutz. And he also does different quads and more quads. And if you talk about quads, you have to mention Nathan Chen [who does five in his free.]
“I don’t want to talk about who is my rival,” Hanyu said. “I am my only rival.”
The men’s short program is late on Friday night.