One of the most remarkable things about this World Championships is that all four winners/winning teams won their very first World medals ever! They're all at very different stages of their careers, and they all have very different stories. But all of their wins were inspiring.
In ice dancing, we have Nathalie and Fabian, who overcame a freak nose break injury to win! The veteran team has been tipped for the podium before, but never managed to climb on board until now. But they managed to do it when Worlds is in their home country, giving their countrymen a massive thrill! The team may well retire after this, which would make their victory here a lovely sendoff.
In pairs, we have Takahashi and Tran, who overcame inconsistent SBS jumps and PCS lowballing to win! The team is almost at the very start of their senior careers, this being only their second trip to worlds! But they have long been fan favorites, winning over hearts and minds with their sweeping elegance (really, the word that comes to mind when I watch them skate is that it's... SWEET!). The win is even more remarkable when you consider that despite Japan's success in singles, the country has almost no history or basis in pairs. In fact, T/T are the only pairs team Japan sends to Worlds, even though they have one more spot! Let's hope Japan starts giving pairs some love now. And let's hope Tran's Japanese citizenship gets fast tracked (which won't be easy in anti-immigration Japan), so the team can compete in the Olympics.
In mens, we have Yuzuru Hanyu, who overcame stamina problems to land every planned jump to win! With his commanding charisma and mesmerizing style, he's been a fan favorite for a while, even though he just got started in seniors! This is his very first trip to Worlds, and he delivered on every promise his skating has shown previously. I predict and hope that this World medal is the first of many.
In ladies, we have Akiko Suzuki, who overcame being the redheaded stepchild of Japanese ladies figure skating to win! Akiko has always been a bit out of place in Japanese ladies skating: she was never the wunderkind, nor was she ever the veteran with the well established record. But for many fans, she has always stood out as one of the most exuberant, joyful and charming skaters ever. Her footwork sequences always feel like a party. The joy she exudes is special in this sport: it's not the kind of joy that associated with youth and naivete, it's the knowing kind that comes after experience and wisdom, and is all the more comprehensive for it. Akiko, who has battled an eating disorder and years of unsatisfactory results, has seen and felt the dark sides of skating. But she's overcome them, and she loves the sport more than ever and isn't afraid to let it show. The international judges never quite seemed to share in the fun, giving her so-so PCS. But she made herself impossible to ignore at this championship with her technical abilities! And at long last, at an age when most ladies skaters have retired from eligible competition for years, Akiko wins her first World medal! And it may be the first of many. Akiko is actually skating better with more difficulty than she ever has, and just capped off the most successful season of her career. I hope she continues in the sport and continue to delight audiences and win over those grumpy judges.
I'm happy for all the winners. But the one I'm most especially extra unbelievably happy for is Akiko. She won me over the first time I saw her during the 2009-2010 Olympics season. But as hard as she worked, she never quite got the best results on the biggest international stages, always coming just a little short. Not this time! When it all finally came into place, it's all the more satisfying for the wait.
So which first-timers do you like? And what do you see in their futures? Edited to add: which victory is your favorite? This could be different than which of these winners you like!