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[ICE TIME] A Hanyu Fan in Indiana Believes the Legend Has Far More to Share

Cooped up at home during the pandemic, Carla Grissom became enamored with Hanyu’s skating style and personality while watching videos online.

Yuzuru Hanyu participates in the Fantasy on Ice show's 2022 Japan tour opening day on May 27 in Makuhari, Chiba Prefecture. (ⒸSANKEI)

In more than a dozen years covering Yuzuru Hanyu, I have heard from fans all around the world who feel a connection to the Japanese superstar. His massive appeal clearly transcends social, cultural and economic boundaries.

A few years back I learned of a woman in North Carolina who was so moved by Hanyu that she flew all the way to Helsinki to watch him compete in a Grand Prix event there.

Not long after that a woman in Kansas dedicated a performance of her ballet troupe to the two-time Olympic champion.

JAPAN Forward recently ran a translated version of an interview The Sankei Shimbun and JAPAN Forward did with Hanyu following his retirement from competition in July. This story quickly became a trending topic on the JAPAN Forward website and JF’s dedicated sports website, SportsLook.

In the comments section of the article, I found a heartfelt message from a Hanyu supporter thanking Yuzu for his inspiration and impact on her life. This led me to want to find out who the writer was and the story behind it.

I learned the person who wrote the comment was a woman who lives in the heartland of America. Carla Grissom is a 69-year-old business support specialist from Anderson, Indiana, and she agreed to discuss what it is about Hanyu that makes him so special in an email interview with Ice Time.

Becoming a Hanyu Fan

I first wanted to know how Grissom came to know about the Sendai native.

“When COVID hit the US we were locked down. No going to work (worked from home), we had to social distance from one another, wear masks, etc.,” Grissom recalled. “The fear of catching COVID was overwhelming. 

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“We had to find ways to make it through the day and stay positive. So, surfing the Internet and watching YouTube videos was a way to stay informed and it provided entertainment.

“One day, a video of Yuzuru Hanyu popped up. I had always loved figure skating, so I had to watch. ‘Notte Stellata’ (The Swan) absolutely took my breath away! That day led me down the path of getting to know Yuzuru Hanyu.”

Carla Grissom (center) is a passionate figure skating fan.

Unfolding Hanyu’s Story

Grissom wrote that after seeing the first Hanyu video, she wanted to learn more about him.

“As I researched Yuzuru, his life story unfolded,” Grissom wrote. “His first experience on the ice was hilarious. I could envision a young boy being a pain while his sister had a lesson, putting on skates and running on the ice only to fall not once but twice. Yet, he refused to quit.

“Asthma was a health issue Yuzuru needed to overcome,” Grissom continued. “Can only imagine how challenging that was and can still be for him. Again, he refused to quit.

“An earthquake and tsunami hit his hometown when he was only 16 and destroyed the ice rink where he practiced. What a tragedy to be hit with so young. Yuzuru found a way to practice by doing 60 ice shows and using one of them to raise money for the victims. What an incredible young man he was!”

Origins of Interest in the Sport

Ice Time inquired if Grissom was into skating before learning of Hanyu.

“I loved to watch the figure skating pairs, Michelle Kwan and Evgeni Plushenko,” Grissom noted. “I used to put on socks and slide across our hardwood floors pretending I was a figure skater.”

Grissom cited Hanyu’s bloody collision with China’s Han Yan as being an overwhelming moment for her.

“In 2014, Yuzuru participated in the Cup of China where a horrific accident occurred,” Grissom wrote. “He collided with another skater and was seriously injured. However, Yuzuru again showed how strong and disciplined he was by electing to perform. He fell five times but captured the silver! When watching this performance, I cried and cried. What a display of how to persevere and overcome!

“Not to mention he was separated from his father and sister while training and has incurred numerous injuries and health issues.

“The above were all life lessons for me,” Grissom cited. “It taught me the only thing stopping me from accomplishing something or getting through a situation was ME! 

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"At the young age of 69 I can still learn. Yuzuru once said, ‘Things change, I learn.’ ”

Grissom’s Admiration for Hanyu

I wanted to know what Grissom most admired about Hanyu.

“With all the medals, trophies and awards you might expect someone to be arrogant or conceited, but not Yuzuru,” Grissom wrote. “His respect and love for not only others, but for the ice on which he skates is more than admirable. He makes me want to be a better person by showing love, respect and kindness.”

Grissom admitted she was disappointed when Hanyu announced his retirement from competition in July, but understood his decision.

“At first, I was broken-hearted but I understood his reasoning,” Grissom wrote. “Although still adjusting, thanks to Yuzuru I know this is a new beginning and not the end.”

Insights on the 2022 Winter Games

Ice Time wondered what Grissom thought of Hanyu’s performance at the Beijing Olympics.

“In my opinion the scoring was not consistent, and Yuzuru still should have earned a medal,” Grissom wrote. “Regardless of the issue with the ice, the fact he was performing on pain medication, and his attempt of the quadruple axel, Yuzuru gave outstanding performances. His grade of execution, artistry and showmanship was unmatched.”

I also asked if there was one program of Hanyu’s that was Grissom’s favorite.

“It’s impossible for me to say there is one program as my favorite,” Grissom replied. “However, I can narrow it down to the following in no particular order: Haru yo, Koi, Seimei, Hope and Legacy, Chopin’s Ballade No. 1.”

In her original comment on the Hanyu interview, Grissom mentioned that she hoped he would have a world tour so she and others could see him skate in person.

Ice Time asked her if she felt such an endeavor would resonate with his fans.

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“Absolutely would,” Grissom wrote. “I know I’m not the only one who would relish in such an announcement!”

A Desire to Travel to Watch Hanyu Skate

Would Grissom be willing to travel to another country to see Hanyu perform live?

“A resounding YES!” Grissom responded. “On my bucket list.”

Grissom said that she has never been to Japan, but is interested in Japanese culture.

“Research has shown that harmony, order and self-development are three important aspects of the Japanese culture. This explains a lot about how Yuzuru was able to grow and flourish.”Carla Grissom

Grissom had an interesting take on Hanyu and social media. After unveiling his own YouTube channel in August, Ice Time questioned Grissom on if she thought he should do more social media.

“No, I don’t believe that is necessary,” Grissom wrote. “The YouTube channel is a way for Yuzuru to keep us informed of what he is doing now as a professional skater and very much appreciated. More social media in my opinion would be too distracting.”

Grissom told me that there is no American athlete that reminds her of Hanyu.

A Role Model for All

Ice Time’s final question for Grissom was about what she thought people of all ages could learn from Hanyu.

“So much!” Grissom wrote. “Kindness, respect, harmony, how to love others, perseverance, how to overcome and discipline just to name a few.”

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Author: Jack Gallagher

The author is a veteran sports journalist and one of the world’s foremost figure skating experts. Find articles and podcasts by Jack on his author page, here, and find him on Twitter @sportsjapan.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Cláudia Assis

    September 4, 2022 at 11:25 pm

    Fiquei muito feliz e emocionada com a reportagem pois a fala e os sentimentos que a Carla colocou são perfeitos e nesse sentido ela me representa, e deve representar milhões de outros fãs e também. O depoimento dela me trouxe vários pontos de vista que não tinha pensado, tenho 53 anos e me achava no fim da linha mas agora me sinto desafiada a aprender com as mudanças. Muito obrigada a vc Jack por trazer essa depoimento de amor. Obrigada a Yuzuru Hanyu pela pessoa que vc é. Um abraço.

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