It’s Olympic Time!!! And It’s Winter Olympic Times which is the superior Olympics in my mind and I’m pumped. I’ll be covering a little bit of figure skating (a deeply undervalued sport with Kardashian worthy sagas) and of course both mens and women’s hockey. But let us begin with Men’s figure skating – the manliest sport in the world.
About (a few of) the Athletes
Japan is certainly a contender for the gold this year both with veteran Daisuke Takahashi and with the 19 year old sensation that is Yuzuru Hanyu. This will be Yuzuru’s first Olympics having still been a junior in 2010. He published an autobiography in 2012 titled Blue Flames that talks about his early life along with his experience living through the earth quake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011. He was skating when the earth quake hit and recalls the experience in his book
““Even now, when I close my eyes, I remember a lot of things – the feeling of the ice shaking, the shaking of the ground being pushed up, how terrible it was that my legs were shaking from the earthquake… I can still vividly see everything when the rink was damaged.”
His arena was badly damaged so he lost his training center, and he had limited ice time in the nearest town. To stay competitive he had to keep skating, everyday, so what did he do? He skated 60 ice shows that season. SIXTY! Arriving early to use the show arena as a training facility and leaving late so he could capitalize on the ice time. He did well the following season, well enough to put him on the international stage and gain the attention of a Canadian coach who Yuzuru moved to Toronto to train with in 2012.
Now, Patrick Chan is Canada’s darling, as only a figure skater can really be. He started skating when he 5, speaks 4 languages and loves his country and his heritage. Chan’s parents are both 1st generation Chinese immigrants and he is incredibly supported by the Canadian Chinese community.
The 22 year old athlete finished 5th in last Olympics after a heart breaking fall in his short program but since the last olympics he has made some big changes. Patrick has always enjoyed a very close and supportive relationship with his mother who travelled and lived with him in whatever city he was skating in, managing his team, cooking his meals and keeping his schedule. Last year, Chan decided to try things without her. He has his own apartment and has learned to cook for himself, write his own cheques and take care of himself. He said that this was one of the main things that threw him last Olympics – you can’t bring your mom into the Olympic village.
Lastly, we’ll talk a little about Evengi Plushenko who with a name like that can only be from Russia. You’ll probably recognize him as this is his 4th olympics. He has been on the podium at all 3 he has competed in, and is going for yet another medal, this time on his home ice.. He is an incredible athlete and a rather charismatic guy. For instance Evengi quit skating for a few years in order to enter politics. He was elected with the party ‘A Just Russia’ in 2007 and quit in 2011 with the intention to train for these olympics. He had a very poor attendance record but otherwise, apparently did a pretty good job. Evengi is married to a Russian record producer and has two young boys.
He was a part of a controversy in Vancouver after winning the silver medal behind American Evan Lysacek. However Evengi successfully landed a quad and Lysacek did not. He heavily criticized the judging system afterwards, saying that it was not fair, with many notable figure skating figures agreeing with him.
Sending Evengi to the Olympics was controversial in itself. He finished behind his team mate Maxim Kovtun in the nationals this year, losing his national title, but was still given Russia’s sole spot for men’s figure skating. He was offered the position of flag bearer this time around – in his home country. And he turned it down saying his competition schedule would not allow it. That’s just the kind of guy he is.
Chan worked with coach Osborne Colson for the first 10 years of his life and has attributed much of his success to the great coach who died at age 90 from complications after a car accident. Chan was very close with his coach and was at his deathbed when he died. For the next ten years he worked with Lori Nichol in Toronto, who acts as his main choreographer and with Christy Krall who was his technical coach in Colorado and helped him immensely with his jumps. Krall and Chan split ways in 2012 citing a difference in coaching philosophy with Chan wanting to focus more on the artistic side of the sport and less on the technical. He now works with Kathy Johnson, a modern dance coach – and it shows. His routines are beautiful to watch, his movements are incredibly languid and smooth. Switching to Johnson was a controversial move, she had limited experience working with skaters and while it is a move that perhaps Patrick’s mother would not have made, he has not looked back. Oh and one more thing, he’s dating her daughter….Yep. She’s a fashion designer and here they are together – https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BCyEOs0CMAAoPvJ.jpg
Chan still works with Lori Nichol although she did not choreograph any of his routines this year, as well as a handful of nutrition, fitness and balance experts including Eddie Shipstead who uses an incredibly cool harness that helps with jumps
In 2012 Yuzuru switched from long time coach Nanami Abe to Brian Orser in Toronto. Orser is an Olympian himself winning silver in the 1988 olympics. He makes frequent trips back to Sendai (more so while he was still finishing high school) but now lives primarily in Toronto. His training went from 1-2 hours a day in Sendai to 3-4 in Toronto. One of the main reasons for the switch was the Sendai arena’s financial issues and the immense damage done in the 2011 earthquake. In fact all of the residuals and a portion of his books proceeds are going to help restore his home arena. Yuzuru also studies ballet for an hour a day to help with his technique. Since making the move, he is very happy with his training but has trouble communicating well in english and hints at being rather lonely in Canada and missing his family.
