Figure Skating: I’m More Suited for the Olympics – Chapter 46 Confidence

The sports world is a place passionate about witnessing intense competitions, as the saying goes: “Spring does not come with a single flower.”

Therefore, throughout history, various major sports have seen numerous rivalries, from direct combat sports like boxing to track and field, team sports, and even sports like swimming, diving, and gymnastics. Countless athletes have engaged in fierce battles on the field and displayed mutual respect off the field.

Of course, there are also rivals whose relationship off the field resembles that of enemies, often fueled by excessive media attention.

Ilya Safoshenko and Hayato Teraoka in the junior division are no exception. Due to their similar ages, comparable skills, and the past disputes in their respective countries, they have always had a tense relationship on the competition stage.

In Zhang Jue’s memory, these two have been rivals from the Sochi cycle to the Pyeongchang cycle. They were once the biggest highlights of the men’s singles events, and during their worst moments, they would exchange unfriendly glances even when walking on the same path.

Yes, because the Olympics occur every four years, people consider four years as an Olympic cycle. For example, after the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, the Sochi cycle began, lasting until the conclusion of the Sochi Winter Olympics. Only then is the cycle considered complete.

However, now, within this rivalry, a new character, Zhang Jue, has entered the scene. The showdown between Ilya and Teraoka has evolved into a three-way competition. At the beginning of the Sochi cycle, the trio of young skaters has grown.

Everyone believed that these three would surely enter the senior division during the Sochi Winter Olympics season, the 2013-2014 season, and strive for Olympic spots. But so far, no one can confidently say they will achieve good results in the Winter Olympics.

Just like in figure skating, there are many who get stuck at double jumps, unable to perform triple jumps. Similarly, many are stuck at triple jumps and can’t manage quadruple jumps. Quadruple jumps are a crucial milestone on the road to championships. However, among all active male skaters worldwide, there are fewer than twenty who can successfully perform quadruple jumps. Currently, within the trio, only Hayato Teraoka has demonstrated the ability to land a 4T jump, while the other two have their highest difficulty level at 3A.

Considering that starting quadruple jumps early can be detrimental to the body, it’s understandable that Zhang Jue hasn’t attempted a quadruple jump. After all, he is only 13 years old, and attempting a quadruple jump at this age would be quite extraordinary.

It’s rumored that Ilya was already learning the 4T jump from his senior, Vasily, but he probably plans to unleash this powerful move when he enters the senior division.

For Sergei, the second brother of the senior men’s singles, he no longer doubts Zhang Jue’s potential. Learning that Zhang Jue gathered the juniors to donate money to help the ice dance pair and successfully raised a significant sum, Sergei realized Zhang Jue’s capability to make things happen.

After obtaining the account used for the donations from Zhang Jue, Sergei whispered to Vasily: “This kid has brains, a stable temperament, and as long as he doesn’t succumb to injuries in the future, he will undoubtedly have a place in the top-tier competitions.”

As a straightforward Slavic guy, Sergei didn’t hide his admiration for Zhang Jue.

Both of them, having won medals in A-level events in the senior men’s singles category, naturally had more abundant financial resources to assist the young ice dancers.

Like Zhang Jue, Sergei and Vasily also planned to quietly transfer the money, without intending to publicize the matter. After all, their donation was solely to make life a little better for the two young skaters, fellow athletes in figure skating. They didn’t want to gain fame by stepping on their suffering, and they especially didn’t want to cause trouble for the pocket-sized hero, Choi Jung-soo.

Vasily was even more thoughtful than Sergei.

As the current world number one in men’s singles, Vasily deeply understands that a star athlete who can attract everyone’s admiration must possess powerful skills and a charismatic personality.

Personality is undoubtedly a point that attracts fans; otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many stars creating personas to attract fans, right?

As an athlete, Zhang Jue’s potential is naturally limitless, and the qualities he exhibited in this incident made Vasily believe that he would become the kind of person who ice skating enthusiasts eagerly follow and respect.

Little Crocodile doesn’t need to create a persona because as soon as people see his true self, they will know how lovable he is.

After this experience, the junior men’s singles skaters who acted together with him surely developed strong positive feelings toward Zhang Jue. Someone like Vasily even developed a sense of respect for this kid.

The leader is the one standing at the forefront of the team. Once the storm comes, the followers might be able to run away, but the leader cannot escape it.

In case something happened, Zhang Jue could certainly avoid the scrutiny of the Korean Skating Union due to his status as a foreign athlete. However, he couldn’t escape the public’s criticism, and choosing to help secretly meant he wouldn’t benefit from this situation and would have to spend money and effort.

But he still took this risk.

In Zhang Jue, Vasily saw qualities like integrity, responsibility, and courage.

“Shen, you said you see hope for the rise of Chinese men’s singles in this kid. I think you’re right. This kid won’t let you down. Now, I’m also looking forward to seeing Jue shine on the world stage in the future.”

