Tuesday, Oct. 13
One of the other competitors in this event is the 2014 Olympic gold medalist, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. Being that this is my very first international, I did my best to brace myself for "Hanyu Mania," which is one of those things that no matter how well prepared you think you are for it, you just can never anticipate what it's really like. Japanese media was everywhere. Skating fans from Japan (Japanese speaking skills initiate!) were snapping countless pictures of Yuzu with their phones and cameras. At first sight, walking into the rink and being in the middle of this flurry of activity can be quite overwhelming -- and for a few minutes, it was. But I didn't let it get to me; instead, I took advantage of the opportunity and let it all soak in. I took a moment to think how cool it was to experience something like this at my first international.
I got on the ice, and it felt amazing; it was so good to finally get out there and skate! The energy was great, and I was joined by teammate Alex Johnson and Mr. Hanyu. Alex and I both put out two solid programs. Post practice, we all headed to the draw. Alex drew fourth, and I drew 12th (last in the event).
Thursday, Oct. 16
At practice today, my teammate, Alex Johnson, and I were in the second warmup, which consisted of the top six men. This included Yuzuru Hanyu and Nam Nguyen. Hanyu Mania was back and even stronger than it was in the days prior. More fans, more media, more people from the competition that was next door, all squeezing in to get a glimpse of Hanyu.
When you are on the ice, you don't notice the hysteria too much. However, when you skate by the one corner where all the media is gathered, you hear the loud "click click click click" sound of the shutters going off at 100 miles per hour. It's something you have to be aware of when you are out on the ice trying to focus.
The crowning moment was the medal ceremony, when I was standing on the podium with the Olympic champion and silver medalist Nam Nguyen. This was my first international ever, and I went in thinking that I wanted to take in every experience I could, make memories and just enjoy myself. From practices to competition to the medal ceremony -- where Yuzuru was kind enough to help walk me through what to do out there -- I can say I did all of that and more.
2015.12.03 - FS online - A chat with Sean Rabbitt
FSO: You stood on the podium next to Yuzuru Hanyu and Nam Nguyen, the Canadian national champion. What was that like?
SR: Oh my gosh! What made the experience even cooler was, I have never medaled at Nationals, so I haven’t paid much attention to the open podium ceremony on the ice. I’ve watched many of my teammates and friends, but when I actually got out there I thought, ‘what do I do?’ There was a group of media, twenty cameras, the announcer and then the crowd was cheering loudly so you cannot hear directions from the lead photographer. You use hand signals. Having the Olympic champion and the Canadian champion who was fifth at Worlds walking me through the whole process. ‘Put your medal closer to your face for a close-up picture,’ Hanyu said. Imagine, the best skater in the world and me. Even though it was his moment, he did not act above us. He still took the time to help me.
FSO: Were you speaking Japanese?
SR: Not at the time, but throughout the week, we did.
FSO: Perhaps that gave you a bond. Maybe because you took the effort to speak to him in his language. He appreciated your kindness.
SR: I think so. He had two bodyguards and the whole week none of the other skaters spoke to him except for Nam (Nguyen) who trains with him. They could have been intimidated by security. He is a very focused person and we all know when to respect that focus. So in the locker room the first day, when we were putting on our skates, I introduced myself and started a conversation. I think he appreciated that because the rest of the week every time he saw me, he would say hello and even later he said, ‘Goodbye, my friend.’ My point was not to become friends, but just be friendly.