“Yuzuru Hanyu is not from this planet.”
The words of legendary skating writer Phil Hersh on Twitter last Saturday echoed the sentiments of many after witnessing last weekend’s Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, Spain.
Two weeks after shattering the world records for the short program, free skate and total score at the NHK Trophy in Nagano, Yuzuru Hanyu did it again in winning the prestigious six-man event for the third straight year.
That was another record in itself — no man had ever won the GP Final three straight times in the 21-year history of the competition. Not Evgeni Plushenko, not Patrick Chan, not Alexei Urmanov or Alexei Yagudin.
Two weeks, six worlds records — absolutely incredible.
What skating fans are witnessing with Hanyu is simply off the charts.
We are talking Wilt Chamberlain circa 1961-62 or Tiger Woods circa 2000-01.
This is Wilt scoring 100 points in a game and averaging 50 points a game for an entire season and Tiger winning four straight majors and the U.S. Open by 15 shots.
It’s not just that Hanyu is winning, but he is crushing his opponents literally and figuratively.
Anybody who has ever participated in an athletic event can tell you that there is nothing worse than knowing you have no chance to win going into a contest. It’s completely disheartening.
This is no doubt how the other skaters felt at the GP Final. Just like when Wilt or Tiger were at their peaks, those competing against Hanyu are mere spectators. Left in awe by his feats just like the media and fans.
Hanyu’s winning total of 330.43 points beat the reigning world champion and second-place finisher Javier Fernandez by more than 37 points. As if that wasn’t enough, Hanyu did it with Fernandez skating on home ice in Spain.
“I just want to do the perfect feeling and perfect jumps, every element,” Hanyu stated in the interview after his free skate. “Because I feel like the score is the score, and my performance is my performance. That’s different, right?”
Hanyu, who turned 21 last week, was asked after his free skate what advice he would give to young skaters coming up who idolize him.
“When I was young I was dreaming to be like Plushenko or kind of like Johnny Weir (three-time U.S. champion) or Yagudin. Some top skaters,” Hanyu commented. “So please don’t give up skating, practice or dreaming.”
Ice Time hopes everybody is lucky enough to get to see Hanyu skate in person just once to understand his impact. Magnetic, electric, there almost aren’t enough superlatives to describe him anymore.
Eurosport2 analyst Nicky Slater was in awe after Hanyu’s short program on Thursday night.
“That program had everything,” Slater noted. “The skating quality going into that. The transitions in and out of those big technical elements. Just unbelievable. He continues to take this sport to places it’s never been.
“If you took the jumps out of that program, it’s a masterpiece. When you add in the quads. Wow . . . ” added Slater. “He is getting better and better.”
Slater’s broadcast partner Chris Howarth left little doubt about his feelings after the short program.
“He is the best ever,” Slater said categorically.
“We are in the presence of real greatness,” Slater stated after Hanyu’s free skate on Saturday. “A genius in action.”
Hersh bemoaned the interest in skating in the United States now while saluting Hanyu in another tweet.
“Shame no one in U.S. but hardcore fans care about fig skating any more because everyone else is missing once-in-a-lifetime athlete in Hanyu,” Hersh wrote.
The proclamations of Hersh, Slater and Howarth are not to be taken lightly. These men have all been around skating for decades. They know what they are talking about.
Those who saw Hanyu’s performance in Barcelona should not get too attached to his latest world records, however, as the Japan nationals in Sapporo are just 10 days away. Scoring can be a bit more generous at domestic events, so don’t be surprised if the Sendai native rewrites the record books again.
Overshadowed: Lost in the glare of Hanyu’s epic performance was the fine showing by Shoma Uno, who took third place behind Fernandez.
The reigning world junior champion made the podium ahead of three-time world champion Chan, Jin Boyang and compatriot Daisuke Murakami.
Uno, who won the Junior Grand Prix Final last year, was happy with the result, but made it clear he is thinking about the future.
“I’m very pleased with today’s performance, especially the jumps which are my best so far,” Uno was quoted as saying by the ISU website. “I was surprised to get over 190 points. I’m satisfied with what I’ve done today, but this is not a goal it’s just a starting point.”
Japan came away with five of the 12 medals on offer in the singles at the combined GP Final and JGP Final.
Satoko Miyahara finished second behind Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva in her first senior GP Final and recorded a personal-best score of 140.09 in the free skate in the process.
“I am satisfied with my performance, I didn’t think I would get 140 points, so I am really happy,” said Miyahara, who landed seven triple jumps. “Of course this (success this season) gives me confidence and I carry that with me in the program, but there is always room to improve.”
Three-time world champion Mao Asada finished a disappointing sixth after being in third following the short program. Mao’s problems in the free skate began with her opening triple axel and went downhill from there.
Mao was trying to become the first woman to win the GP Final five times.
Marin Honda from Kyoto hung on to third place after the short program to make the medal stand behind Russia’s Polina Tsurskaya and Maria Sotskova in the women’s JGP Final. Honda hit five triple jumps, but fell on a triple flip in her free skate.
Despite going home with a medal in her first JGP Final, Honda made it clear she was not satisfied.
“I was aiming to have two clean skates in both the short program and the free skate but I couldn’t do that,” the precocious 14-year-old stated. “I thought I could do better. All through the program I was very nervous. I’ve learned how difficult it is to have two clean skates. Next year I would like to come back to this stage and to win first place.”
Sota Yamamoto, a 15-year-old from Osaka, took third place in the men’s JGP Final, sharing the podium with American Nathan Chen and Russia’s Dmitri Aliev.
“Last year I was second here (at the JGP Final) so I think many people expected me to be better this year, but I changed my jumping content to put two quads in the long program just before Western Japan Sectionals so I wasn’t able to nail it,” Yamamoto noted. “There was only a small margin between third and fourth places and I changed my double axel to a triple flip, so I was able to make it to third place.”