At this moment, the honest, brave, and responsible Little Crocodile, with a displeased face, dragged a yoga mat about ten meters away from Teraoka Hayato, who was scratching his head, looking quite troubled.

Oh, could he be disliked by the big adorable god with eight teeth for doing good deeds?

No, no, the big adorable god is so good; he wouldn’t really dislike a comrade who does good things together. At most, he might be angry. How do you appease an angry elementary school student?

What he didn’t know was that as a genius fighter deeply influenced by his birth mother’s genes, Zhang Jue, who started using table legs to fight since he could walk, would have already taken action if someone called him “Little Egg” during his phase.

Those in the warm-up room, including Choi Jung-soo, Alex, and Juventus, were also puzzled. What unethical thing did Hayato Teraoka do to make Little Jue, who usually smiles at everyone, have a black face?

Before the men’s singles free skate began, the free skate for pairs was conducted. The Chinese pair skating was a strong discipline, mainly because their figure skating mentor, Sun Qian, improved the country’s jumping technique, making China’s pair skating throws exceptionally elegant and beautiful, with significant technical advantages.

Huang Ying and Guan Lin, as the direct inheritors of China’s style of throw jumps, naturally demonstrated exquisite technical skills. With the delicate figure of the female partner and the determined effort of the male partner, who, although not tall, excelled in muscle strength due to years of training, the two of them, longtime partners with excellent cooperation, were flawless on the ice. Anyone with discerning eyes could see that they would be the rising stars in pair skating.

While Zhang Jue was still munching on a banana, these two young skaters, who just entered the junior division, ascended the awards podium at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships and secured a silver medal.

The team’s coach, Coach Ma, expressed a bit of regret: “It’s a pity, only 3 points away from the champion.”

Shen Liu stood by and consoled: “Their performance was very spirited, and the judges gave them high scores. With some refinement, they will definitely be champions next year.”

Coach Ma smiled faintly: “I know. They never disappoint me.”

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the future of Chinese pair skating will rely on these two kids.

He chuckled: “It’s strange to say, Huang Ying is 13 years old, just entering the junior division this year, and Zhang Jue is also 13 years old. They’re both young, but the determination they possess surpasses many in the senior division. They are impressive youngsters.”

Actually, it’s because there were no senior skaters left that these two young skaters stood out. However, seeing their presence, Shen Liu and Coach Ma were genuinely comforted.

The future now depends on these kids.

After the pairs’ award ceremony, the ice was replenished, and then the ice resurfacer smoothed it out. Against the backdrop of the ice resurfacing noise, the first group of skaters for the men’s singles free skate had already arrived at the waiting area.

Without a doubt, the skill level of these kids was limited, mostly focusing on 3+2 combinations. Their skating and performance were still quite raw, but there were also impressive programs. One of the kids from Kazakhstan caught people’s attention.

Shen Liu carefully observed the teenager in the rink, not much taller than Zhang Jue, then turned to the screen.

“This little guy has good jumping ability, a well-paced 3-3 combination. His name is… Kharhasha Golovkin, also just 13 years old?”

The junior division is limited to athletes aged 13 to 19, but in men’s singles, the more technically mature skaters are usually around sixteen or seventeen. Zhang Jue, who started competing internationally as soon as he moved up a level, is a genius who challenges stronger opponents.

Likewise, others who can compete in the World Junior Championships at the age of 13 or 14 have probably already won against skaters aged 13 to 19 domestically before coming to this competition.

Coach Ma commented: “Looking at his last name, I thought he was another Russian.”

But Kharhasha himself looked more like a descendant of typical Central Asian nomads, with darker skin. However, judging from his narrow, high-bridged nose and deep-set features, he probably also had Slavic ancestry. Considering that Russian is one of Kazakhstan’s official languages and the good relations between the two countries, this kid is likely mixed.

Shen Liu puzzled: “With his skills, if he participated in the Grand Prix, he should be able to podium at a Challenger event. I wonder why we’ve never seen him before.”

After finishing the competition and reaching the kiss and cry area, Kharhasha’s coach ruffled the kid’s head and nodded with satisfaction.

“Congratulations, Kharhasha. It seems you’ve completely overcome the impact of the fracture.”

Kharhasha smiled: “Yes, at this rate, I’ll definitely recover my 3A before the start of the next season.”

Unfortunately, due to a mistake in the short program because of his lack of competition experience, Kharhasha was confident he could have made it into the final group.

The young Kazakh skater became the dark horse of this year’s World Junior Championships, staying at the top of the rankings with a total score of 201.5 for a long time until the penultimate group’s skater, Angus Joe, took the ice, finally pushing him to second place.

But everyone knew that whether it was Kharhasha’s second place or Angus Joe’s first, it could only be considered “temporary.”

