Through the lens: Yuzuru Hanyu in Helsinki. A season that started like no other

With the injury on his right ankle, Yuzuru Hanyu’s current season looks like a carbon copy of his previous one.

Except it isn’t.

Yuzuru won his first Grand Prix event in Helsinki, entered the second one, in Moscow, and won it also – even if he had to finish it on crutches. And he qualified for the Grand Prix Final with two wins, even if he had to give up on the final in Vancouver in the end.

“This is the first time Yuzu has won two Grand Prix in one season. He’s twice Olympic Gold medalist, he’s twice World Champion, but he has not won two Grand Prix in one season before. And I’ve been with him – this is, I think, season number 7”, Brian Orser will say smiling, in an in-depth interview for Inside Skating

So, most definitely, up until now, this is not a copy-season.

But it could be, from now on.

Because, as shown by the experience of last Olympics, Yuzuru Hanyu has the capacity to come back just in time for the biggest event of the season – in this case, the Worlds in Saitama – and finish it in full glory.


And so what is this? A (very) detailed photo-story of his triumph in Helsinki – the first time ever in his senior career he won the first Grand Prix event he was assigned to.

It’s a lot of joy here – and a quadruple Toeloop-triple Axel atop of everything – and we’re coming back to it.

And this one is for Yuzuru’s loyal fans.


With marvelous photos by Natasha Ponarina and quotes from both Yuzuru Hanyu and Brian Orser, meticulously gathered in Helsinki by Wei Xiong. And you’ll notice from the quotes themselves, raw, straightforward, powerful, just how much Yuzuru asks from himself, and how demanding he is right from the start of the season.

In short: every phrase speaks volumes of his mindset, the mindset of a two-time Olympic champion; and “work hard/train hard” is really a leit-motif of Yuzuru Hanyu’s successful career.

In Helsinki, in November 2018, Yuzuru…
• won the short program: 106.69 points
• won the free skating: 190.43 points
• won the overall event: 297.12 points

His programs this season:
• SP: to Otoñal by Raúl Di Blasio, choreo. by Jeffrey Buttle
• FS named Origin: to Art on Ice by Edvin Marton, Magic Stradivarius by Edvin Marton,
choreo. by Shae-Lynn Bourne
• Exhibition: to Haru yo, Koi by Yumi Matsutoya, performed by Shinya Kiyozuka,
choreo. by David Wilson

Yuzuru Hanyu: “I chose the programs because I wanted to show my respect. When I skate, I come to think that the best way to show respect, to pay the tribute, is to achieve a good result. Because I respect them [Johnny Weir and Evgeni Plushenko – Ed.], I don’t want to do any damage to the music of the programs. I want to bring better performances skating to this music”.

Yuzuru during a practice session in Helsinki

The warrior, ready to take on the world

Getting ready for the 6-minute warm-up before SP under the attentive eyes of Brian Orser and Ghislain Briand

Yuzuru Hanyu: “After the performance at Autumn Classic International, I decided to forget about the quad Axel for now. But since I gave it up [to focus on the usual elements – Ed.], I thought I must skate a clean program.
So I pressured myself and trained hard”.

Yuzuru Hanyu: “I have practiced the spins a lot for this competition and I was paying attention [to them] during my performance. When I started the step sequence, as the music entered the crescendo, I could hear the audience cheering for me. They really gave me a lot of support, and I felt happy I delivered the performance well”.

…when the Pooh-rain starts

Sharing a good, happy laughter with Brian

The yellow euphoria

Yuzuru Hanyu: “It meant a lot for me to break the 100 points, so I felt happy about that. But I am not yet satisfied with my performance. I think I can still improve a lot on my jumps, my steps etc., and I will continue to work hard to improve.
After Autumn Classic International, I realized that under this new rule it is really difficult to get a good score when you make a mistake on the jumps, so it is important for me to balance the consistency and the risk I am willing to take for my short program”.

