Yuzuru Hanyu at NHK Trophy 2015.
At the Skate Canada International in 2015, Yuzuru Hanyu lost to Patrick Chan of Canada, who had just come back from a year's rest. The failure to win the title frustrated Hanyu, but that disappointment gave him energy for the next challenge.
One month later at the official training for the NHK trophy, Hanyu showed the new composition for his short programme, which included a quadruple Salchow at the start and then a quadruple toe loop + a triple toe loop. At the press conference afterwards, he announced that he would be performing the composition at the actual competition, explaining the reason as follows.
"I included a quadruple in the latter halves of both the short programme and free skate at the Skate Canada International and then thought, "I could attempt a harder one". My feeling was good when I did a spread eagle to a quadruple Salchow or a quadruple toe loop, which are difficult compositions, but I would like to try it. Though Brian (Orser) was surprised and said, "Will you start now?!", because putting a quadruple in the latter half had been in my thoughts while training to include two quadruples in my short programme, I made the decision when getting back to Toronto from the Skate Canada International."
Hanyu had initially wanted to try a quadruple jump in the latter half of his short programme in the previous season and attempted it in the short programme at the Cup of China, but he experienced an accidental collision with another skater before the free skate, meaning he only managed to attempt it once that season.
Therefore, Hanyu challenged himself again in the 2015-16 season, starting with his first competitions, the Autumn Classic International and the Skate Canada International. Having made errors on both occasions, Hanyu decided to attempt a harder composition because he thought that, "If it goes without any mistakes it is just repeating last seasons' challenge and could therefore not be called much of an improvement from then".
Yuzuru Hanyu at NHK Trophy 2015.
Also, the fact that Jin Boyan from China successfully completed a quadruple Lutz + a triple toe loop at the Cup of China in the 2015-16 season may have made Hanyu think more strongly in that way.
Now at the NHK Trophy Hanyu skated freely in his short programme, during which he seemed different from the two previous competitions when he had looked uncomfortable due to thinking too much about the quadruple jump in the latter half.
Regarding the quadruple Salchow, in the beginning, Hanyu confessed with a wry smile, "I struggled to hold it, which Brian also told me" after he managed to maintain his balance by toe edging when almost stumbling on the landing. But the next quadruple toe loop + triple toe loop were as perfectly executed as he had shown in the six-minute training, adding 2.57 Grade of Execution points.
The speed of his flying camel spin earned level four, which was enough for the judges to raise his score by two or three points. The triple Axel in the latter half was also finely executed. Sharp and bold skating in the step sequence earned level four as well, combining for a record total of 106.33.
"In the last four weeks, I've trained so hard that I even surprised myself," Hanyu laughed after the competition. "Jin Boyan scored more than 95 points by trying to maximise what he can do. I thought the same thing - just do what I can do the best. Not being afraid, I played with expectations for the first time since long ago. I also felt happy with all the jumps landed, although they were not perfect."
He also explained the reason he was able to show such attractive steps.
"The last triple Axel was finely executed and I could spin nicely too, so everything went well in this performance."
The song for the short programme was "Ballade No.1 in G minor" which Hanyu used two seasons in a row. It had been, "A song to which I hadn't been able to perform flawlessly, and it was fun (to try that). But this time, I could finally perform from my heart with the melody of the piano, and I felt it was a fun programme in that sense". That meant he had shown a perfect performance at last.
After flashing a delighted smile, Hanyu said, "I need to refocus my mind for the free skate", which he did the next day.
Hanyu finely executed a quadruple toe loop + a triple toe loop in the latter half, which he had been struggling to achieve. He earned another record of 216.70 points, making a total of 322.40 points, becoming the first figure skater to exceed 300 points in total. He didn't only break the record but also people's fixed idea that a quadruple jump in the latter half was impossible.
At the Grand Prix Final the following week, Hanyu was expected to achieve a high score and shrugged the pressure off, completing a quadruple Salchow and a quadruple toe loop + triple toe loop in the short programme, scoring 110.95 points. His perfect performance carried on into the free skate, in which he earned 219.48 points. The total of 330.43 points was another record. Hanyu had mastered the new programme too.
Rousing his mind by taking on difficult challenges led to a great step forward. That is what Hanyu is truly made of.
text by Toshimi Oriyama