The real strong contenders were yet to perform.

Shen Liu looked toward the skaters’ entrance, seeing six skaters accompanied by their head coaches walking into the waiting area.

In addition to the familiar faces of Zhang Jue, Ilya Safoshenko, Hayato Teraoka, Alex, and Choi Jung-soo, the sixth skater to perform was Alexander Popov, a 17-year-old Russian boy with black hair and blue eyes, exceptionally handsome. He bore a resemblance to the male lead, Strelkhov, in the famous Russian drama “Enchantment of St. Petersburg.”

It’s worth noting that if Zhang Jue didn’t pursue figure skating, Popov would be one of the two handsome guys leading the figure skating world alongside Ilya in the next decade.

In the World Junior Championships, the skaters’ performance order is determined based on their short program rankings. Popov, who ranked sixth in the short program, would perform first in the last group.

When the music started, Zhang Jue turned around: “It’s ‘Bolero’.”

Popov’s program had a heavy ballet flavor. In fact, choreographer Béjart created a stunning modern ballet using this music, and the legendary male dancer, Nicholas, of the Paris Opera Ballet, retired with this piece at the age of 42.

You could see Popov’s strong ballet foundation, but the classical ballet flavor was too heavy: “Bolero” originally referred to a traditional dance form in Spain, and it gave a somewhat mismatched feeling.

Zhang Jue commented: “Either use a choreography with a modern ballet style or change to a piece that suits classical ballet style. Trying to do both makes it a bit strange.”

However, the judges seemed to appreciate Popov’s performance. His dance was graceful, and the jumps were smooth. As a result, he received very good scores, securing the top spot on the leaderboard.

Zhang Junbao held Zhang Jue’s shoulder and said: “What’s the matter? Can’t stand this version of ‘Bolero’? How about you skate a new version you like next year? Save me from finding a suitable piece for you.”

“I don’t want to skate this,” Zhang Jue waved his hand.

“Skating ballet for two consecutive years, I’m tired of it. Next year, I want to skate something else.”

Zhang Jue jumped in place a bit, not waiting for his uncle to ask what he wanted to skate next, then crouched down and stretched his legs.

Next, Choi Jung-soo and Alex took the stage one after the other, both performing well and showing their best form of the season. It wasn’t until Ilya appeared that the kid stood straight, earnestly watching his performance.

Perhaps it was an intuition; Zhang Jue always felt that Ilya would unleash something big today, especially with Hayato Teraoka chasing behind.

Sure enough, after the music of “Carmen” started, Ilya immediately began a ten-second-long step sequence, then lifted his left foot and jumped high, spinning four times in the air.

Then, without completing the rotations, he fell.

Zhang Jue sighed regretfully: “Oh, clearly not enough rotations.”

Hayato Teraoka clenched his fists: “The rumors are true; he’s really challenging the quad.”

Ilya not only attempted the quad but also included two 3As in his free skate. So, even though the quad attempt failed, his other jumps, combined with a 79 technical score, still earned him a total score of 154.65 in the free skate. Adding the short program score, his total score reached an impressive 233.55, a score that would have been enough to win in previous years.

He raised his chin at Hayato Teraoka, completing the customary taunt to his old rival, before leaving the ice satisfied.

Hayato Teraoka mouth twitched, hehe coldly laughed twice, stepped onto the ice, and without saying a word, performed a 3A.

In his mind, the Japanese teenager thought: “This big fool, since you lost a lot of points due to the quad error, it’s brainless not to take advantage of this opportunity and secure gold with a stable double 3A configuration.”

As Ilya watched Teraoka’s opening 3A, he widened his ice-blue eyes, turned to Vasily, looking incredulous: “He didn’t attempt the quad. Why didn’t he? Isn’t it said that a real man is the one who attempts the quad?”

Why didn’t Teraoka Hayato respond to his provocation?

Vasily patted the naive little brother’s head, sighed: “Because he is an athlete, and the first priority of an athlete is victory. You made such a big mistake at the beginning; it’s normal for others to capitalize on your weakness.”

Hayato Teraoka smoothly completed his free skate, scoring 237.9. He turned to Ilya and smiled.

Ilya: Itchy hands, want to hit someone.

“237.9, Zhang Jue, confident in winning?” Teraoka asked.

Zhang Jue took off his jacket, revealing his splendid costume with water diamonds shining at his waist and abdomen. He flipped his head, letting his ponytail swing behind his head, and the earrings on his ears swayed.

He showed a confident smile: “Of course, I’m confident. I won’t let them overturn the advantage I had in the short program for the second time.”

In the hotel room, Liu Mengcheng and Yin Meijing were watching the live broadcast on TV seriously.

The commentator said with a smile: “The most eye-catching athlete of this World Junior Championships is about to perform.”


Support translation:

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