Patrick Chan’s new plan of attack

It’s as if Patrick Chan is sweating his way through a nightmare. Just as he is about to grasp the golden ring, it slips out of his reach. He’s running as fast as he can but it feels like slow motion, as his opponents pull away. We know how it feels, when the bottom suddenly falls out of a dream.

He says that feeling was most true last season, when he made his comeback after a couple of years of doing shows and was taken aback by the new crazy quad world. He had thought that Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu had been hitting the limits of men’s skaters at the Sochi Games. How wrong he was. Hanyu, with his little hips, and inherent ability to rotate like a top, was only starting to push it. And he pushed it more while Chan was gone.

Now Chan feels as if he’s catching up, sort of. He’s had to. He originally never dreamed that he would be including a quad Salchow in a program, but the headlong race to the quad in the men’s event has driven Chan to a new level. However, even with the extra quad, he’s going to have to skate clean short and long programs to make a dent on his competitors,  because he still falls short of the technical arsenal of the others. Although Chan has the best skating skills in the world, it’s the quads that plop the biggest points into the basket.

So at Four Continents last month, Chan found himself watching the top three skaters of the long program while sitting in the green room – that place where the ISU puts them so television cameras can record them squirming – and it changed his strategy for the world championships in Helsinki, Finland next week.

“It was mind-blowing, what these guys were doing, technically,” he said.

It was also interesting for him, just to watch them skate. He never had. He’d always been in the lineup, perhaps after some of the top three. He had never watched their programs from beginning to end, all three of them: Hanyu, Nathan Chen, Shoma Uno.

“It was great to see,” he said. But what he saw was that he was “at a great disadvantage technically.”

Winner Nathan Chen – with whom Chan trained briefly at the beginning of the season – squashed his opposition with five quads and a stunning final score of 307.46, almost 40 points more than Chan. Hanyu had stumbled in the short program but felt a moment of triumph after his long and a frothy mark of 303.71. But he skated before Chen and the wind went out of his sales when he saw the unassuming, matter-of-fact American kid lay it down. He doesn’t like to lose. At all. Current Japanese champion Shoma Uno fell twice and dropped to third with 288.05, still about 20 points more than Chan.

“It was eye-opening,” said Chan, who fell on two of his three quads in the long. Chan finished fourth in the free, fourth overall. On the outside, looking in. Believe it or not, Chan is the reigning Olympic silver medalist from 2014. Hanyu had skated badly, leaving the door wide open. Chan had skated worse.

Yes, Chan felt frustrated about this most recent test. The results made him want to hold a meeting with his coaches, immediately, on the spot, to figure out how to combat what happened. Eventually they did meet, and the week after Four Continents, Chan flipped around some of the elements in his long program, and changed up some combination passes to improve his chances for next week.

Chan keeps his opening tour-de-force, the quadruple toe loop – triple toe loop, that he enters with the speed and drama of a freight train. The quadruple Salchow becomes the second jump now instead of the third. This, his newest jump, which has evaded him this season in many competitions (as it did at Four Continents) switches places with the triple Axel.

The triple Axel, now third in the parade, gets a facelift because it will become a jump series: a triple Axel – loop – triple Salchow. It had been a jump combination with a triple toe loop in the second half of the program.

Now, Chan will turn a lonely triple Lutz late in the routine into a triple Lutz – double toe loop  combination (now his second-last jump), great for second-half points. There will be a sole triple Axel and a quad toe loop in the second half, too. Finally, there will be a triple flip and a tripe loop.

“We gave it [the quad Salchow] as many chances as we could to see how consistent the layout was,” Chan said. “But it didn’t’ seem consistent enough. We thought it was logical to try a different order.”

“And I decided that I’ve lost out on quite a few points just on not having completed enough combinations,” he said. “I didn’t fill my combination bracket.”

The new arrangement will give Chan slightly higher point totals, but that wasn’t really the full intent of the change. “It was more just to allow myself a new approach and maybe the possibility of having the jumps become more successful” in the heat of competition, he said.

Couldn’t he really be doing something else with his time, instead of chasing something that younger skaters are increasingly capable of? He’s a bright guy. He doesn’t need this craziness.

“We are at a point now where it’s crazy,” he said. But he admits, it’s true. It’s hitting the nail on the head to say he could be opening up a rink in Vancouver to teach skaters or to become part of the finance world, or to do anything. Chan said he’s had many more options for his future opening up to him in the months leading up to the Pyeongchang Olympics than he did before Sochi.

But hope springs eternal. The battle doesn’t halt Chan. It spurs him on. His new sports psychologist has set things in perspective. “It does get to a point where it’s frustrating, where I’m running as fast as I can, but they are just creeping away from me,” he said. “It doesn’t help seeing other people have success. Or to be in the spot that I used to be in.”

So Chan has had to separate the raw emotions of the moment, from the logical thought of tackling the fight at hand. He can’t worry about those other guys. He got his plan of attack for the world championships.

He’s miles ahead of where he was at his first world championship back – at Boston a year ago. He has more confidence and a tougher list of elements. “Last year, I think there was always a lingering doubt that I was behind the eight ball, compared to the other guys,” he said. Coach Marina Zoueva said last year her most important task was to instill confidence in him.

It’s all been worth it, he says. He’s surprised himself at what he has been able to do. Where this will all take him, we shall see next week. Next year? Perhaps two quads in the short program. He can always dream (or plan), can’t he?

The quad fest at Four Continents

Is Nathan Chen for real? Has he been bundled onto earth somehow by a shiny space ship bearing gifts? Is he the lottery ticket somebody lost, then pulled triumphantly out of a drawer?  Is this all a fairy tale?

Injured after last year’s U.S. nationals, Chen was competing at only his second major international event (Grand Prix Final last December, when he took the silver medal behind Hanyu, was his first), at the Four Continents championships, the Olympic test event in Korea this past week. He’s only 17. A little more than a year ago, Chen competed on the Junior Grand Prix circuit. He won the Junior Grand Prix Final, a little spark of greatness.

Yet he’s seized the pre-Olympic buzz by the throat. And after winning on the weekend in an epic battle with defending Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, he’ll have the best of memories to take back with him to Pyeongchang a year from now. The rest are all now racing to catch up. And believe me, they will be racing.

