Brian Orser has now coached Javier Fernandez to two World gold medals and Yuzuru Hanyu to one Olympic gold along with one gold and two silvers at the World Championships. Who would’ve thought that a Canadian, Spaniard and Japanese man, together could create something so dynamite that they have dominated the international men’s field for the past few years now? These men are extremely different and yet one common passion brings them together—the love of the sport and the desire to achieve great things.
Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernandez seem to be taking turns winning events though most of the time they both end up on the podium, who is at the top sometimes shifts. We see their rivalry first begin to simmer at the 2013 World Championships where Javier made it onto the World Championships podium for the first time winning the bronze and bumping Yuzuru off of the podium, Hanyu finished in fourth place. At the 2014 Olympic Games Yuzuru out-skated Javier winning the gold and Fernandez finished in fourth, just missing the podium. That same year Yuzuru won the World Championships and Javier secured the bronze. Fast forward one year to the 2015 World Championships where Javier took the gold and Yuzuru settled for the silver after struggling that season due to injury.
This season Hanyu had some incredible performances breaking world record scores left and right. Javier and Yuzuru were once again up against each other at the Grand Prix Final, where Javier skated good, but Hanyu was exceptional and broke yet another world record score. “Javi won Worlds last year, but then the Grand Prix Final Javi skated very well but Yuzuru cleaned his clock,” Brian Orser said after the men’s free skate on Friday night, April 1. “Javi took it very well. They’re used to taking turns. It will be an interesting next couple of years.”
Brian Orser, who coaches both Javier and Hanyu insisted that Javier taking the gold and Yuzuru settling for the silver at the World Championships this year will not change their relationship at all. He maintains that they respect one another as competitors and push each other to only skate better and train harder.
After the free skate on Friday night, Hanyu was obviously saddened by his own performance and looked a bit emotional at the start of the press conference. “I can’t explain my feelings,” Hanyu said. “I really am a little regretful about my long [program]. I am really sad, and I am really happy for Javi’s program. I know I am happy, but I am really sorry for my long. I want to do [it] again.”
So what did happen to Yuzuru during the free skate? “I don’t know maybe there was too much of a lead,” Orser said. “I think sometimes just human nature, you don’t get the fire in your belly, I don’t know. He’s trained, he’s done a couple of clean run-throughs here in Boston in practice. The first day he did a clean run through.”
Brian insisted that he never has trouble motivating Hanyu and that wasn’t a factor. “He’s handled pressure many times before and very well, “ Brian said. “He gets quite intense with the entrance and the warm up…I think it’s worked though in recent competitions.” In many ways Orser and Hanyu seemed both as confused on why Hanyu performed the way that he did on Friday night. At this point they don’t have the answer.
It’s a bit ironic that Hanyu and Orser do not have an explanation for his performance and yet Javier does not have an explanation for why he skated as well as he did either. “In Toronto, I had practices where I would stop and think, ‘Oh my god, I have to defend this title,'” Fernández said. “It was a hard time sometimes after a bad practice. When I got to Boston, those doubts went away. I just thought, ‘Whatever happens, happens.’”
Javier was battling a right heel injury that would keep him from practices. Even the morning of the free skate he was in pain and could not do what he had hoped in practice. He then sought medical attention and it began feeling better, but it was a struggle going into the event, which made this win that much sweeter. “When you go through a hard time and all of a sudden something good comes out…it’s a good feeling,” Fernandez said. “It teaches you so many things. We learn from every competition, we learn something new. Every practice we learn something new and today I learned a lot. I didn’t do the best short program of my life, the person ahead of me was ten points and I was like ‘Oh my God I don’t know if I’m going to be able to win again this competition’ at least at this time, but I did it, with all these problems. You can never stop believing, at least in yourself. You need to know that you can do it.”
The next time that Javier goes into an event with many obstacles in front of him, including being behind by 12 points, which by the way is the largest margin overcome in a men’s event since the IJS has been established, he will have this event to remind him of just how much he is capable of. “It’s going to be another thing in my brain just in case I have a similar problem or something…oh but I did it before, that means it’s possible,” Javier said.
Fernandez walked into this event with an injury, the pressure of being behind after the short, add to it the pressure of being Spain’s only real hope for a medal at this event and the expectation to defend his title Even with all of this weight he carries, he always appears to be so calm and happy go lucky, which Fernandez attributes to what his parents taught him along with his help from Orser.
“Brian is also the same as me,” Javier said. “I think that’s why we have such a good connection, Brian and I, because…we’re so similar sometimes. The way we are, the way we react sometimes, we’re similar.” Even their style and the way that they perform is very similar. Brian relates to Javier’s style as it was similar to his own when he competed.
Fernandez attributes much of his success to Orser. “Brian is the person with us [he and Yuzuru] every single day,” Fernandez said. “It doesn’t matter if we are in a good mood or a bad mood or if we do a good practice or a terrible practice—he is the person there helping you no matter what. So it’s almost like half of the medal is for your own coach because they’re the ones that teach you and they want you to get better and better every single day.”
Javier is grateful for his coach and they obviously share a very special connection, but he is also quick to recognize the role that Hanyu has in his career. “I know that he [Yuzuru] may not have had the skate of his life today, but I saw him training every day, “ Javier said in the press conference. “He was training to be the world champion and not every time you can do what you’re planning to do. To have him here with me is also special because we are training together every day at the Cricket Club (in Toronto) and it doesn’t matter if I’m first or second. It’s something we’re doing good with Brian, all of us together.”
So what’s next for this dynamic team? Hanyu will be taking a month off as he has a small foot injury and will be returning to Japan to rest. Orser expects Yuzuru to be back in late April to begin all new programs for next season. Javier will also be taking some time away and Brian joked that he won’t be back for training until September, as Javier relishes his time off. Orser will join Javier in Spain this summer for a skating camp and then Javier will come back with Brian for a two week skating camp that Brian is heading up. Regardless of what they do during the off-season, we can be sure that at the start of the season we will see them come back together and continue to give us some unforgettable moments on the ice as they continue taking turns on the podium.