Yuzuru Hanyu in Moscow: start of his road to PyeongChang 2018

With Yuzuru Hanyu having to pull out from NHK Trophy due to injuring himself during a practice session in Osaka, Rostelecom Cup in Moscow remains his only stop in the Grand Prix circuit this season – the Japanese won’t be able to defend his GPF champion title in Nagoya.
And so we come back in Moscow for an illustrated story of his presence in Megasport Arena, full of colours, full of details, full of Poohs, full of admiration from his younger fans – we all saw that tiny boy in red, sitting by his idol at the end of both programs. That boy is the epitome of all children looking up to Yuzuru – and dreaming to become one day as successful as him. That boy, if you like, is Yuzuru Hanyu himself, when he was just a kid – remember his emotional words during the winner’s interview in Barcelona, at 2015/2016 Grand Prix Final? “I was a flower boy at NHK Trophy when I was little. I was dreaming to be like Plushenko or Johnny Weir or Alexei Yagudin, some top skaters. So please, please don’t give up skating, practicing or dreaming”.
Therefore, apart from everything else, scores and placements in the Olympic season, this story is also about dreams, role models, skaters inspiring other skaters to become the best versions of themselves.

by Florentina Tone

By the time Yuzuru Hanyu took the ice in Moscow for his short program, on October 20, there had been some great performances in Megasport Arena – no better indicator than this one: Andrei Lazukin landed a beautiful quad Toe-double Toe right in the debut of the men’s event; and Nathan Chen had already skated the short program of his life in terms of scores and commitment to music. No doubt about that: skaters slated to compete in Moscow had all been inspired by the presence of the World champion en titre in this particular Grand Prix event.

After all, against Yuzuru Hanyu you must be there on the ice with all guns blazing.

But for the Japanese things didn’t go according to plans.

Skating to Ballade no. 1 by Chopin (in the Olympic season, Yuzuru Hanyu came back to his most meaningful programs), he found himself on shifting sands after barely holding the landing of his opening quad loop. He then recovered with a flying triple Axel, but fell at the end of his quad Toe-triple Toe combination. And so this wasn’t his best day jump-wise.

But the program itself, the hush, the sound of his blades on the ice? Beautiful.

Hands down after his ending pose, Yuzuru laughs. He’ll have a lot to make up for in the free, he knows it.

And then the Pooh-storm starts – lots of fans travelled from Japan to show encouragement, support – and, in a matter of seconds, a yellow blanket covers the ice. And we didn’t write “storm” just for the beauty of the metaphor: the sound of Poohs, some of them in plastic bags, hitting the ice after being thrown from the stands, resembles indeed a powerful rain, or even a hailstorm.

And somewhere in the middle of all that, waiting for Yuzuru to finish bowing to the people in Megasport Arena, there’s this tiny boy in red, holding a Pooh and a drawing. In the spur of the moment, some think the boy is Evgeni Plushenko’s youngest son; but no, Alexander Plushenko is even smaller; plus, he sits along his father, in the audience. We find out later that the boy’s name is Vadim, Vadim Voronov – and that he is, of course, Yuzuru’s fan.

…and plush toys are flying in all corners of the arena – see the one on the left?

At the end of the men’s SP, Yuzuru Hanyu sits in second place (94.85 points), behind the overnight leader, Nathan Chen. In the Kiss and Cry, Brian Orser summarizes with a smile: “Basically 5 points [difference]. It’s OK, it’s nice that we have to fight…”

…and while Yuzuru and Brian Orser are waiting for the scores, flower boys and girls keep collecting Poohs – and their enthusiasm is clearly visible. How could it not be? It’s literally an invasion of colours – yellow in particular – in Megasport Arena.

The warrior

On the second day in Moscow, Yuzuru is the penultimate to take the ice, right before Nathan Chen, and tries to do everything in his power to close the gap, and win the overall event

As in previous day, as in previous competitions, fans are showing the utmost support for this talented young man – cheers and flags and banners accompany Yuzuru while he’s taking the ice for the opening pose of his free skate.

He’s in a warrior-mood, you can sense it. And his free skate, to music from the movie “Onmyōji”, also acts as a teaser for what we might see later in the season. Yuzuru successfully lands in Moscow three quadruple jumps, one in combination, but the overall program was meant to have five – and this might be the layout of his future Olympic free skate. And there’s one more thing that enters Yuzuru’s records: 2017 Rostelecom Cup becomes the place where the Japanese lands in competition his first quadruple Lutz.

With 195.92 points, and 290.77 overall, Yuzuru takes the lead. And a second round of yellow Poohs colours the ice. And there’s some red too, from a balloon attached to a gift in a corner of the rink.

But then there’s Nathan Chen to close the men’s event. And he does that in style, performing to music from the movie “Mao’s Last Dancer” and hitting no less than four quads in the process. And though his free skate is only second of the day in terms of scores (193.25 points), the combined total (293.79 points) is enough to secure him the gold crown.

In the stands, hundreds of Yuzuru’s fans have turned into statues of sadness.

…but there’s a totally different kind of air, of atmosphere in the press conference room. Nathan, the winner of 2017 Rostelecom Cup, doesn’t start answering the journalists’ questions before turning to Yuzuru: “Congratulations on your first quad Lutz”. And then he smiles, they both do. And that right here is the true ending of the men’s event in Moscow: mutual respect and admiration.

Glimpses from the medal ceremony in Moscow

The podium of the men’s event at 2017 Rostelecom Cup: Nathan Chen (gold), Yuzuru Hanyu (silver), Mikhail Kolyada (bronze)

Yuzuru Hanyu: practice for the exhibition gala

No better place than Moscow for Yuzuru Hanyu to skate his exhibition program, to “Notte stellata (The Swan)”, performed by Il Volo; the music was suggested by Tatiana Tarasova, who approached Yuzuru at 2016 Worlds. The program, choreographed by David Wilson, found in Yuzuru a wonderful interpreter – a beautiful, heartwarming, gentle skate in Megasport Arena.

And this is it: the end of gala – and, you’ll see, a beautiful confetti rain to wrap things up until next edition of Rostelecom Cup.

Beautiful, smiling people in Moscow: Yuzuru Hanyu, Evgenia Medvedeva, Misha Ge, Carolina Kostner

…maybe Yuzuru spotted some of his fans?

They’re all here, in the arena, not wanting to miss a thing.

And the proper ending of the gala: Misha Ge takes the (now) traditional selfie. But, wait, where is Yuzuru? Well, he’s waving from somewhere in the back…

Until he gets some help from Ondrej Hotarek to make himself visible…

…and he has the time of his life while doing that.

Ready? Steady? Selfie!

That’s that: smiling people at the end of the first GP event of the Olympic season


Yes, he can. His Majesty Yuzuru Hanyu