The Four Continents promised to be the quad contest beyond all quad contests, with Boyang Jin of China and the American Chen offering up five quads – and Hanyu for the first time trying five – while Shoma Uno of Japan and Kevin Reynolds of Canada attempted four. None were perfect. The risk is beyond the pale.

Just how did Chen and his quiet confidence win his gold medal?

He didn’t actually win the long program. Hanyu did. But Chen put distance between them by winning the short program, while Hanyu doubled a quad Salchow and landed third, 6.08 points behind. It’s a classic case of how important the short program can be. You can’t load it up with everything you can do, but if you miss something, you’re at a disadvantage.

While Hanyu defeated Chen by 2.33 points in the free, it wasn’t enough for gold. Chen still had enough space left to win by 3.75 points.

Hanyu defeated Chen in the free on the strength of his component mark, because Chen actually won the technical mark: 115.48 to Hanyu’s 112.33.

Hanyu won the component mark with 94.34 points, while Patrick Chan was second in this category with 92.58, Uno third with 91.08 and Chen fourth with 88.86, just ahead of the divine Jason Brown at 85.72. Alas, Brown, injured earlier this season, had to dump an uncertain quad from his repertoire. Still, with excellent skating, Brown finished sixth in the free and sixth overall.

Chen also had to face having to skate last, waiting 40 minutes after the warmup to go out onto the ice – and when he did go, the crowd rained down numerous sorts of Pooh things in celebration of a skate Hanyu would have deemed gold worthy on any other day. Still, Chen shrugged it off. Took it like a pro.

“Skating after Yuzu is obviously kind of exciting, so it’s great to be able to skate after that,” he said. “With the whole Winnie the Pooh situation, it’s something that I can’t change. But it was something that I was expecting. I just waited until everything was cleared, got on the ice and did everything I needed to do. I had plenty of time to do what I needed to do, so it wasn’t too much of a struggle for me.” He doesn’t seem to sweat the small stuff. Others can turn that into big stuff.

Let’s compare quad to quad, because who doesn’t want to do that in such a contest?

Of Hanyu’s five quads, he landed the quad loop, (a money maker, earning him 2.14 bonus points for 14.14 points), a quad Salchow (11.93 with bonus), he doubled a quad Salchow in combination with a single loop (ouch, only 1.92 points), a quad toe (13.19)  and finally late in the game, a quad toe –double toe (for 13.90 points, and he didn’t maximize his GOE, with a lot of +1s.)

In fact, Hanyu didn’t earn as many high GOE points as usual, and there were no marks at all of 10.00 for components.

The triple Axel is one of his best jumps and he racked up 16.51 points for a triple-triple combo, and a solo triple Axel worth 11.78. We’ve seen him do a triple Axel – loop – triple Salchow in the past – a real point getter – but it wasn’t in this routine, obviously dropped for the fifth quad.

All in all, Hanyu earned 55.08 points for his quad attempts.

Chen opened up with an astonishingly brilliant and difficult quad Lutz – triple toe loop, which earned him a whopping 20.33 points, followed it up with a very nice quad flip (14.73 points), a common old quad toe loop (9.79, because he turned out of it), a quad toe loop – double toe loop (12.03, with the quad landed a little forward) and a quad Salchow (12.84).

Chen landed more quads than triples. (So did Hanyu). But two of Chen’s four triples were Axels, one in combination with a couple of double toe loops. He turned after both triple Axels. Yes, there were bobbles throughout the routine. He managed huge GOEs only after his opening quad combination, his quad flip and his straightline footwork, which was level four.

His quad pointage: 69.72.

Hanyu did five jumps after the half-way mark and three of them were to be quads. This is an onslaught of point-maximizing, if it all works out. Chen did four, with only one a quad. (Let’s give him a break: he’s only 17 and relatively new at this!)

As for Shoma Uno, the bronze medalist, who is actually the Japanese champion because Hanyu missed the event because of flu (extra point to be made, Hanyu hadn’t competed in two months.) also did five jumps in the second half, two of them quads.

He opened up with his new jump, a triple loop (lots of bonus marks for this one at 14.43), a quad flip (14.59), a quad toe loop, which he turned out of, not allowing him to do a double toe at the end (10.79) and a quad toe – double toe loop, because he bravely turned a solo jump into a combo (for 14.05). He fell on both of his triple Axel combinations, losing huge points. And both of them had been in the second half.

Uno’s quad count?  53.86 points.

Boyang Jin? He’s the one that started the quad rush, having unleashed four at the Grand Prix Final and at the world championships last year. But rarely does he get GOEs higher than +1 for anything he does.

The free program in Pyengchang was riddled with problems. Jin landed only one of his five quads cleanly. His opening quad Lutz – triple toe loop was okay, but the Lutz was landed with a break in the waist (18.33); he stepped out of a quad Salchow (8.96); he underrotated and fell on a quad loop (4.40); he fell on a quad toe loop (7.33); and he landed a quad toe loop – double toe loop, but had a hand down on the quad. (11.56). All in all, the big risks he took got him a quad count of only 50.58. If he made mistakes, they were on his quads. Still, he has the third highest technical points, over Uno.

The base value of Jin’s jumps was a whopping 106.18, just shy of Nathan Chen, but he couldn’t maximize them. Jin’s component score was 77.44, well behind that of Hanyu. Jin ended up fifth in the free, and sixth overall, just nipped by Patrick Chan by .47 points.

Chan, fourth with a free skate score of 179.52, well below his best, and a final score of 267.98, attempted three quads but fell on two: his new quad Salchow and the quad toe loop. He did land his opening quad toe loop – triple toe loop to a huge roar from the crowd. It earned him a lofty 17.17 points. His triple Axel that followed – a jump that used to be his nemesis – flew, getting five +3s for 11.07. He underroated the quad Salchow, and got chump change for his two flawed quads. He also stepped out of a triple Lutz, meant to be a big combo. Thinking on his feet, he tacked the end part of that combo onto a triple flip that followed.

He says he needs more snap off the ice into his jumps, and he’ll work on it.

