《FIGURE SKATING・PERSONAL》✦GPF Barcelona 2015✦

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The dry Barcelona winter reminds me of New York in the fall.

For a seaside city, Barcelona surprisingly smelled nothing like the sea. Maybe it was because of the winter? There was no salt in the air, no matter how close I got to the shore. Naturally, the beach was empty, save for the occasional jogger, traveling along the pathways in the park by the ocean. There were many parks in my area, all of them blooming bright green despite nature’s call for them to do the opposite.

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Winter means brief daylight and long nights. During the entirety of my stay, I had not once seen the sun set. I was always in the middle of something–watching the competition, staying out with a friend–during its waning. However, there was one time I watched the sun rise, close to 9 AM, and I needed to take a moment to stand still and appreciate the slow ascent of the sun and the calm sea breeze.

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Sant Martí was quiet, and the most number of people I had seen was at Diagonal Mar. I can distinctly remember the crisp wind and biting cold, the sharp corners of tall buildings and steel structures, people huddling on sidewalks in their monochrome scarves and oversized coats. The buildings had been identical, urban planning segregating the area into perfect blocks, and contrary to the view I held from the plane, the city wasn’t clustered, but rather evenly-spaced. Where there wasn’t steel was brick and stone.

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Despite it being my first time there, Barcelona didn’t feel completely foreign. I could see people jaywalking and trash that’s narrowly missed the garbage bin on a daily basis. Isn’t this just like Manila? I would think to myself as I shoved my hands into my pockets for warmth, waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green. Two days into my stay, my wallet had gone missing, and with a heavy heart I concluded that Manila is–in its own way, despite its many faults–kinder. I will never be able to forget the curb, colder than it should have been, where I very nearly spent a night hunched over and crying after having lost my wallet and apartment keys.

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The apartment I had stayed in reminded me much of my grandmother’s small home in Staten Island, right down to the pillows, the towels, and especially the smell. Elodie and Walter were very kind to have let me stay in the comforts of their home, and their 3 cats had welcomed me easily. The most difficult part of leaving had been packing, but that’s mostly because one of the cats had deemed the inside of my luggage the most comfortable place in the house.

There were also probably as many dogs as there were people in my area. There were dogs clad in sweaters that matched with that of their owners’. One time, a dog came up to me, and its owner told me that I must be a good kid, because the dog liked me. This is easily my favourite memory from the trip.

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The Grand Prix of Feelings Figure Skating Final for this season is the first skating competition I’ve watched live. This had been a trip I planned long before I had even considered applying for university, and despite being in a very difficult spot at the time of my departure, I had no choice but to push through. Though many things have happened, I don’t think I would have traded the experience for anything else.

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Since we all know I talk about him the most anyway, let’s start with Yuzuru Hanyu. Let me be honest here–I have very complicated feelings when it comes to Hanyu. Strange as it sounds, I used to dislike him a little. Okay, a lot. So the fact that I chose to travel alone to another country whose language I don’t speak in area where I know no one just because he tends to peak at GPF is, er, something.

You see, the thing with Yuzuru’s skating is that it only really appeals to me in some moments, and I am having difficulty to appreciating it as a whole. His jumps and transitions are generally great, yes, but more often than not I can’t help but feel like something’s missing (期待値MAX!?). There are times when I feel like he’s making too much movement, like there’s some kind of… visual noise surrounding him when he skates. Again, this doesn’t happen all the time, and I’m going to chalk this one up to personal preference. (He’s a gorgeous practice skater, by the way. My favourite runthrough of his FP is from very early on in the season, during the Skate Canada AC practices.)

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Nevertheless, Yuzuru is a phenomenal athlete, his grace under pressure and the way he commands the rink and his surroundings is no joke–his aura during the SP had been completely different from anything I’d experienced before, and it was strong enough to silence the convention center. The clear image of him landing a beautiful 3A and a beautiful 4S right in front of my area is a sight I can’t forget. (Neither is his face after landing a 3A while Javier was waiting for his FP score. It was very intense and very him, and I couldn’t control my laughter.) Right after his third quad in his free I got very emotional, staring at him and remembering that scrawny kid from a few years back who could barely catch his breath during his free skate, now breaking world records like they’re nothing. Let me just say this–I didn’t even realize he had cried in the Kiss & Cry (… welp), because I was too busy trying not to cry out of relief myself!

