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No Yuzuru Hanyu slander will be tolerated

| Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Figure skating is by far my favorite Olympic sport. From the comfort of the couch in my dorm’s basement my friends and I can judge the outrageous outfits, chuckle at the commentators’ cringeworthy quips and have highly sophisticated discussions of technical elements whenever a skater slips (just for the record, I aced all of these maneuvers on the Wii back in 2012, so I am EXTREMELY qualified). This year, I was most eager to see if Yuzuru Hanyu, a two-time Olympic champion, would earn his third gold medal.

Heavy expectations burdened him, yet he still gave his all in the two main competitions: the short program and the free skate. After missing a crucial jump in the short program, Hanyu attempted a quadruple axel in the free skate—something that no one had successfully performed in a competition before.

He nearly landed it.

Despite two heart-rending falls, Hanyu’s performance in the free skate was still breathtaking. He brushed off his mistakes with ease and stunned the audience with both his stellar technique and graceful movements. He was able to push through both the physical and mental pain of his falls to give an emotional performance with tranquil fluidity that showed his dedication to the sport, earning fourth place as a result.

To be an Olympic skater—to train for four years and have the kind of insane expectations placed upon you that Hanyu has and still perform at the highest level after falling with the world watching—that is truly admirable.

I’ve seen so many headlines claiming that this year’s Olympics are a disappointment for Hanyu. However, I think they’re approaching it from the wrong angle. There’s so much pressure at this level of competition to give a performance that goes above and beyond people’s expectations. Skaters are constantly challenging themselves to perfect exhausting moves that require an insane amount of focus, all the while dealing with the anxiety that comes with being on national television. The sheer amount of skaters falling and making other technical mistakes is due in part to their determination to push themselves to their limits with tiring techniques in their routines, making it very difficult to skate perfectly throughout. Hanyu, however, has consistently recovered quickly from these failures and proceeded to skate beautifully. This is why he’s one of the most respected athletes in his sport.

Plenty of people face the fear of failure and, by extension, disappointing themselves and other people. As college students, many of us battle this on a regular basis. Each exam, lab or interview can feel like the potential end or beginning of our futures. We obsess over the perfect GPA to get into medical or graduate school. We stress about flawlessly networking with future employers. We even tough out frightening encounters in our day-to-day life. I tremble carrying my plate around South Dining Hall, constantly aware of the intense repercussions of dropping it. I think twice about which clothes I put in the dryer before I shrink my favorite shirt—once again becoming the family disappointment. On a more serious note, having the courage to continuously step up to the plate and take on daunting new challenges demonstrates our courage and resilience. No matter the outcome, these trials will inevitably lead to our personal growth.

So what if Hanyu didn’t land the quadruple axel? The fact that he nearly succeeded in something that had never been done before is amazing. To criticize flawed technique is valid, but to say that Hanyu’s entire performance was a disappointment is completely inaccurate. Hanyu has demonstrated that failing once or twice doesn’t mean that you’ll never find success. This isn’t just true of figure skating, but all aspects of life. Respected author Jack London dropped out of college to participate in a sadly unsuccessful gold rush, then wrote every single day for years until his work become popular. JAY-Z was rejected by every single major label in the U.S. at the beginning of his career and now he’s one of the most iconic rappers of our time. After an interview or test goes especially badly, it can be easy to fall into the toxic mindset of thinking “I’ll never do well in this.” Everyone has moments like that—no one is going to do everything absolutely perfectly. One or two missteps aren’t representative of your overall ability in a certain area. If you truly love something, keep trying to succeed in it and you will.

Caitlin Brannigan is a first-year from New Jersey studying psychology and pre-health studies. She will forever defend her favorite young adult novels and is overjoyed to have a platform to rant. She can be reached for comment at [email protected] or @CaitlinBrannig on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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