Kevin Reynolds attempted four quads, but tripled the first one, a quad Salchow; underrotated and fell on the quad toe, did land a quad Salchow, but it was underrotated, and he also underrotated the second quad toe. He was assessed one fall. But the miscues (four underrotations) riddled his technical mark. He was 12th in the free and 12th overall.

Reynolds said it was tough mentally to overcome his rough opening, and then with each mistake, he got bogged down further. “You lose your energy and your focus,” he said. He’ll regroup for the world championships on his routine that is “a minefield of technical difficulty that we have to do in the free program now.”

His teammate, Nam Nguyen, who finished behind him at the Canadian championship, ended up eighth overall, with three quads planned. He landed the first one, a quad toe loop, but undrerotated and fell on a quad Salchow. He did land an ambitious quad Salchow – double toe loop – double loop in the second half, good for 15.25 points. Nguyen had the fifth highest technical points (92.57) of the free skate, with much lower component marks (72.52). He was seventh in the free skate, with season’s bests in the free and the total score.

“It’s been a while to see that SB next to my score,” he said, after a season in which he changed coaches twice. “It’s special to me, although it’s not very high compared to the other skaters.” He won’t be going to the world championships, but said he’s been working on a quad flip and “it’s getting there.”

Chen hadn’t intended to do five quads in the free at all this year. He’d done it at U.S. nationals because things had been going so well during the skate. And so he kept it up for Four Continents. “The amount of quads I put into a program in a particular season is relative to how my body is adapting to training, how it’s adapting to competition and what the other skaters are doing,” he said. He said Hanyu pushed him, not only with jumps, but with artistry, too.

“He really kind of started that huge quad craze when we were younger,” he said. “We were all struggling to get our triples and do triple-triples and he was out there doing four quads in a long. I think that really motivated all of us junior skaters to start working on these quads and putting them into the programs. It’s really showing up now that we are senior skaters.”

In other words, Hanyu has started something that will come back to haunt him, much like Patrick Chan did, after starting the trend back to quads following the 2010 Olympics, won without a quad. Now he’s chasing younger skaters, too.

At podium time, Hanyu admitted he felt envious of Chen. But with what the American had accomplished, Hanyu said: “I felt like I want to congratulate him from the bottom of my heart.”

Despite all the accolades he’s earned, this is Hanyu’s third silver medal at Four Continents.

“It’s hard to predict what is going to happen between now and the Olympics,” Hanyu said. “You never know who is going to do another quad.” As we have seen during the past year, things can change quickly. New faces could bound right up the ladder.

And it’s not stopping. Over the weekend, and overshadowed by the Four Continents, was the Bavarian Open in Germany. Canada’s little gem, Stephen Gogolev won an advanced novice competition by landing the second quad Salchow of his life. And he’s 12 years old.

And just for fun, Jason Brown:

Chan’s game plan in the face of all quads

About 3 ½ months ago, at Skate Canada International, Patrick Chan felt the heaviness in his legs during the long program and wondered why.

Yes, he won the gold medal at Skate Canada last fall by almost four points over Yuzuru Hanyu, but it hadn’t gone as well as hoped in the free skate for the three-time world champion from Canada, who is still putting his puzzle together before Pyeongchang.

Hanyu had defeated Chan in the free skate by about seven points, even with a fall on a quad loop and having doubled a quad Salchow. But Chan fell on his new quad Salchow, then doubled some jumps at the end of his long program, as his legs dragged him away from winning that segment. Chan’s components saved him that day. He out-footed Hanyu by about three points for the artistic side. Hanyu defeated him in the free by 10 points.

Chan spoke the next day to Elvis Stojko about the heavy feeling in his legs, and Stojko gave him advice on conserving NO energy while training, so that when stresses of big competitions befell him, he’d have something in reserve.

But Chan also began to consider something else: a sports psychologist. Even though he is 26 years old, has competed at two Olympics and seven world championships and is a nine-time Canadian champion, he’s never had one.

After a practice at Skate Canada, his coach Marina Zoueva asked him if he knew any breathing exercises to combat the tightness he felt in his upper body that seemed to drain the strength from his core. He didn’t. And then he began to think that he should. “It doesn’t hurt to try everything,” he said. “I don’t want to leave any stone unturned.”

Judy Goss, Skate Canada’s go-to sport psychologist, recommended that Chan see Scott Goldman at the University of Michigan, only a 20-minute drive from the rink at which he trains. Goldman is a director of high performance psychology at the university, with a history of athletic enhancement, and confidence building. All good stuff for Chan.

Chan met with Goldman just before the Canadian championships and had great opportunities to try out some tools, especially since he had to deal with long waits to compete: he always skated last. His calm coach Oleg Epstein told Chan he had 40 minutes before he was to skate after he came off the warmup. Chan didn’t hurry to take off his skates. Then he found a table, climbed aboard and began some breathing exercises, accompanied by some visualization. There is no exact science to this, no defined formula to stave off unproductive thoughts.

Mind you, it wasn’t an extremely high pressure situation at the event in Ottawa, because Chan led by 10 points going into the free skate. And he knew there wasn’t a herd of competitors about to unleash a string of quads at him, other than Canada’s Quad King, Kevin Reynolds, who attempted four quads in the free.

But there will be at the upcoming Four Continents championships in Pyeongchang, which serves as a test event for the 2018 Winter Games. Quads will be flying. More than anybody has ever seen.

He’ll have to face his young friend, Nathan Chen, who dazzled a nation (the world too) with his spectacular free skate at the U.S. championships where he landed five deft quads. The sky seems the limit.

And just last week, came word from China that Jin Boyang plans to do five quads, too, in his free skate, up from the four he used to win the world bronze medal last March in Boston. He aims to blitz the rink with a quad Lutz – triple toe loop, a quad Salchow, a quad loop, a quad toe loop and a quad toe loop – double toe loop.

Chen has a slightly different repertoire. He doesn’t do the quad loop, but he does do the quad flip, which is worth more points. (Quad loop is worth a base mark of 12 points, a quad flip a trickle more at 12.3. The quad Lutz? Now there’s a jump. It wasn’t so long ago that Chan didn’t think it possible. It’s worth 13.6 points. And now several skaters are doing it. Junior skaters are training it. Hey, even 12-year-old Stephen Gogolev, Canada’s new junior champion, has tried them.)