Regardless of how ambivalent my feelings are, I can say that this experience has sealed my fate as a #fanyu lol. My heart was hammering in my chest and ready to burst by the time his free ended! Also, someone tell this little person how he can get some confidence for his performances. He asked so nicely during the post-FP interview, after all.

The thing with Javier is that while I’ve always liked him, I’ve never particularly liked his skating. I always found him stiff and daresay a little awkward to watch, but after GPF I can say that he’s one of those skaters you can really appreciate more live. He’s very charming and very charismatic, one of those skaters that really puts a smile on your face. Though honestly I get so anxious for him when the audience starts clapping to his music, so my hands tend to stay deathly still on my lap when he’s on the ice. I’m also very glad to have been able to witness the iconic Aerobics Class EX in the flesh. Thank you, universe.

(Lutz be a lady, tonight! BANG!)

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Shoma‘s SP StSq was a sight to behold and after seeing it I was thoroughly impressed, although pity about the quad. The way he makes use of his entire body to during his programs to express his music is truly amazing… so is the gap between his personalities on and off-ice LOL. (And yes, I kept a close eye on his free leg LOL) I’d like to think Dai would be proud of him and his bronze at his very first GPF during his very first GP series in his first season as a senior (look at all those firsts!). I’m really looking forward to how Shoma and his skating will mature as the years go on.

I was really happy for Patrick Chan after his free skate–seeing him at practice the mornings after the short was disheartening. It didn’t particularly look like he wanted to be on the ice, and he wasn’t doing so well during the sessions, so to see him redeem himself is great. I’ve never exactly been his biggest fan because of his… er, his tendency to run his mouth a little (not that I can really say anything though), but his skating is just so smooth and you can’t help but feel awed by the way his blades make virtually zero sound as he moves a cross the ice. His skating skills are really just something else.

Ah yes, and Boyang–also thankful to have been able to witness #noodletango and his EX live. Those random light-up bouncy balls! That underwhelming cantilever! That neon yellow shirt and those balloon pants! I have this ridiculous and unexplainable fondness for this noodle child. His 4Lz is monstrous in real life, but he doesn’t really keep his arms completely tight when he jumps, which is interesting, I think.

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Nathan! Oh Nathan, every time I saw him his face was solidly set into this expression → 😐 and it was amazing. Nathan is a very engaging performer and he’s a joy to watch, except that his shoulders can get. So. Darn. Distracting. Also, someone needs to gift the guy with a stomach warmer at his next competition. When his shirt rode up while he was spinning during his exhibition, my first thought was, “What if he gets sick?”

Tiny Queen (and! reigning World and GPF silver medalist!) Satoko brought the house down during her short program, despite her initial fourth place ranking from an edge call. I love Satoko’s SP–it’s a side of her that I hadn’t seen before this season, and she pulls it off so well! She’s one of those skaters you can’t take your eyes off while she’s performing, even during practice sessions. While she would run through her programs during practice, I couldn’t help but sit still and watch. Right down to the tips of her fingers, Satoko’s movements are delicate and light, and she’s all-in-all a joy to watch.

I’m also glad to have been able to watch Ashley‘s free program in the flesh, because she really sells it. Ashley is very expressive, and I think her free is my favourite of this season’s ladies’. She came back strong after her disappointing short, and I was cheering the loudest in my area… next to the American athletes that were seated nearby, I mean.

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Mao was heartbreaking, but I hope she feels a lot better now. (I remember passing by stores after the gala and thinking to myself, I want to buy Mao some Cacaolat and Iberico.) Her charm really radiates and her smile is infectious, and she without a doubt possesses the best SS out of the GPF ladies’ field. I still like her short much better than her free though, and hopefully her jumps get better soon as well.

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While we’re still on the topic of people who weren’t feeling too well, Shibs! I’m glad Alex looks like he’s feeling better now. Their short is cute and comedic, and their FD set to Coldplay’s Fix You is nothing short of electrifying. Tears stream… down your face… YES, THERE ARE TEARS STREAMING DOWN MY FACE.

I don’t think I’ll be able to watch another competition any time soon, and that’s fine. GPF had been a whirlwind of emotions for me, and I had enjoyed it a lot, but for now I’ll take a nice, long nap in my own bed.

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