An injury kept Jason Brown from having a rinkside seat for the first of Yuzuru Hanyu’s two history-making performances last fall.
Even from afar, though, the reigning U.S. champion was blown away by what the reigning Olympic champion from Japan did at November’s NHK Trophy and, astonishingly, improved upon at December’s Grand Prix Final.
Both produced world record scores, a 322.40 at NHK and a 330.43 at the Final.
The first was an astounding 27.13 points higher than the old record. And, after 2003, the first year of the new scoring system, the largest one-time jump had been 16.57, and the overall improvement from 2006 to the first mark Hanyu toppled had moved the bar barely more (36.94) than the amount by which he pushed it in just two weeks (35.16).
Hanyu’s short programs in both those events each had two clean quadruple jumps, one as a quad-triple combination. His free skates each had three clean quads, one a quad-triple.
At the Grand Prix Final, four of those five quads received a maximum 3.0 grade of execution. On those four jumps, 32 of the judges' marks were 3 (the other four were 2), a rarely seen expression of near unanimous acclaim.
So I asked Brown, who had to withdraw from NHK with a back injury that now has also sidelined him from the upcoming U.S. Championships, if he thought Hanyu was from another planet.
“He is really unbelievable,” Brown said. “What he has done with the sport and what he does is absolutely incredible. I totally take my hat off to him. It’s truly amazing. He is changing the sport, bringing it to new heights.”
A Japanese colleague asked Brown if Hanyu’s scores are leading everyone else to challenge themselves more or leaving them to think only about second place.
“It is motivating,” Brown said. “When one person jumps ahead, everyone is working harder, everyone is trying to take more risks. It’s just another way to continue to bring our sport to new heights. I think it’s awesome. I definitely don’t look at it as discouraging or upsetting. I think it’s only positive."
Yuzuru Hanyu's short program score sheet at the Grand Prix Final.