Chan has re-entered a crazy world indeed, rotations ablur. Now in his second year of a comeback, he’s had to face a growing list of competitors who do more and more difficult quads. As scintillating as his win was at the Canadian championships (he did land only two quads in the free, and a third turned into a triple toe loop), he seemed to be going in the right direction. And then Chen unleashed his fireworks at the U.S. championships a day later.

It’s a crazy exercise to compare Chan’s marks with Chen’s at two national championships, not judged independently by international judges. But perhaps they tell a story.

Chen’s free skate score was 212.08. Chan wasn’t all that far behind him with 205.36, only about seven points. Chan could have almost closed the gap if he had landed a quad toe loop instead of a triple.And with some bonus points, he could have edged ahead.

Without a doubt, Chen’s element score outpaced that of his northern neighbour, Chan. While Chen earned 121.08, Chan got 106.88. Chan also got as close as he did by maximizing his grade of execution marks. Judges gave him plenty of +2s and +3s as bonus points. Yes, Chen was getting some +3s, too, but many more +1s.

As for the component mark, Chan rules this category and he did that week, too. Canadian judges gave him 98.48 points. Chen got 91.00. While Chen didn’t crack 10, Chan got 22 marks of 10.

Okay, okay, lest there’s an uprising over the idea that Canadian judges may have been heaping rewards on Chan so that he could go off to the international wars with their backing, let’s look at the Grand Prix Final. It’s not so easy to compare different competitions, because Chan didn’t skate his best in Marseille, and Chen won the free skate over more seasoned competitors, including Hanyu and Javier Fernandez, both world champions.

But in Marseille, international judges were a little more reluctant to dish out high GOEs to Chen, almost three points less. And his component marks were 84.42  in Marseille, 6.58 points lower than what he earned at U.S. nationals.  Still, there’s always the argument that he had progressed by the U.S. championships, too.

Chan fell four times at the Grand Prix Final free skate, so obviously he had improved by the Canadian championships.

So perhaps there’s hope for Chan, if he gets his mental hamsters under control. And if he delivers. Still, it’s most important that he delivers a year from now. And it’s important that he has included the quad Salchow this year. He says the next step is to put two quads in the short, which could go a long way to having him reach his goals.

At the beginning of the year, Chan said he saw himself as a skater who could fall into third, fourth or fifth position, not first, or maybe even second.  “And that’s okay,” he said. “It helps me to focus on what I have to do and not think about : ‘Oh I’m head to head with Yuzuru or I’m head to head against Javi and I’ve got to do as many quads as they are.’” Now he has a few more names to add.

Where is it all going to go? What is the limit? “We don’t know,” Chan said. “We’re going to keep pushing the boundary until something has to give. Either you will have skaters that will not last very long due to injury or maybe the presentation side of the sport gets affected. I leave it up to everyone.

“I’ve said it over and over again: the skating is more important. It’s cool to see the other guys pushing the boundaries. It’s amazing to see them rotate these jumps. I’m in awe. I’m going to stick to my plan. I’m not going to change it, according to that. But it’s going to be interesting to sit back and see where it does top out and where the limit is.”

How much does artistry suffer when a program has four or five quads? “I see a lot of two-foot skating, which is not bad,” Chan said. “It means they are centred. They are balanced. Whereas I feel like I ebb and flow from one leg to another. I transfer my weight from one to another.”

It also makes it more difficult to maintain balance. It creates a lot of flow in Chan’s skating, but he sometimes gets off balance and has to set himself up for a jump. There are pros and cons. “It depends on how a judge interprets that,” Chan said.

Chen almost seems to be alone in delivering endless amounts of quads without a lot of falls. Everybody else has been slip-sliding this year at one moment or another. Hanyu has taken lots of falls. Stojko, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, can see how it’s all building to the 2018 Games.

He told Chan, since everyone is now working on quads, that he has one season only to get this right. He must add the quads now. “I told him, you are going to make mistakes, bro,” Stojko said. “You may have to give up competition and wins for it. Hanyu did. The last couple of years, he tried quads and fell. How many performances have you seen him just splat everywhere? And then all of a sudden, last year he does that almost perfect program. He’s starting to do it.

“Nathan Chen, same thing. A young kid coming up, they are going to splat all over. People only see that one performance and say quads shouldn’t be in. But you don’t see the big picture of what they’re doing. They’re trying to learn how to do these things under pressure in competition. You’re going to make mistakes before it becomes perfect.”

Still, don’t expect Chan to add some quad loops or flip or Lutzes into his repertoire in the next year. Epstein thinks he can learn another one. Chan doesn’t think it’s necessary.

Firstly, it’s pointless to set ridiculous goals that only serve to discourage you and then you get mentally stuck and achieve nothing, Chan said. Secondly, Chan wants to remain healthy.

“Nathan and Shoma [Uno] are going to be 26 and 28 at the end of their career and not be able to ever do any other sports. They are going to be so banged up,” Chan said.

Chan values his post-career activities. He wants to be able to go to the back country and ski. He wants to go rock climbing, sky diving too.

The first thing he‘s going to do when he’s finished is buy himself a pair of powder skis and find a mountain to climb. For now, he’s climbing another one.

To do it, he’s reading “The Rise of Superman,” a book that details a rather magical mental state allowing one to accomplish the impossible, or at least the difficult. It’s called flow. Or being in the zone, when time seems to stand still.

The psychologist is “a leap of faith,” Chan said. “I had to find a way to get myself not to focus on what all the other skaters are doing.”

The Four Continents will be an important test along the way.

Gary Beacom: Blade Master

Around the rink they flew, all manner of skaters executing unusual shapes and steps, all in the mold of blade master Gary Beacom, a 56-year-old pied piper of sorts. There were falls. There were smiles.Giggles to be sure.  A tiny girl clearly unafraid of the odd slip – who undoubtedly had never heard of Beacom – young skaters, adult skaters too, all drank in the funky Beacomisms.

