Ice Network

How ready are Hanyu and Fernández for the Final?

Olympic champion still getting over crash; Spaniard feeling the pressure
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
With the weight of a country on each of their shoulders, Yuzuru Hanyu (left) and Javier Fernández hope that their skating at the Grand Prix Final can put a smile on their faces. -Getty Images

The men's competition at the Grand Prix Final raises two main questions. The first is: How will 2014 Olympic and world gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu fare after his rather rough Grand Prix season. And the other, of course, is: How will Spaniard Javier Fernández withstand the pressure of this event, the first major ISU competition to be held in his home country? Icenetwork asked Fernández, Hanyu and their common coach, Brian Orser, how they felt about this competition.

Even though Hanyu declined to give a press conference (much to the disappointment of the media), he nonetheless agreed to come to the mixed zone to talk about his condition and preparation.

Hanyu's preparation is as good as it can be at this time

"I like the ice," Hanyu said after his first official practice. "I feel very good. This is my first time here. I feel really different than in Japan, but I also feel the competition here -- I mean, real competition in here."

Hanyu also admitted that the last two weeks were really harsh on him.

"I practiced really hard after NHK [Trophy]. I lost about 10 days after Cup of China (to rest after the terrible collision he had with China's Han Yan), and that was a big gap for me," he admitted. "I tried to make it up since, and concentrated even more."

Orser detailed Hanyu's preparation and the schedule the skater's kept since NHK.

"Yuzuru was struggling before NHK. Nobody knew what to expect there. The collision he sustained at Cup of China took him seven days of complete rest. He started coming back slowly after that, and it was time to go to NHK. I even think that he was a little shy coming back to the ice after the accident. NHK was kind of a gamble, actually."

Orser has not coached Hanyu since NHK, however.

"I was in Toronto, and he stayed in Japan. I had prepared a detailed daily schedule for him, with two practices a day and what to do in each session. That's how it works with Yuzu: If he has a plan, he will work really hard. Otherwise, he tends to go with the flow.

"I did a harder schedule for him. He told me that it was hard. I told him that it was good, because that's what he needed! But I also told him that if he followed this, he could trust me; he would be fine for the Final.

"Now I think he is back on track. He seems to be well trained. He has gained his confidence back."

Orser even wondered whether NHK would serve as added motivation for Hanyu.

"NHK was mostly Yuzu's decision. I didn't think he was ready, and I told him. But he was determined to skate, and I had to respect that. Yuzu needs to have something like this to push him for his training. If he didn't, he would have approached it more relaxed. So maybe NHK was the wake-up call he needed?

"You know, each skater gets his humbling competition, when you have to walk ashamed in front of everybody. We all have that. I was not hoping for it, but there is always a silver lining. If you manage to get something good out of something bad, that's nice.

"Yuzu is not 100 percent, but he deserves to be here with the other guys. I can't imagine him staying home. It would have been terrible for his confidence."

The collision Hanyu was involved in at Cup of China did hamper his preparation, of course, but time was running short long before then.

"Yuzuru had a lot of obligations after his Olympic and world gold medals," Orser continued. "He had many shows, parades and a lot of new responsibilities. His life has changed! But that's OK. He is a megastar now. He loves it, and it's hard to keep your enthusiasm with your job afterward.

"The tough moment was when he came back to Toronto after all that. All the other guys were already doing their stuff, and he was just starting over. Now he is back down to earth, and we could start working again."

"Here, I want to show what I can do at this time of the year," Hanyu said. "I have spent one week to work on the consistency of my jumps. I'll just have to give it all: I give everything anyway, but I will have to give even more this time!"

Fernández can see the pressure now

"I am the first one to skate on this ice, and I hope I'll be the last one, too, because it will show that I won," a delighted Fernández offered when he took part in the opening party of the rink. "The Spanish federation had been requesting a high-caliber competition for some time, and obtaining this Grand Prix Final is a matter of great pride. It's going to be a great way of promoting skating to the public."

Last summer, Fernández was afraid he might not even qualify for the Final. Barcelona got its Final, and Fernández did qualify.

Now he faces a new responsibility.

"This is a little bit frightening," he admitted. "This is the very first time it's taking place here! But it should be OK. As a child, I never thought it would be possible this way."

Orser confirmed that Fernández was now feeling the pressure.

"It just hit him today, I think. Everybody will be watching him. You can't prepare for that," Orser said. "But we did all the stuff before, so it should work out well.

"Yuzu does this all the time! He has NHK, nationals, of course; he got the Grand Prix Final in Japan, the world championships in Japan, plus all the exhibitions he skated. Javier, on the contrary, never gets a chance to skate here."

"I know he really wants to put on a good show here. I told him to just embrace it. Canadians have really adopted him. He skates often in Japan, and Japan loves him. So, in Spain, I asked him to just think that he is skating in Canada or in Japan. But I am well aware that he sees the future of figure skating in Spain is all on his shoulders -- but don't tell him before the competition is over, please!

"Javier knows that he holds a huge responsibility," Orser continued. "There is a little bit of momentum here, and it should be continued."

Meanwhile, Orser continues to watch both skaters on the same ice at the same time.

"It's just a matter of balance," he explained. "We practice like this all the time. When I see Yuzu tumble, I tell him a word, and when Javier lands a quad, it's thumbs up."

And vice versa, of course!