To continue from my last post...
Sometimes you witness miracles.
It’s almost a cliche for resilience to be the story at the heart of sports, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that following Yuzuru Hanyu's journey is kind of like reading a shounen sports manga or some sort of novel, following the hero through literal disaster, then a long, long list of injuries and incredible comebacks and world records. I remember sharing the first Japanese article that broke last year with friends on Twitter with my heart pounding, double checking various dictionaries to make sure I translated ‘ankle injury’ right so I didn’t raise false alarms, then watching withdrawals from every subsequent competition, with reporters writing him off the predictions list and a giant question mark next to his name, loaded with doubt and, in some corners, silent dismissal.
Three months of media silence later, he made his comeback to competition at Pyeongchang's individual mens event. Still injured, on painkillers and risking everything (as he typically revealed only AFTER the event had happened), he became the first man to win back to back Olympic gold in 66yrs and delivered the biggest mic drop comeback short program I’ve ever seen, as well as an Olympic moment with SEIMEI, the program that begun my journey into the figure skating world and remains my favourite program of all time.
Never underestimate Mr Hanyu, as his coach says.
Honestly, I’ll just let the skating speak for itself.
Speaking of miracles...there were so other Olympic moments that truly made it worth wrecking my entire sleep schedule for three weeks (in no particular order).
- Yuna Kim lighting the Olympic torch and blessing the event - after how much she initially struggled as a figure skater in South Korea, seeing her success and how hard she worked after retirement to bring the Olympics to Pyeongchang, it was fitting to see her on the highest stage (and skating in public for the first time since her retirement).
- Mirai Nagasu’s free program (Team Event Ladies) - another example of utterly inspiring resilience and adding herself as the third woman to land the 3A in Olympic competition.
- Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir’s free skate (Ice Dance) - another example of ‘old’ champions who managed to crown themselves once again, right before their retirement.
- Aljona Savchenko/Bruno Massot’s free skate (Pairs) - Aljona Savchenko finally got her Olympic gold after five Olympic attempts, and while I was sobbing for Sui/Han, I couldn't help but be happy for her.
- Boyang Jin’s short program (Mens) - my favourite Chinese son and Spiderman, CHRONICALLY FORGOTTEN by all Western media, coming back after injuries on both ankles and winning the Four Continents Championships 2018 barely two weeks earlier.
- Javier Fernandez's free program (Mens) - while I wasn't really a huge fan of Javi's programs this season, he finally got a historic Olympic medal for Spain after missing it in Sochi 2014 due to an accidentally invalidated jump and his redemption journey over the last quad has been wonderful.
- Satoko Miyahara’s free program (Ladies) - Tiny Queen of beautiful delicate skating and gorgeous spins, whose comeback story from 11mths away from competition due to injury is as affecting as any.
- Wenjing Sui/Cong Han’s short program (Pairs) - my favourite pair team, another story of heartbreaking resilience and such a bittersweet silver because I was happy for Aljona but so devastated for them - especially after JUST hearing that Wenjing has been diagnosed with a stress fracture and will have to withdraw from Worlds. Please stay healthy and become 2022 Olympic champions in Beijing ;;
- Alina Zagitova’s free program (Ladies) - while I have plenty of issues PCS scoring in ladies, the fact she could save the first jump she stumbled on and add the combination in the second half of her program (which she basically needed for gold) shows nerves of TITANIUM. Also she’s fifteen.
- Evgenia Medvedeva’s free program (Ladies) - if you told us this time last year that anyone other than Evgenia Medvedeva would have an Olympic gold, we would have laughed. It's heartbreaking this was the season where injury caught up to Zhenya but her EX and FS were some of her most emotionally affecting performances ever.
- Patrick Chan finally getting his Olympic gold medal in the team event for Canada after a struggle of a season, and how the Canadian team helped him get it.
- Misha Ge’s exhibition program - anyone who can break it down to Kpop on the ice and rock a mesh shirt has my respect.
- Kaetlyn Osmond’s short program (Ladies) - An example of a program perfectly matched to a skater.
- Kaori Sakamoto’s free program (Ladies) - Apart from the phantomiming, this program really grew on me because the Amelie soundtrack is so lovely and Kaori's smile and gorgeous jumps sell the moments so well.
- Alexei Bychenko’s short program (Team Event Mens) - As an 'uncle' of the field (ie. older than 25, I'm serious), I loved this short program that was just radiating pure joy and reppin' music of his country!
- Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron's free program (Ice Dance) - I love this program and admire them for pulling it together after Gabby's wardrobe malfunction in the short program (at the absolute worst time).
- Dimitri Aliev's short program (Mens) - after struggling all season, Dima peaked in his SP at the right moment and it was 🔥🔥🔥
- Dabin Choi’s short program (Ladies) - Korea is not exactly a powerhouse skating nation yet, Yuna Kim notwithstanding, but Dabin quietly went out and had the most beautiful, graceful skates of the season in front of her home crowd.
- Kailani Crane's free program (Ladies) - Doing Australia proud! Loved her energy in this (and gorgeous costume to boot!)
- Valentina Marchei/Ondrej Hotarek's free program (Pairs) - Ondrej and Valentina had the Olympics of their wildest dreams, delivering clean programs for both the team and individual events, and it was a delight to see them react to it.
- Nathan Chen’s free skate (Mens) - who had two horrific short programs but threw aside all the excessive pressure US media heaped upon his shoulders to bring out a Mao moment - in multiple senses of the word - in the free skate. Quibbles with scoring aside, a worthy Olympic moment and one that I hope will lead him to great successes in the future.
- Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani's free program (Ice Dance) - I've been subscribed to the ShibSibs on Youtube for awhile, they're awesome and this free program rounds out their Coldplay music trilogy.
- Adam Rippon's short program (Mens) - It's kind of surreal to see Adam Rippon WILDIN IT UP post-Olympics all over Hollywood and US media but the world was just waiting to see his unapologetic fabulousness.
- Shoma Uno's ‘I won an Olympic silver medal, now can everyone just let me sleep’ struggle, which is totally relatable. Huge props to Shoma for basically holding up the Japanese men by going to almost every competition while Yuzuru was injured and not finishing lower than 2nd all season.
- Olympic Exhibition Gala practice shenanigans and trying many different winter sports shenanigans
Thanks for the exhilarating, heartbreaking, incredible time, Pyeongchang Olympics.
Next up: World Championships, and while Yuzuru won't be there in order to actually go heal his ankle, I’m excited to watch the rest of the skaters (Boyang Jin, World Champion 2018, I'm just saying....). See you - in person - in Milan 😬🇮🇹