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Gary Beacom performing “I’m Your Man.” (Photo by Beverley Smith)

 

Beacom had folded his personal challenge to perform his signature piece “I’m Your Man’’ 100 times (anywhere anyone would have him)  in memory of the song’s author, Leonard Cohen, into a seminar hooked into the week of the World Figure Championship in Toronto. He performed that routine, once again, and then taught them the skills to do it in a freeform kind of way.

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Gary Beacom, the pied piper. It’s not so easy to do what he does. Witness the splats. (Photo by Beverley Smith)

 

With all of the skills he showed off – and more – Beacom won the men’s World Figure title last week with great ease, displaying edge qualities rarely seen today, since compulsory figures were dropped after the 1990 world figure skating championships in Halifax. To see Beacom trace a figure is akin to watching Yo-Yo Ma stroke his cello.

One of the event judges, 1962 world champion Donald Jackson waxed enthusiastic over the prints that Beacom left on the ice, especially a complex creative figure that Beacom did on one foot. “Just gorgeous,” Jackson said. It was not only the well-traced design that gave goosebumps; It was the way he did it, in endless motion, in fine form, body never breaking, slipping around the curves with speed, as if he had been doing it forever. “He had control of his whole body,” Jackson said.

“He has balance to die for,” Isabelle Duchesnay once said.

Before he was awarded the medal, Beacom gathered speed from one end of the arena to the other and planted a double Axel with aplomb. Fellow competitor Shepherd Clark saw it, and threw his arms into the air. Then the others began to applaud. He also did a single Axel over the red carpet to the podium. And all probably on his figure blades.

Beacom was always the creative one, right? The cerebral one. The one who always thought up different ways to skate an edge, or express a piece of music, to even skate with boots and blades on feet AND hands. So from whence comes this ability to do figures so well?

It always started with figures. Beacom is who he is because of figures. From the time he was a young skater, he learned special figures, even though their heyday was from 1870 to 1890. He studied the lost art under Tim Brown, who was a four-time U.S. silver medalist during the 1950s. And he studied under Sheldon Galbraith, a stickler for detail and for rules. So was Beacom, believe it or not.

“Not everybody thinks about Gary Beacom as a rule person, because I’m kind of creative and out there and I do things that are not inside the box,” Beacom said. “But I do like to stay within the rules.”

When one thinks of Beacom and compulsory figures, one recalls his utter frustration after the third figure, a back change loop, at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo. When judges placed him 11th on that figure, Beacom kicked the boards, his emotions overcoming the usual decorum.

“My figures at worlds met the exact specifications according to the rule book,” Beacom said. “And nobody else’s did. My figures looked weird because they followed the rule book.”

Others, he said, skated a flattened middle circle because it was easier to do so. And Beacom’s figure was the correct size: rules stated that they must be the height of the skater, minus the head. And that’s how big his circle was. It was perfectly lined up. Beacom expected to win that figure. Inside, he knew he  wouldn’t.

“I was angry,” he admitted. “I had my temper tantrum there. But that’s in the distant past now.”

Still, it’s clear that Beacom has learned how to use his blades to do everything he does. Beacom can do footwork from one end of the ice to the other. He can blitz the ice for longer with high-risk edges and complexities. He can do off-balance footwork, swinging his arms in opposite directions to the norm.  He’ll lean to the left, and be on an edge he has no business being on and staying upright, on an edge that would be impossible for most. He used to have rubber ankles, too. And Beacom would use antique figures in his choreography. Only a student of figure skating might recognize what they were.

Beacom only reluctantly agreed to take part in the World Figure Championships last week. He’s busy building his seminar, teaching and choreography business around the world, from his new home base in Obertsdorf, Germany. He was invited to a figure workshop last October at the North Toronto Arena, where the world figure championships were held. After he underwent some arm-twisting, he thought it would be kind of cool.

“I’m quite glad I did,” he said. “It is a real challenge and it’s a really good foundation and a good way of honing the skills. I’ve already noticed that I’m free skating better now that I’m practicing figures.”

Since figures have been dropped from ISU competitions, Beacom has noticed a decline in actual skating ability. “The name of the sport is still figure skating [unless you skate in Canada, where Skate Canada has dropped “figure” from the name],” Beacom said. What they are doing out there nowadays is not figures.”

Figures are always on one foot, not two feet at a time. And everything is traced on curves. “What you see out there now is straight lines and two-footed skating,” Beacom said. “And a lot of jumps. We’re seeing a lot of quads and the girls are doing all triples now. It’s really quite remarkable what they do, stamina wise and technique wise. But skating has lost its beauty and charm in my view.

“I think there’s something really nice about seeing nice curving edges all the time, rather than skating down the rink straight on a flat, pausing for a long time, then cranking off a jump. It doesn’t have appeal for me.

“And it’s the hard way of doing things. Curves lead so naturally into rotations, so if you want to do an easy jump, do it on curves.”

Beacom injected a double Axel into his “I’m Your Man” routine and it’s easy to see his strong curve on the ice as he launches himself into the air.

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Beneath him, the curved entry, visible on the ice. (Photo by Beverley Smith)

 

Case in point? Mao Asada comes from the Midori Ito “school” of skating, where jumps are important.  And when she switched to Nobuo Sato to fix her issues, he faced a tough task trying to change her technique after years of doing things another way. The muscle memory had been so ingrained. Shoma Uno comes from the same school as did Asada in the beginning: he skates in straight lines. And he skates much of his routine on two feet. As for Zuzuru Hanyu? He’s been known to practice figures under Brian Orser in Toronto. And edge work is an important part of schooling in the club. It’s not a surprise that skaters from this school excel.

Many skaters do jumps the hard way now, even as the bar keeps going higher and higher. And injuries are far more common. “There’s an upside and a downside to the progress that skating has made,” Beacom said.

Tracing figures has its downside, too. While doing them, you are always looking down. As a free skater, you do not want to be looking down, but rather looking up and projecting into an audience. “This is one of the reasons why I didn’t want to get back into figures,” Beacom said. “I didn’t like the idea of looking down and it’s kind of a habit that I’ve gotten into from doing so many figures and I have to constantly remind myself to keep my focus up. But I think there are more pluses than minuses in doing figures.”

