2 weeks ago, I found a Yuzuru Hanyu photobook that reminded me of my discovery of that sweet champion 4 years ago.
2 weeks later :
I spent several hours watching videos of his performances, his background story, the choice of his costumes and the technicalities of figure skating notations and how screwed up the judges could be (had no idea how truthful that one was…).
I learned the jargon and acronyms. SP, FP, 4A, ISU, Kiss & Cry, Salchow, all those obscure terms… peach now.
I spent the last week refreshing Twitter to know if he was going to attend the Olympics. When he did arrive. Had the pleasant surprise of a fandom so organized and sharing that we get videos of training, translations of interviews, 24/7 wholesome content.
I woke up at 5 am to watch his short program. Only the people who know me know how UNLIKELY that was to wake up to watch sports… I only get invested into sports to support the German and Japanese soccer teams at international competitions every 2 years (don’t ask why. It’s part CaptainTsubasa legacy, part acquired good memories).
I was so fed up seeing that France 2 wasn’t going to broadcast the SP that I last minute subscribed to Eurosport. Knowing fully well that I probably wasn’t going to watch anything else on that channel. So I paid 10 Eur for 2x 20mn, sort of (remind me to cancel the subscription next month if he doesn’t come to World Championships in Montpellier).
I built a Hanyu altar to send him some good vibes, and upgraded it with a Winnie the Pooh after the SP when it turned out he needed more – I know it’s useless, but feeling helpless is really aarg. Even went to Paris Japantown to get a hachimaki for Winnie (it reads « Ichiban », first). By the way I need a Japanese flag. Just in case.
My alarm didn’t work for the Free Program but I slept so bad that I awakaned with a start at 5:05 am anyway, just in time to see his group warm-up. For someone who was barely aware of the Beijing Olympics 3 weeks ago, I was on the edge when he started skating, and my heart sank twice, each time he fell. From the obsessive Twitter-feed, I knew he was most likely injured, so I didn’t have that many hopes… but still, it hurt.
For the Free Program I kept watching to see the adversaries and get the end result right away. I couldn’t have slept anyway. I kinda rooted for Shoma Uno and Yuma Kagiyama, they’re Hanyu’s kouhai (junior) after all. And within these 2 weeks I’ve seen him be a caring senpai for Shoma. He cares for everyone anyway. I didn’t want them to fail.
I don’t even hate on Nathan Chen (can’t say I give a damn about him either), he skated clean with technically difficult programs. He probably would have won even if the ISU judges hadn’t favored him. But people with more credentials than me (not hard) to evaluate the programs do tell that Hanyu’s notes are underscored and pretty much everyone else overscored (which, considering how little points there are between him and Shoma Uno at the end, mean he might have been on the podium after Uno’s own falls) And quite frankly, it shows in his interviews. He’s too polite to say it, but he survived the Tohoku earthquake, displacement, not having a base ice rink for a year, a collision and multiple injuries. Losing a medal fairly because of a hole in the ice in SP wouldn’t be enough to break him that way.
I switched language to English to comment because I missed writing in English and this fandom is mostly international. There are no competitive French figure skaters at the moment it seems, and French sports audience being who they are, it means next to zero media coverage. The only French fans seem to be former Kpop or Tokio Hotel fans (including me. Well I never got caught into Kpop, but I do follow a few Japanese bands, so it’s a similar vibe).
And I switched from calling him Yuzuru or silly cutesy nicknames to calling him Hanyu-san, because the level of focus he demonstrated (again, but in real time under my eyes this time) and the pressure on him made him lose his kawaii bunny hoppiness and happiness. You can’t baby talk about such an indomitable mental strength, even if it’s packaged in a sparkly boyish appearance. Heck, he barely looked the same.
It feels much longer and I certainly don’t regret the ride, even if I joined when it became hard. In some interviews after the free program, Hanyu expressed the hope that his Heaven and Earth story would at least leave a little mark in people who watched it. Hanyu-san, your passion for your art combined to your technique is so strong that it burned a fire imprint all over the world to anyone with a soul.
(and makes me go lyrical, obviously)
I just want to see you jump on a podium and flash a happy smile, to know that you’re all right. Because I only just found out there was still one good thing in this f***ed up world, in a time we need hope and smiles. And I would hate to see that the bullies succeeded in crushing it.