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Monday, March 11, 2013

Memory lane: Yuzuru Hanyu

In March 2010, Yuzuru Hanyu won the junior World title, at the age of fifteen. I had spotted Hanyu at the same event a year earlier, when he was among the youngest skaters in the field but showed amazing potential, enough that I was hoping to adopt him so that he could represent us instead of Japan :) Although the judges did not show sufficient appreciation for him at the time, I concluded that Hanyu was going to go far - possibly becoming a contender following the Sochi Olympics; I had thought him too young to contend before that. Was I ever wrong!

In the 2009-10 season, Hanyu stabilized his 3A and proceeded to win every junior event he entered, usually while facing competitors considerably older than he was. By the time of 2010 Junior Worlds, I was happy to tell anyone who would listen that they must check out Hanyu's skating; a friend who attended the event was indeed most impressed! I thought his reaction, along with then coach Nanami Abe, to his LP marks was absolutely adorable.

 You know you want to adopt him, too.

With nothing left to achieve on the junior circuit, Hanyu followed in the footsteps of one of his idols, Evgeni Plushenko, and made a very early transition to senior skating. The strength and depth of the Japanese men's field, as well as his own inconsistency, limited his prospects somewhat; but he was certainly noticed, and won his first major senior medal, a silver, at 2011 Four Continents.

Hanyu's 2011-12 campaign was even more impressive, with a GP win and an amazing long program at Worlds to secure the bronze medal. This is especially notable as his preparation for the season was by no means ideal: exactly two years ago, the then 16 year old Hanyu was at his rink in Sendai when the March 2011 earthquake hit. He then spent several days at an evacuation center, and later had to relocate in order to train. He also performed in numerous shows that off-season, which provided him with further training opportunities.

His accomplishments this season continue the upward trend, and he is now the world record holder for the short program in addition to being the Japanese national champion, no mean trick in a country with world-class skaters galore. And if I feel that his SP would be more appropriate for Daisuke Takahashi, well, at least he is trying new things...

Another day, another record-breaking SP performance

Four years after I first noticed him and three years following his junior world title, it is obvious that Hanyu's progress has been incredible, and it is hard to believe that he is just 18 - the same age as the top two finishers at 2013 Junior Worlds! I was clearly off the mark in suggesting that 2018 should be his goal, since he is among the leading candidates for gold in 2014 and may well win Worlds in just a few days' time. The biggest question mark regarding his ability to realize his potential is his stamina; Hanyu suffers from asthma, and with the emphasis on back-loaded programs, he often appears to run out of gas in the second half of his programs. Should he and coach Brian Orser find a way to manage this, either by making changes to his training regimen or by constructing his LP in a way that best suits his ability, his scores should really go through the roof.

Also, Pooh (ETA: and video!)


  1. Great skater, especially considering his age, his sp is especially nice this year while his lp falls a little flat. I hope he'll get a better one for next season.

    1. I hadn't mentioned this season's LP, but I agree it's not all that exciting - and Hanyu didn't really look very engaged with the performance at 4CC, so maybe he feels the same? I guess it is something of a balancing act, to put together a good program with the difficult content that's needed to contend, but without exhausting him halfway through.

      But being a young skater, it's good that he's trying different types of programs and developing his style and ability as a performer.