Beacom didn’t have to pull old figure blades out of mothballs to compete last week. He really is a skilled blade master in many ways. He can work the blade himself, as an expert skate sharpener. Earlier this year,  in China to do a seminar, Beacom found that his luggage didn’t arrive. So he was forced to go shopping for another set of blades. He found a set made by a different manufacturer than what he is used to.

Because he figured he probably wouldn’t use them for free skating again, he had no qualms about altering them to become figure blades. He shaved the toe pick off and put a two-inch radius hollow in them. Translated, that means the hollow for figure blades is a lot shallower than those for free skate blades.

Beacom mounted them on a new pair of Edea boots, and sharpened them himself. No doubt, they had precision sharpening.  He had no excuses and didn’t need any.

His figure boots were works of art, actually. Stationed permanently in Germany, (at least when he is not out and about doing seminars),  Beacom designed the choreography for the free skate of rising German pair stars Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot. With it, they won a bronze medal at the 2016 world championships in Boston.

Savchenko got hold of Beacom’s boots and – because she has a bling business – she decorated them with sparkly stones. “She puts Swarovski stones on gloves and tights and just about anything she can get her hands on,” Beacom said.

He admits, he’s not really a sparkly kind of guy. “But reluctantly I agreed to have her put those on and I guess it makes me feel very special,” he said.

Beacom sparkled, too, during his “I’m Your Man” seminar. He had retired that popular number after performing it about 500 times, but when Leonard Cohen died  on Nov. 7, he decided to bring it back in tribute to an artist he admired, the so-called Godfather of Gloom.

“It’s a wonderful piece of music,” Beacom said. “And Leonard Cohen in general is such a great musician, thinker, performer and I was saddened by his passing. I thought it would be nice to do a tribute.

“It’ was a signature piece of mine. I got a lot of attention from it and people loved that piece,” he said.

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Beacom, performing “I’m Your Man.” (Photos by Beverley Smith)

 

He’s performed it on an outdoor rink in beautiful Bled, Slovenia in early December and in Innsbruck Austria, too. And he’ll do it again in Tallinn, Estonia on Jan. 14. Before the world figure championship began, he performed it at the Scarborough Ice Galaxy in Toronto for Special Olympic skaters.

The steps in that piece are meant for entertainment rather than as a complex display of skills, Beacom admits. Yes, there are some straight lines and two-foot skating in it. That’s when he added a double Axel, to show off some skill. The emphasis, he said, in that piece is the way it has been choreographed musically. “I listen to the rhythm,” he said. “And I stay on the rhythm the whole time. I listen to the melodies. I try to hit the highlights. I feel  the character of the music. This is something that figure skaters can improve on: their musicality. And their component score.”

Since Beacom has moved to Europe, he has travelled the world to give seminars. He has no trouble filling up his dance card in Asia. He’s spent a lot of time in Japan, where he has been well received. He’s building his services in Europe. Next week, he’ll be in Turin, Italy, then Tallinn, Estonia and Helskinki, Finland.

He’s even given some lessons in Japanese. “I know all the body parts,” he said. “I know how to say up and down and right and left. I don’t have perfect grammar, but I’ve learned.”

He gives lessons in French, German and Italian, too.  He speaks many languages, some better than others. In Italy, he taught a 6-year-old girl who could speak no English at all. “Most of it is demonstrating,” he said. “I don’t need to speak a lot, but sometimes it comes in handy.”

He has more than half a century of experience as a figure skater. “It’s nice to be able to pass on what I’ve learned and developed over the years to the next generation of skaters,” he said.

There are many from other generations who remember the Beacom mystique and still applaud it. It was not for nothing that Beacom’s first job as a pro skater was on the Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean World Tour back in the 1980s.

From John Thomas, who was a Canadian medalist in ice dancing and a contemporary of Beacom: “You are a national treasure and a true inspiration,” he said on a Facebook post after Beacom won the World Figure championship.

“You make me proud of my sport and proud to know you. Still, I think unless you have changed, you used to be a crazy driver. I will not drive with you. Other than that, they need to make a statue of you to honour you and your amazing talents.”

It’s Beacom in a nutshell.

 

What Yuzuru Hanyu said

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If lightning strikes, it’s probably Yuzuru Hanyu

At the end of a busy December Saturday, Shae-Lynn Bourne finally had a chance to watch history unfold at the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona.

On her Smartphone, Bourne could see just enough from the tiny little figures to know that Yuzuru Hanyu, for whom she had created the free skate, could make no errors. Not possible. “He seems to have real confidence,” she said. “It was quite amazing to see. It was quite something. But I think it will only get better. Once you have a taste of it, it’s hard to lose it.”

Only get better?

What Hanyu did astonished anybody who thought he’d stumble under the pressure of what he had created for himself by shattering world records at the NHK Trophy two weeks ago. Imagine him surpassing the short-program record score of 106.33 at NHK, or the 216.07 he put up for his free skate there, or the combined total score of 322.40, which had laid to waste (by more than 27 points) Patrick Chan’s previous world record of 295.27. Hanyu had first signaled that lightning was about to strike when suddenly, he included two quads for the first time in the short program at NHK. And he did three in the long.

Hanyu became the first to break 100 points for the short, 200 for the long and 300 for the total. Beyond belief, right?

Now, nothing seems impossible for Hanyu, a 21-year-old skater who endured the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011. In Barcelona, Hanyu transcended all ideas of what a skater can do or what marks an astonished judge can punch in. Short program? 110.95 (by getting the maximum bonuses possible for both his quads). Long program? 219.48 (by getting the maximum bonuses possible for his first two quads and a triple Axel – double toe loop).

And total score? Hanyu blasted that old record of his, too by about eight points, earning 330.43. Hanyu won the gold medal by 37.48 points, the largest Grand Prix Final victory ever, and left poor training mate Javier Fernandez saying: “If he does a great program, there is nothing I can do.”

“Our free programs are so close technically, with almost the same elements, that if he skates well, it is impossible for me to get 20 points more than him. So I was really calm and thought I am just going to skate and do my best.”

