Homage to Our Beautiful Skater, Denis Ten
Translation by @halfloopcombo
My first encounter with Denis was in 2007 in the dressing room of the skating center that served as the venue for the World Junior Figure Skating Championships being held in Oberstdorf (Germany). He was sitting quietly by himself in the corner with a nervous expression when I delicately began to speak to him. We might have been shaking due to nerves, as it was the first mission to the World Junior Championships for the both of us. We exchanged terse greetings, and I left. Immediately thereafter, however, I was dumbstruck as I watched him on the ice in our official practice. It was as if he was a completely different person from the boy sitting quietly in the locker room shortly prior. There was Denis Ten, jumping with ease, body exuding confidence, moving freely about the rink and carrying himself with overflowing elegance. It was then that it dawned on me, with my scant experience in international competition, of how high and thick the wall was between me and the world.
Ever since that day, Denis Ten became impossible for me to ignore. It is a relationship that cannot be adequately described with a simple word like “rivals” (nor would I want it to).
He’s given us numerous phenomenal performances since then. Yet the most memorable of them all come from the Four Continents Championships held in Seoul, Korea in 2015. His “Caruso” short program fully showcased his two most distinctive characteristics – his elegance and gallantry – set against the clear, masculine voice of Joseph Calleja. Needless to say the elements are flawless, and the step sequence, pressing towards the ending with vocals that swell and open as the depth and speed of his edges increase, is excellent.
The various melodies and rhythms of folk music, as well as the tonal colors of its instruments, are embodied colorfully using skating technique in his “New Impossibilities” free skate. In the second half of the performance is a portion when the percussion and strings harmonize, and the jumps and spins executed in succession are of a quality that makes them seem like part of a “dance,” so that the audience are entranced as if they’re being shown majestic dance steps.Though several of Denis Ten’s programs have a calm, refined aura about them, “New Possibilities” reminded us that he was a passionate dancer full of love. I think the elegance and love-filled passion of these two programs that he performed in the 2014-2015 season show who Denis Ten truly was as a skater. I have no doubt that they will become legacies in the world of figure skating.
In the wake of his senseless death, reflecting on my time with Denis feels like a retrospective of my own skating career. That’s how numerous my interactions with him were. I remember it so vividly. It feels like just yesterday we spent hours doggedly honing our skills on the cobalt blue ice of the now-defunct Ice Castle (Lake Arrowhead, Los Angeles), feeling one another’s presence, brimming with excitement.
Denis Ten, my friend forever. I pray that his soul may rest in peace.
I also offer here as a memorial a video of our final performance together, as well as his final performance in Japan, the 2017 Prince Ice World in Nikko.
“Tu sei” performed by Denis Ten, on 6th August 2017.
19th July 2018