Read all about it! Most-viewed stories of 2016Half of top 10 articles related in some way to ever-popular Hanyu
Articles dealing with weighty topics, like skaters coping with concussions and post-retirement depression, got a lot of eyeballs in 2016, but nothing dominated the headlines quite like the doings of Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu. Here now are the 10 most-viewed articles on icenetwork during the past 12 months.
1. Orser, Hanyu embrace long-distance relationship
The unorthodox training arrangement Brian Orser and Yuzuru Hanyu have works to a large degree because of the latter's unmatched focus and work ethic.
Not long after the Japanese championships, where Hanyu won despite three falls, [Johnny] Weir did a show with him in Japan. Weir, Hanyu and Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko of Russia shared practice sessions.
"It's 9 a.m. on a Sunday, after three days of hard work (on the show), and he is attempting quad lutzes, even if he is not going to put them into his free skate at worlds," Weir said.
"It's rare to see someone go above and beyond that way. You get to a certain level, and people tense up and get afraid to allow themselves to make mistakes," Weir continued. "But Yuzu is fearless. And he works until he can't see any more because of the sweat in his eyes."
2. Boston brewings: Hanyu, Ten stir up practice tiff
A near-collision at practice between men's competitors Yuzuru Hanyu and Denis Ten has skaters and coaches pointing fingers in all directions.
"I honestly didn't notice it until someone was screaming at my back every time he was passing by," Ten said. "I don't think there was an issue; we didn't hit each other. I always train with a lot of people on the ice. Maybe he is not used to a lot of people. It's practice: There are six people on the ice, and sometimes we get too close to each other."
3. Long battle with concussions ends Farris' career
Joshua Farris said that the risks of continuing to skate competitively were too serious after suffering multiple concussions.
It's then that we arrive at his admission of stepping away from the sport for now, and Farris, already speaking at a careful pace, encourages the words out of his mouth like a well-thought-out step sequence. He's speaking from his heart, because that's the only place he can trust at this point.
"[The doctors] told me it was my decision: 'If you want to live your dream, we're just telling you what might happen,'" he explains a few minutes later. "I could have permanent brain damage. … I don't want that. I don't think anyone wants that."
4. Where champions train: The rise of the Cricket Club
What Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson have built at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club is unprecedented in the history of the sport.
The venerable club has everything a skater could need: fitness center, wellness center with physiotherapists and massage therapists, restaurants and snack bar with many varieties of healthy food.
A few years ago, when the club was doing renovations, coaches were asked for recommendations.
"I told them not to change anything," Tracy Wilson said. "We're not sure why things work, but I don't want to mess with it. There is a funky energy here."
5. What's next? Skaters detail coping with retirement
Facing the end of a competitive career can be difficult for not only skaters but parents and coaches as well.
[Rachael Flatt] retired after the 2014 U.S. Championships and headed straight back to class (at Stanford University) that Monday. Nevertheless, she found herself unexpectedly emotional on the flight from Boston to San Francisco, unable to sleep after all the excitement and watching TV on the seatback in front of her.
"All of a sudden, they started showing highlights from the 2010 Olympics," Flatt said. "They showed a section of my program, and it was instantaneous tears. I didn't expect to feel like I was losing something, but it was a realization that, 'This is it. I'm not going to be stepping on the ice in front of tens of thousands of people and performing my heart out anymore.' It did feel like a punch to the gut."
6. Mount Olympus seemingly next stop for Hanyu
Yuzuru Hanyu took men's figure skating to a whole new level in 2015-16, posting scores that most observers thought were unattainable.
In the second week of December, the defending Grand Prix Final champion redefined "perfect" with two more back-to-back surreal performances. Hanyu rewrote the record book again, with scores of 110.95, 219.48 and 330.43. People in the Barcelona International Convention Centre chanted his name, as if it was Camp Nou (home of the FC Barcelona football club) a few miles away.
"I used Viktor Petrenko as my motivation; he must be looking at one of the gods on Mount Olympus for his motivation," Kurt Browning commented. "What's the rest of the group going to do to pull him back?"
7. Overseeing Fernández, Hanyu a challenge for Orser
Brian Orser discussed at length what it's like coaching the two best men's skaters in the world, Javier Fernández and Yuzuru Hanyu.
"Don't believe all those who say, 'Brian has so many good students -- he is so lucky!' It's really hard!"
8. Concussions in figure skating: How they happen
In the first installment of icenetwork's series about the occurrence of concussions in figure skating, we looked at the ways in which skaters get concussions.
Two-time world ice dance silver medalist Marie-France Dubreuil suffered two concussions during her career. In 2001, partner (and now husband) Patrice Lauzon slipped and fell on top of her in practice. While training for season one of
"Like an idiot, I kept going and then my body started breaking down," Dubreuil said. "Then I got pregnant, thank God. I had to stop skating, and my body started healing. But the symptoms are horrible. Even if you keep pushing through, your brain tells your body it is not working."
9. Boston brewings: Gold defies Carroll's wishes
Despite coach Frank Carroll telling her to take it easy, short program leader Gracie Gold did a full run-through of her free skate at Friday's practice at the world championships in Boston.
Thinking she was slated to go fifth in the practice group, Gold milled about at the boards as the session began, chatting with coach Frank Carroll and choreographer Scott Brown. She had only done a few warmup laps when her name was called -- first of the group -- to run through her free skate.
Instead of marking her program or choosing parts of it to focus on, Gold went full-bore, doing an entire run-through, which included a fall on the back end of her triple lutz-triple toe combination and another on a triple lutz.
"It felt kind of daring. I just decided to do a triple lutz instead of a walk-through. I just run through the program as a whole so much that I wouldn't know how to leave something out. It would feel broken. So I just wung (sic) it.
"I didn't know I was going to be the first skater in this practice. I don't know where my head was at. I guess it was in the clouds. When I heard, 'Our first skater is Gracie Gold,' I thought, 'Weird, I thought I drew fifth.' I thought I had all this time."
10. Hochstein enjoying career year with Zhang at side
It wasn't always easy for Grant Hochstein and Caroline Zhang, but the off-ice couple said they are stronger because of the adversity they have overcome.
"You never know how many more opportunities you will get," Hochstein said. "I would love to make it back to worlds and, hopefully, the Olympics, but you never know. I want to enjoy the experience and feel good about myself when I get off the ice. Now, whether that's first place or 10th place or 15th place, if I'm happy with my skate, then that's my victory. There's more to life than skating, and I want to feel good for myself.
"And I feel it is very important to have Caroline with me, to share these experiences with the most important person in my life. I am very, very happy I have her in my life."