Fernandez also broke the 200-point barrier in the free with 201.43 points and took silver with 292.95. Three-time world champion Patrick Chan finished third in the free skate, earning 192.84, intending to land two quads, but only landing one. And ended fourth overall with 263.45 points, exactly the same as quad-hopping Boyang Jin, who attempted four quads, but did so rather like a magic hopping machine. The second mark breaks the tie. And that was not Jin’s forte.

This event may have been the greatest, wildest, most electrifying men’s competition – ever – in history. Four of the six skaters broke the 100-point mark in the free skate for technical points only: Hanyu (120.92), 17-year-old Shoma Uno (100.74 with two quads), Boyang Jim (101.86), and Fernandez (104.65, with three quad attempts. His quad Salchow – triple-toe loop effort was so sweet, he almost maximized his points on it, too, earning 17.51 for that one combo alone.)

And Chan was close, with 96.76. Judges didn’t forget him, awarding him seven marks of 10.00 for components. And they rewarded him mightily for that stunning opening quad toe – triple toe, akin to a freight train hurtling down the tracks. It’s beautiful in its power. It was a magnificent comeback, considering Chan admitted afterwards that he just really wanted to go home after his demoralizing short program that has been causing him grief this year (now three poor efforts). The jazzy Mack the Knife piece isn’t part of his comfort zone. He said he felt angry at himself, and frustrated. “I was to the point when they announced my name, I didn’t want to be here,” he said. “That’s natural with how my days have been going here. That says a lot about my training…the fact that I was able to do a long program like that, that’s pretty impressive.” He had rocky practices all week and doesn’t know whether to blame his mindset, the ice or jet lag, something he’s always struggled with.

The free skate is a comfort to Chan. Skating to Chopin is “the style I grew up skating with Mr. [Osborne] Colson,” he said.

“That’s what I always did when I was younger,” he said. “That’s where my strengths are. My skating quality was born from that style.” He’s not giving up on Mack the Knife, though. It’s supposed to be a routine that combines his competition world with his show performance experience. He hasn’t figured out how to mix them together yet. It’s a work in progress.

Chan returned to the competition wars after a year off touring because he missed training and the regimen of it. But he forgot to put the stressful moments before a competition into the equation. He’d forgotten.  “I really didn’t think about that when I came back,” he said. “I was more thinking about 90 per cent of my life and career, which is training. I love the training. I never get tired of it.”

Chan has to get himself back into the competition swing. “I think I’m very, very stressed and nervous at competitions because it’s just unknown to me,” he said. “It’s different. We have different men in the field now…. And Yuzu and Javier have improved a lot, I think, since I left. It’s not comfortable. It’s not fun. I don’t like it, but like anything, my body will adapt.”

Hanyu flooded the rest of them with his scores. Hanyu was given 24 perfect marks of 10.00 out of a possible  45 for program components. Judges mostly lauded his performance and execution, his choreography and interpretation, but not so much his skating skills and transitions, although that’s gnat picking. His lowest mark for those two categories was 9.25 and he received only one of those.

Fernandez got 13 perfect marks, mostly in interpretation and choreography. While the young Uno is highly praised as a future contender, he got marks as low as 7.50 for transitions and linking footwork. He skates a lot on two feet. His component score was far lower than his technical score. Uno was surprised at how high his mark was. “This is not a goal,” he said. “It’s just a starting point.”

If skating was looking for a star, it has found it in Hanyu. Bouncing into Bourne’s Facebook box was a warm message: “Thank you,” a skating friend said. “I watched Yuzu. And I’m excited about skating again.”

Even Evgeny Plushenko didn’t miss the drama on the Barcelona ice. “This is what I am talking about after almost six years,” he said on twitter, remembering his words at the 2010 Olympics about how wrong it seemed to have an Olympic champion that did no quads. “All the boys, thank you for pushing the sport to no limit.

And this: “Yuzu, you are my hero.”

Plushenko’s highest scores were 91.39 that he set at the Vancouver Olympics for the short program, 175.52 for the long at 2012 Europeans and 261.23 total score, also at Europeans. (And Plushenko still speaks of doing another Olympics against them. Will this event change his mind?)

Hanyu admitted that he felt very nervous before he competed the long program because he heard the loud audience for Fernandez. And of course, it would be loud. Fernandez was competing at home, a rare luxury for him. The event in Barcelona existed because of his ground-breaking success.

“I couldn’t think about scores,” Hanyu said. “I am exhausted now but I did an almost perfect performance today so I am satisfied.”

Satisfied? Hanyu notes that his step sequence got only a level three of difficulty.

He admitted he felt pressure after having set the world records at NHK, but “these were the pressures I put on myself,” he said.

“During the free program, I was actually released from this pressure, and I felt like I can only do what I can do for now. So I managed to perform quite well, I think.”

He won’t think about trying to repeat what he did in Barcelona. He’ll keep his eyes on the day-to-day, practicing and improving. He wants to be perfect in every competition. “I feel like the score is the score and my performance is my performance. These are different things.

“I’m feeling really good today because everybody supports me. I owe my performance to the audience.”

Bourne knows that Hanyu is capable of more, which should scare the hair off everybody else for years to come. “The sky is the limit,” she said.

If lightning strikes, it’s probably Yuzuru Hanyu

At the end of a busy December Saturday, Shae-Lynn Bourne finally had a chance to watch history unfold at the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona.

On her smartphone, Bourne could see just enough from the tiny little figures to know that Yuzuru Hanyu, for whom she had created the free skate, could make no errors. Not possible. “He seems to have real confidence,” she said. “It was quite amazing to see. It was quite something. But I think it will only get better. Once you have a taste of it, it’s hard to lose it.”Only get better?

What Hanyu did astonished anybody who thought he’d stumble under the pressure of what he had created for himself by shattering world records at the NHK Trophy two weeks ago. Imagine him surpassing the short-program record score of 106.33 at NHK, or the 216.07 he put up for his free skate there, or the combined total score of 322.40, which had laid to waste (by more than 27 points) Patrick Chan’s previous world record of 295.27. Hanyu had first signaled that lightning was about to strike when suddenly, he included two quads for the first time in the short program at NHK. And he did three in the long.

