Figure skaters head back to Japan 20 months after tsunami
Sendai-native Yuzuru Hanyu to compete in NHK Trophy event
There are times when the outcome of the game or the importance of the match pales in comparison to the impact of a natural tragedy.
The March 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan caused the cancellation of the 2011 World Figure Skating championships that were scheduled to be held only one week later.
The tsunami (caused by the earthquake) came ashore in Miyagi prefecture in the city of Sendai. The pictures from that tsunami are still in our heads — cars swept off roadways, walls of rubble laden water sweeping over homes and hillsides.
The results of this upcoming NHK Trophy event will determine the makeup of the Grand Prix final and it is probable that four Japanese skaters from this event will go on that event.
It is fitting that the strongest nation in figure skating should be the host for this final qualifying event.
But that is not what is important.
This event is hosted in the prefecture and city hardest hit by the March 2011 earthquake Twenty months after the tsunami reduced this city to mud, water, and rubble, the skating world has gathered to celebrate all that is good and is strong in the fibre of the Japanese population.
Now we travel to Sendai City to return to the place where the most damage was done — to see skating return to the area.
All eyes will be on the youngest member of the Japanese team, Yuzuru Hanyu, who at 17 won world bronze at his first World Championships. He was born, raised and trained in Sendai.
When the earthquake occurred, he was on the ice. He was left without a rink for training and chose to train by doing shows — 60 over the summer following the tsunami.
He found he could touch the people of Japan, he could bring them to their feet.
He wants to win in Sendai. He wants to do it for the people of Japan.