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Orser amazed by pupil Hanyu's skill, politeness

World bronze medalist makes early impression on new coach, shows great promise

With the help of Brian Orser, Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu hopes to build on his bronze from 2012 worlds.
With the help of Brian Orser, Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu hopes to build on his bronze from 2012 worlds. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/19/2012) - When Yuzuru Hanyu hit the ice at ShoWare Center for his practice on Thursday at 2012 Skate America, Brian Orser didn't expect too much.

"He just got off of the airplane that morning; he missed his flight the prior night because he got held up in immigration," said Orser, who trains Japan's world bronze medalist in Toronto. "He went straight from the airport to the practice after a five-hour flight. So I said, 'Just relax, get a feel for the ice.'"

But the 17-year-old Hanyu had different ideas. His run-through of his Notre-Dame de Paris free skate, choreographed by David Wilson, was near perfect.

"It was bam -- quad Sal, quad toe and two triple Axels," Orser said. "Amazing."

Hanyu, who hails from Sendai, left longtime coach Nanami Abe in April to train with Orser at the Cricket Skating and Curling Club, where the two-time Olympic silver medalist also trains Spain's Javier Fernandez. Skater and coach had their first competition together at Finlandia Trophy early this month, where Hanyu won gold. But, as Orser tells it, they're still feeling each other out.

Icenetwork.com: Anything new with Hanyu's programs (including a short to "Parisienne Walkways," choreographed by Jeff Buttle) since Finlandia?

Orser: We haven't changed anything. The [quad] toe is consistent, the [quad] Salchow is new. The first time he put it out was at Finlandia, and he landed it [in his free skate]. The plan is to try the Salchow here, and I'm always firm with sticking with the plan. He's got it now; it's a big step when you get that first one out in competition. He did it and he is pretty confident with it. So, we'll have both quads in the free and the quad toe in the short.

The only difference with his short is he has two of his big jump elements after the halfway point. There are a lot of guys that do one, and he is doing two. So it's a risk.

Icenetwork.com: Beyond taking home gold, what did you learn about Hanyu at Finlandia?

Orser: The mission was to get an idea of how we work best together. It's hard to do in just one event, but we did. We tried to find a rhythm that works for us -- for me to get to know him, and for him to get to know me, to kind of read each other. I was very confident he would go there and do well, but the main thing was just to go and see how he turns things around in the six-minute warm-up. He had a great six-minute warm-up for the short, and he didn't skate well. He had a lousy six-minute warm-up for the long, and he skated lights out.

Icenetwork.com: He returned to Japan for a few shows this summer. Did that concern you?

Orser: Skating is different now. The way I did it was different, and the way Yu-Na [Kim] did it was different. She didn't do too many shows at all.

These guys do a lot of shows, but as long as you can manage it and not get exhausted ... I was worried about the constant travel back and forward to Japan. He had a little injury and he had to pull out of some shows, which was kind of the skate god telling us to slow down and be in one place longer. We've been together a couple of months now, and I'm getting him on a nice routine.

Icenetwork.com: How is he adapting to life in Toronto?

Orser: His mom is with him, and she is very quiet and does her own thing. He comes to the rink very prepared. I know that all of the members of the skating community at our club have really embraced him, because he's a gentleman, he's polite and he's good with all of the other kids. He works really well with Javier and Elene [Gedevanishvili]. And now I'm working with (2011 Canadian junior champion) Nam Nguyen, and Yuzu has taken him under his wing, and it's really kind of neat.

Icenetwork.com: Talk about his relationship with Javier, because those two fight each other for medals.

Orser: This past season, they were head to head. And that was another reason for Finlandia, to have both of them there and figure out that dynamic. How do they manage the warm-up, how do they manage the practice session, how do they manage the waiting? Javi skated second and Yuzu skated last, so I kind of had to balance that and make it clear to them that we're all on the same page and [establish] an even balance of respect.

They get along famously; if Javi falls down on the ice in practice, Yuzu will help him up. It's really heartfelt. But when they get to a competition, they both want to skate their best. They both have great programs, but they're completely different. They are two different athletes; they don't train the same.

Icenetwork.com: So, how is Yuzu's English coming along?

Orser: We have to work on that; he is so polite, he says 'yes' to everything. He has no idea what he is saying yes to. I have a translator on my speed dial.