Hanyu became the first to break 100 points for the short, 200 for the long and 300 for the total. Beyond belief, right?

Now, nothing seems impossible for Hanyu, a 21-year-old skater who endured the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011. In Barcelona, Hanyu transcended all ideas of what a skater can do or what marks an astonished judge can punch in. Short program? 110.95 (by getting the maximum bonuses possible for both his quads). Long program? 219.48 (by getting the maximum bonuses possible for his first two quads and a triple Axel – double toe loop).

And total score? Hanyu blasted that old record of his, too by about eight points, earning 330.43. Hanyu won the gold medal by 37.48 points, the largest Grand Prix Final victory ever, and left poor training mate Javier Fernandez saying: “If he does a great program, there is nothing I can do.”

“Our free programs are so close technically, with almost the same elements, that if he skates well, it is impossible for me to get 20 points more than him,” Fernandez said. “So I was really calm and thought I am just going to skate and do my best.”

Fernandez also broke the 200-point barrier in the free with 201.43 points and took silver with 292.95. Three-time world champion Patrick Chan finished third in the free skate, earning 192.84, intending to land two quads, but only landing one. And he ended fourth overall with 263.45 points, exactly the same as quad-hopping Boyang Jin, who attempted four quads, but did so rather like a magic hopping machine. The second mark breaks the tie. And that was not Jin’s forte.

This event may have been the greatest, wildest, most electrifying men’s competition – ever – in history. Four of the six skaters broke the 100-point mark in the free skate for technical points only: Hanyu (120.92), 17-year-old Shoma Uno (100.74 with two quads), Boyang Jin (101.86), and Fernandez (104.65, with three quad attempts. His quad Salchow – triple-toe loop effort was so sweet, he almost maximized his points on it, too, earning 17.51 for that one combo alone.)

And Chan was close, with 96.76. Judges didn’t forget him, awarding him seven marks of 10.00 for components. And they rewarded him mightily for that stunning opening quad toe – triple toe, akin to a freight train hurtling down the tracks. It’s beautiful in its power. It was a magnificent comeback, considering Chan admitted afterwards that he just really wanted to go home after his demoralizing short program that has been causing him grief this year (now three poor efforts). The jazzy “Mack the Knife” piece isn’t part of his comfort zone. He said he felt angry at himself, and frustrated. “I was to the point when they announced my name, I didn’t want to be here,” he said. “That’s natural with how my days have been going here. That says a lot about my training…the fact that I was able to do a long program like that, that’s pretty impressive.” He had rocky practices all week and doesn’t know whether to blame his mindset, the ice or jet lag, something he’s always struggled with.

The free skate is a comfort to Chan. Skating to Chopin is “the style I grew up skating with Mr. [Osborne] Colson,” he said.

“That’s what I always did when I was younger,” he said. “That’s where my strengths are. My skating quality was born from that style.” He’s not giving up on “Mack the Knife”, though. It’s supposed to be a routine that combines his competition world with his show performance experience. He hasn’t figured out how to mix them together yet. It’s a work in progress.

Chan returned to the competition wars after a year off touring because he missed training and the regimen of it. But he forgot to put the stressful moments before a competition into the equation. He’d forgotten.  “I really didn’t think about that when I came back,” he said. “I was more thinking about 90 per cent of my life and career, which is training. I love the training. I never get tired of it.”

Chan has to get himself back into the competition swing. “I think I’m very, very stressed and nervous at competitions because it’s just unknown to me,” he said. “It’s different. We have different men in the field now…. And Yuzu and Javier have improved a lot, I think, since I left. It’s not comfortable. It’s not fun. I don’t like it, but like anything, my body will adapt.”

Hanyu flooded the rest of them with his scores. Hanyu was given 24 perfect marks of 10.00 out of a possible  45 for program components. Judges mostly lauded his performance and execution, his choreography and interpretation, but not so much his skating skills and transitions, although that’s gnat picking. His lowest mark for those two categories was 9.25 and he received only one of those.

Fernandez got 13 perfect marks, mostly in interpretation and choreography. While the young Uno is highly praised as a future contender, he got marks as low as 7.50 for transitions and linking footwork. He skates a lot on two feet. His component score was far lower than his technical score. Uno was surprised at how high his mark was. “This is not a goal,” he said. “It’s just a starting point.”

If skating was looking for a star, it has found it in Hanyu. Bouncing into Bourne’s Facebook box was a warm message: “Thank you,” a skating friend said. “I watched Yuzu. And I’m excited about skating again.”

Even Evgeny Plushenko didn’t miss the drama on the Barcelona ice. “This is what I am talking about after almost six years,” he said on Twitter, remembering his words at the 2010 Olympics about how wrong it seemed to have an Olympic champion that did no quads. “All the boys, thank you for pushing the sport to no limit.

And this: “Yuzu, you are my hero.”

Plushenko’s highest scores were 91.39 that he set at the Vancouver Olympics for the short program, 175.52 for the long at 2012 Europeans and 261.23 total score, also at Europeans. (And Plushenko still speaks of doing another Olympics against this current lot. Will this event change his mind?)

Hanyu admitted that he felt very nervous before he competed the long program because he heard the loud audience for Fernandez. And of course, it would be loud. Fernandez was competing at home, a rare luxury for him. The event in Barcelona existed because of his ground-breaking success.

“I couldn’t think about scores,” Hanyu said. “I am exhausted now but I did an almost perfect performance today so I am satisfied.”

Satisfied? Hanyu notes that his step sequence got only a level three of difficulty.

He admitted he felt pressure after having set the world records at NHK, but “these were the pressures I put on myself,” he said.

“During the free program, I was actually released from this pressure, and I felt like I can only do what I can do for now. So I managed to perform quite well, I think.”

He won’t think about trying to repeat what he did in Barcelona. He’ll keep his eyes on the day-to-day, practicing and improving. He wants to be perfect in every competition. “I feel like the score is the score and my performance is my performance. These are different things.

“I’m feeling really good today because everybody supports me. I owe my performance to the audience.”

Bourne knows that Hanyu is capable of more, which should scare the hair off everybody else for years to come. “The sky is the limit,” she said.