Evengi has pretty much always been coached by Alexei Mishin a former pairs skater. He is a funny and incredibly sexist man who’s coaching methods seem to be nearly purely based on George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Pygmalion’ which perhaps more people know as the play that ‘My fair Lady’ is based on. He’s pretty much Henry Higgins with both Evengi and Mishin himself citing the play and it’s characters in interviews.
He doesn’t like working with women. In a 2009 interview with Kommersant magazine he said women were “delicate material” with men being “more sporty and talented.”
In 2009 Chan was diagnosed with a gasrrocnemius tear in his left calf muscle after the medication from a suspected case of Swine flu gave him muscle fatigue. He was treated with the controversial ‘Blood Spinning technique’ during this time. Since then, as far as we can guess, Chan’s calf is just fine.
Yuzuru has athsma which must make training difficult. After winning the Finlandia Trophy last year, he lay down on the ice, utterly exhausted. His asthma had been acting up with the weather and he had been training very hard, losing weight to the point that his costumes no longer fit him. He has hurt his ankle before but he seems to be in good shape on both fronts going into the Olympics.
Being older, Evengi has more injuries than the other two. He has had surgeries on his knee and his back but of course (as if they would tell us any different) he is in good physical health going into the 2014 olympics.
Chan’s program this year is going back to basics. He is skating to Vivaldi in his long program which is music he used to perform to in his days with Cormack Osborne. His program this year is going back to what he knows, and watch out for two quads at the top of the number. His short program is done to Elegie in E flat minor and his exhibition is to Steppin Out by Tony Bennett. He really is a beautiful skater, if the scores came down to performance there is no doubt that Chan would win. He is mesmerizing on the ice.
Hanyu’s short program will be Parisienne Walkways choreographed by Jeffrey Buttle, the same choreographer as Chan’s short program. He also has put his two quads near the top of the program. His long program will be ‘Romeo and Juliette’ by Nino Rota and his free skate will be done to (cdjhjdc) choreographed by his old coach Nanami Abe. So both Chan and Yuzumi are going back to the coaches that started them out.
I had trouble finding what material Plushenko would be skating to but I can tell you that he has a new exhibition program titled – The best of Plushenko arranged by Edvin Martin which I am just dying to see.
Who’s on top
Yuzuru has grown up admiring Patrick Chan and Evengi Plushenko but has only been competing against them for a few years. This year he managed to beat Chan once in the Grand Prix Final, winning gold. Plus he came out on top today in the team skate.
Chan has far more titles than Yuzuri, less than Evengi. He has had a few successful but ultimately inconsistent seasons over the past few years along with quite a few changes in his coaching team. Both Chan and Hanyu are trying to win their countries their first gold medal in mens figure skating. And both have impressive team mates coming with them that very well could nab the title away if they don’t perform to expectations. Kevin Reynolds and Daisuke Takahashi.
Evengi’s accolades are a-many. And everyone is curious to see whether he can still do it. He’s 31, which makes him over ten years older than Hanyu. But he beat Chan today as well, coming in second in the team skate.
So who to root for? With the Olympics it can be rather simple – just root for your country. But no matter who it is, you can rest assured that they are all pretty great in their own way. Chan is finally coming into his own and his skating isn’t to be missed. Hanyu is a young person on fire and Evengi is worth watching just to see that hair whipping around the rink.
It’s going to be a great looking podium!