So what do we learn out of the accident involving Yuzuru Hanyu and Han Yan?

Han Yan and Yuzuru Hanyu (pictures taken last year, at the 2013 Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris)

Han Yan and Yuzuru Hanyu (pictures taken last year, at the 2013 Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris)

Writing or talking about figure skating, we, the sports journalists, tend to use too often (and too easy) the word “drama” and its variations, commonly referring to the way the skaters enter their roles during their routines, the way they skate to powerful pieces of music. But what do you do, what do you say when a drama involving the skaters happens for real? Not a role, not a particular interpretation, just the life as it is, unfolding its (sometimes) terrible layers in front of you…

by Florentina Tone

Yesterday at Cup of China, during the warm-up prior to their free skate, Yuzuru Hanyu and Han Yan crashed into each other, at an enormous speed, and they both laid flat on the ice after the collision. There were moments of terrible confusion out there in the arena and in front of the TVs around the world, blood wiped from the ice – and, minutes later, to everyone’s shock, you could see a bandaged Yuzuru coming back to the ice and practicing his jumps. 40 minutes after the terrible impact, both Han and Yuzuru showed up for their free skates and, let me tell you, those were torturing moments to everyone watching: a clearly disorientated Han, trying to find his way throughout the routine, and a hesitant Yuzuru, repeatedly falling during the performance and almost passing out while stepping out of the ice, clinching to the boards and to his coach. A struggle that program was, from the beginning till the end, and seeing Yuzury crying in the Kiss and Cry, his bandaged head on his palms, was heartbreaking and, at the same time, terribly disturbing.

Now let me ask you that: was this horror sequel of the accident really necessary? How on earth were these two skaters allowed to enter the ice after a clearly damaging crash? If this was the skaters’ decision, to carry on with the skate in spite of the impact, couldn’t they be stopped? Isn’t there a protocol for that? Who was supposed to intervene in this kind of situation? Their coaches? Someone from the organizing committee?

From where I stand, the right, the healthy thing to be done was to send these two boys directly to the hospital for a check-up and postpone the rest of the event to the following day; because, obviously, the four remaining skaters had been affected by the incident: the impact of the crash itself, the delayed warm-up, their delayed performances… How on earth could the 16-year-old Nam Nguyen have stayed calm and undistracted during his routine, knowing that Yuzuru Hanyu, his training mate at Toronto Cricket Club, had been involved in such a scary accident? Skating right after Yuzuru Hanyu, the Russian Maxim Kovtun won the gold eventually, but there was no sign of happiness in the Kiss and Cry while seeing the scores; and later during the day, in an interview with Elena Vaytsekhovskaya for, Maxim stated with sincerity: “The feeling I didn’t want to skate overpowered me. I just wanted it to be over fast. I wasn’t thinking about the skate, about the elements; just that I didn’t understand what was happening to me. To be honest, I don’t remember ever having so many thoughts at once…”. As for the quietness in the Kiss and Cry, “All I thought was «Thank God this nightmare is finally over»”.

So, really, there are lessons to be learnt out of this dramatic unfolding of the events at Cup of China. Because, clearly, what happened yesterday in the men’s free skate was an example of How Not to Manage this kind of situations.