Ice Network

Bouillabaisse: Hanyu nailing quad loops in practice

Shuttles wreaking havoc on skaters' practice schedules; Hubbell lauds ice
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Jean-Christophe Berlot reports that Yuzuru Hanyu is landing his quad loop with great regularity in Marseille. -Getty Images

How would you feel if you entered a room with about 50 cameras pointing at you, as well as a few TV cameras, all in a complete and nearly religious silence? Obviously, and needless to say, that's not for you. Several pretended it was, and the room erupted in laughter each time -- but no camera shot. Most entered as discretely as possible.

That's how the draw room was Wednesday night. All of a sudden, the door of the elevator opened and their skating majesties, the six gladiators of the time, made their entrance for the men's draw. Engine-powered cameras flashed all over the room. Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno weren't the first to enter, but the Japanese cameras were clearly for them. On top of it, Dec. 7 happened to be Hanyu's birthday -- his 22nd. He deeply bowed to the applause that erupted. Javier Fernández got his own round of applause, too, as he was the first to draw, and drew first to skate in the short program.

Marseille shuttles?

Actually, the draw room was full because skaters had not arrived in due time from their hotel, which is located more than half an hour away from the rink. Shuttles have plagued most skaters so far, and that was particularly visible Thursday morning. It's tough to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to practice (junior ice dancers took the ice at 6:15). If you have to wait 30 minites for a shuttle that ultimately doesn't show up, you may feel a bit frustrated! Especially when, after you're done, you want to go back to the hotel to take a nap and the shuttle is not there either.

From where will the solution come? Well, surely, from the organization. But, for now, some skaters are just taking a cab to the rink.

"We expected to take the 9:30 shuttle, but the 9 o'clock shuttle had not arrived yet, so we decided to share a cab among skaters instead," Evan Bates said as he and Madison Chock arrived at the rink (much earlier than expected).

Canadian coach Richard Gauthier had another strategy.

"I had to run," he said. "I managed to arrive right on time for Meagan [Duhamel] and Eric [Radford]'s practice."

Maybe the organizers consider that coming to the rink for practice is a warmup, per se?

Sea, ice calm in Marseille

The calmness of the Mediterranean Sea has always been one of the major stakes for fishermen (hence, for fish). The weather forecast usually reads (in French), "The sea is nice and not agitated." Well, we're happy to report that "the ice is calm," as Madison Hubbell nicely put it.

"It means that the ice is a bit soft," she explained while laughing. "I prefer it this way. When the ice is cooler, you may skate faster -- but speed has never been a problem for us. When you get excited, your edges may tend to wobble more. Here, the ice is calm."

Pros know their tools perfectly.

Morning crowds

Around 8 a.m. Thursday morning, two big groups of people started to gather in the rink for the morning practice: Japanese fans took a whole section of the stands behind the judges' seats, while several classes of schoolchildren took the other side of the rink by storm. Beware, skaters, your practice is being scrutinized...and widely applauded, of course! Well, to be honest, kids scream louder than Japanese fans.

Premonition?

Wednesday afternoon, as skaters were practicing and the computer system was being connected, the monitors displayed the following ranking for a few seconds: 1. Madison Chock - Evan Bates, 57.10 points. 2. Tessa Virtue - Scott Moir, 45.50 points. 3. Gabriella Papadakis - Guillaume Cizeron, 39.10 points.

"We'll see about that!" Bates said jokingly.

No competition yet...that was a just a test!

The universality of skating

Wednesday night, a loud noise like an explosion suddenly erupted in the press room, where a few journalists were still at work. It was nothing serious, though -- quite the contrary, as they soon discovered: The press room is located on the top of the building, in a "skate park." And skateboarders had just started their evening practice!

On top of the world

Thursday morning, however, the skate park took a completely different look (and sound!), as skaters used it as a warmup space. The show they delivered there would have been worth televising, actually, as good as it was. Among gorgeous canyon-like scenery, with big windows opening toward the nearby mountains and sea, Patrick Chan jogged, Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau rehearsed their whole routine and lifts in a succession of shade and sunshine, while Hanyu warmed up his arms and hands through small choreographic movements. Fernández stretched while chatting with coach Brian Orser. Cheng Peng rehearsed her jumps a little farther away, in the morning sunrise. Adam Rippon elected to warm up even higher, in the stands above the skate park, from where he could watch the world.

In a matter of hours, they would all go down from canyonland and the skate park to a smooth (and calm) white sheet of ice in a crowded arena…yet you can count on them to remain on top of the world!

Toward another record?

Practice sessions are meant for practice, that's for sure. But they also provide a good opportunity for skaters to show their prowess to the audience, their fellow competitors and to judges in attendance. The morning session proved quite valuable for Hanyu in that respect: Not only could he show his fabulous quad loop, but he also could show his consistency in landing it. He even included it when he rehearsed his whole program. Perfect, each time. If he skates the same way Thursday, he might well beat his own world scoring record!