Orser plots out season for Hanyu, Fernandez

Toronto-based coach mentoring Canadian junior champ Nguyen, bid farewell to Gao

Brian Orser said Yuzuru Hanyu is planning on including a quad Salchow in his free skate at some point this season.
Brian Orser said Yuzuru Hanyu is planning on including a quad Salchow in his free skate at some point this season. (Getty Images)


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By Lynn Rutherford and Klaus-Reinhold Kany, special to
(07/30/2012) - At Toronto's posh Cricket Skating and Curling Club most any weekday morning this summer, you'll likely find Brian Orser on the ice with club members ranging from young children to teens and adults.

The elite session begins around noon, but as the club's skating director, the two-time Olympic silver medalist teaches some developing skaters with the same enthusiasm he devotes to the steady stream of international competitors who will visit the club this summer, including three-time European medalist Kiira Korpi of Finland; Sonia Lafuente of Spain; and five German juniors accompanied by their coach, Anett Pötzsch-Rauschenbach.

Much of the excitement revolves around his two top male skaters: Spain's Javier Fernandez, who started 2011-12 strong and then placed ninth at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships, and rising star Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan's world bronze medalist. Here are Orser's thoughts about the coming season. Fernandez had a breakout 2011-12. What will he do for an encore?

Orser: David Wilson gave him two new programs, which both suit him very well. For the short, he is skating to the soundtrack of Zorro (a medley of music from The Mask of Zorro and The Legend of Zorro, to be exact). The free skate is a medley of Charlie Chaplin soundtracks, including some of the lesser-known pieces.

He did so well with his quads in competition last season that we're now planning three quads in the long: two toe loops and a Salchow. We're also working on a quad loop, but it's not quite ready for competition yet. We added some interesting transitions into the jumps, so the programs are more difficult. And, of course, we're working on speed and conditioning. Javier had a great start last season, qualifying for the Grand Prix Final, but he seemed to fade a bit at Europeans and worlds.

Orser: I had to understand his rhythm. He had too much speed in the middle of his free skate last season, so this time we adapted the program a bit, so he can concentrate more on his jumps. Plus, he's been working hard this summer; having Yuzuru Hanyu here is really motivating him. How much time has Hanyu spent in Toronto?

Orser: I started with him in early May and, at first, concentrated on stroking and skating skills. He didn't speak much English back then, but there was a translator around most of the time, and we got a lot done. Now, he understands quite a bit of English.

He is committed to some shows in Japan [including the ICE 2012 tour, July 21-29], and I told the Japanese skating federation I would like to see him do fewer shows in the future. Almost all of his training will be here in Toronto; he will only return to Japan for shows. I think he enjoys it here. Talk about his new programs.

Orser: Jeff Buttle choreographed his new short, a kind of a hard-edged blues piece that really suits him well. David [Wilson] did his new free to Notre Dame de Paris. We're planning to include a quad Salchow in the long, and it's going pretty well, but that's not for sure yet. (Hanyu already executes the quad toe loop.) How do Fernandez and Hanyu get along?

Orser: Both boys are pretty competitive with each other. They are respectful of me and excellent students. They listen, and they try. Let's talk about your other skaters.

Orser: Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia is here, her second season with me. David did an excellent new free for her to Don Quixote; every single beat is choreographed. We've really focused on her triple Lutz-triple toe combination, we tried to make her triple loop more consistent, and we've worked hard on her spins. I see Nam Nguyen, the 14-year-old who placed seventh at 2012 Canadians, trains here now.

He is a great talent. At the moment, I am changing the technique of his triple Axel a bit. It will come out stronger than ever in a few weeks.

I spoke to his longtime coach, Joanne McLeod, who certainly was a bit disappointed to lose him, but it was a family decision. At first, I hesitated to take him because my schedule was full, but then Christina Gao (fifth at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships) left, and I had more time. What happened with Christina?

Orser: She was accepted at Harvard University and didn't want to postpone her education. She wants to proceed with her skating career as well as her academic career. Christina is very disciplined about her schoolwork. I admire her; it was not easy for her to leave. She will keep her free skate from last season (set to Piazzolla's "Libertango"), and her new coaches Mark [Mitchell] and Peter [Johansson] in Boston will give her a new short.

Notebook: 2011 U.S. junior silver medalist Alexander Zahradnicek, who trains in Wilmington, Del., with former French competitor Vincent Restencourt, hopes to compete for France. At the recent Liberty Summer Competition, he said he discussed his plan with Didier Gailhaguet, who encouraged him to take the step. According to Zahradnicek, U.S. Figure Skating has released him, and he will compete in the annual French Masters competition in October and French nationals in December. Internationally, he will sit out the 2012-13 season and return in the fall of 2013 ... Three-time German world pairs champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy have a new short to Kismet, performed by Bond. They said they will likely keep last season's free skate to Pina but will add more intricate steps between their elements ... German ice dancers Tanja Kolbe and Stefano Caruso, 12th at the 2012 European Championships, have reunited after splitting up this spring. Their primary coach remains Barbara Fusar-Poli, but they will also spend time with Rene Lohse in Berlin and Martin Skotnicky in Oberstdorf. They are now training with Igor Shpilband's group at the Novi Ice Arena, where Fusar-Poli is visiting for 10 days.