Top 3 men after SP in Helsinki

Focus on the champion…

…who’s relaxed now, and smiles to the camera

Getting ready for the free skate

Determined eyes speak for themselves

With Ghislain and Pooh

Ready? READY.

And they are READY too.

Yuzuru Hanyu: “I was very nervous before the short program. For the long, because I had the advantage from the short, I was able to relax a bit and skate. But, at the end of the day, I think I am not myself when I don’t fight to win. I really hate losing, so I think I still need to train hard. Competition is what makes me grow”.

Brian Orser [on the 4T-3A sequence]: “Isn’t that awesome? [laughing out loud] I think it’s such a spectacular combination, you can see the reaction from the audience. It’s never been done before, so that’s a lot of fun. I think this is kind of cool, and he is taking that as some kind of challenge, a new challenge, a different challenge.
You gotta find a challenge somewhere when you’re a two-time Olympic champion”.

Yuzuru Hanyu [on the same sequence]: “Although it was successfully completed without any under-rotation, for me, it cannot be called a success jump unless you receive positive GOE. Nonetheless, I don’t think this would be the only time I do this jump [combo], so I will try to jump better in future competitions”.

Brian Orser [on Yuzuru’s performance in Helsinki]: “It was awesome. For his first Grand Prix of the season, of the 7 years we’ve been together, oh, my God, this is the first time he won, so it was nice. This is the best skate that I’ve seen him [for the first GP], good short, and good long. There is always something to work on, he knows that, I know that. It’s early, but it’s exciting”.

Yuzuru Hanyu: “I don’t think I have got used to the new rule yet. I want to deliver a performance that every element is well executed, and whoever watches it would be impressed, so I would only give myself 60 points [of 100] for today’s performance”.

Brian Orser: “His stamina? Just hard work, hard work. He’s got a great attitude, and just hard work, good old fashion hard work”.

…and after the men’s free skate, Yuzuru needs to get ready for the exhibition as well; so here you have him, finding out the exact time and place in the schedule.

But first there’s the medal ceremony – and Yuzuru cheers for the bronze medalist, his training mate Junhwan Cha

And then he jumps joyfully, enthusiastically on top of the podium – he really wanted to win in Finland, he really wanted to win the first Grand Prix event of the season. And so he did, and he is happy.

Quite a busy schedule for Yuzuru on this day in Helsinki: getting ready for FS, the skate itself, the medal ceremony, now the press conference – and there’s still the exhibition to go

Yuzuru Hanyu: “In past years, as long as I could land the jump, I would not consider it a ‘mistake’ even if the landing was a bit weak. But this season, I won’t call any jump ‘without mistake’ when it is slightly under-rotated or the landing is not good. I think this change in mindset means a lot to me.

Under this new scale of GOE, I can feel that receiving positive GOE on all elements can bring huge impact to the result, so I always keep it in mind when I train. I know how difficult it is to receive a perfect GOE. Even under previous rule, when I skated to the ‘Ballade No. 1’, it was extremely difficult for me to receive that kind of score. Now, under this new rule, I think the bar is even higher, and it is much more difficult to get the perfect GOE”.

Happy face during press conference

And there you have him, performing to “Haru yo, Koi” [Spring, Come] at the end of the day – music embraces Yuzuru beautifully, and he embraces it back

Shining star – take two. Remember last season’s photos in Moscow, at the end of Rostelecom Cup, when Ondrej Hotarek gave Yuzuru a helping hand, so that he could be visible in the group picture? Well, he did it again in Helsinki – this time, with the joyful help of Alexander Enbert.

Traditional photo of the gold medalists at the end of exhibition – 2018 Grand Prix of Helsinki. And by “traditional” we mean the one below…

And there is that: Yuzuru saying goodbye and thank you to the audience, to his fans, before going backstage

Yuzuru Hanyu: “There are many fans who came here to support me. I really wanted to win here in Finland.
I attribute the victory to the wholehearted support from the fans”.