A little confession: I really loved seeing Yuzuru’s quad Lutz in competition and while I think it’s a stunning jump (the height, the delay etc) I believe it had a fundamental problem, not in the take-off (which is perfect) but in the lean: I noticed that most of his quad Lzs had a pronounced lean forwards (which can be seen in some of his triples when the delay in rotation gets out of control) and this is what caused him to get injuried. If you watch the video you can see how much he was leaning forwards, but it clearly got out of control and when he tried to land on one foot he essentially landed on his toe pick, which caused his boot to be stuck between his body and the ice. I really think that the 4Lz we saw at Rostelecom should be the last we see from him, so that he can focus on other aspects of his performance (4A lol) and not on a jump that has brought him so much frustration (in his own words).
It is true that some of his quad Lutzes have been done with a lean in its axis and it has caused him trouble on the landings, notably, the one at Rostelecom:
However, labeling it a “fundamental” problem is premature, for the simple reason that we have not seen enough of his quad Lutz to be able to make that sort of sweeping conclusion. My memory maybe wonky but I can only count on one hand the number of his quad Lutz attempts which have been captured on camera and are available for us, the public, to see.
If you insist on video analysis based on those attempts, don’t forget there is this perfection, truly as good a 4Lz as you can ever hope to see:
This attempt differed from the one during competition at CoR only in the axis:
You see no obvious difference between his takeoff technique and the way he angled his body before the toe pick for these two jumps. There’s no difference in the axis when he’s first up in the air either (both were at 17 degrees and a relatively open body position – because of his delay in rotation). The axis of the actual rotations was the only key thing that set the two jumps apart. In the first jump, he was at a 25 degrees lean in the air, while in the second jump, his axis was much straighter, 19 degrees at the apex. The steeper angle of the first jump tipped his body forward and actually did not allow him to land on the ball of his foot like what he’d have liked to:
See, in the first jump, he landed with his entire blade on the ice first, and then had to rock on to his toe to keep his balance. In the second jump, he touched the ice first with the ball of his foot and then lowered his heel to dig into the ice to get that deep landing edge and the running exit curve.
I’ve seen this kind of axis lean in other skaters before – it’s not an uncommon problem, especially during quads. Because the rotational speed in quads is so fast, their axis is a lot harder to control compared to in triples. The smallest variation in the skater’s air position and/or a split second difference in the timing at which they bring their body together for the rotation can throw a quad off axis. Yuzu’s Lutz is even harder to control than most quads because his takeoff has zero pre-rotation, so he has to adjust his rotational position entirely when he’s up in the air. The way to fix this issue is simply to practice the same jump over and over again until the skater figures out the best way to attain their ideal axis, and then let their muscle memory do the job.
If you need more reassurance, know that Yuzu’s quad loop during 2016-2017 also started out with a lot of lean and some scratchy landings all throughout the Grand Prix Series. It’s only in the second half of the season, 4CC-WC-WTT, that his quad loop stabilized and started to really perform. Sure, prior to that season he had been training the quad loop for who knows how long, but doing a jump in private practice and in a public, competitive environment is very different, especially if you are someone like Yuzu, who insists on proper entry and takeoff/landing which match his music to the note. And that was a sentence totally applicable to his quad Lutz as well. For all the unfortunate events that occurred during 2017-2018, we were able to see only one quad Lutz attempt from Yuzu in competition. Now I don’t have a miraculous device which can run simulation on alternative realities, but I have a gut feeling that had his season run more smoothly and had he been allowed more chances of putting his quad Lutz to use, we’d eventually have seen in PyeongChang a quad Lutz that was just as perfect as the quad loop(s) he delivered in Helsinki at the tail end of the season.
I’ve no idea if Yuzu will continue training his quad Lutz to use in competition, but if he doesn’t, I’m sure it won’t be because that jump is frustrating. You don’t become a double Olympic Champion by giving up when something just isn’t working out as well as you expect 🙂
Does/did anyone else point their toe-pick outwards in lutz?
Outward toe pick in Lutz/flip is extremely rare. Out of the currently active skaters, Boyang is probably the one whose toe pick technique is closest to Yuzu’s, as his toe pick, especially on his quad Lutz, has straightened considerably over the last season (though it’s still not outside):
Among the retired skaters in recent memory, I can only think of Tatsuki Machida. Like Yuzu, he also picked for both his Lutz and flip with his toe clearly pointing outwards.
His triple Lutz:
And triple flip:
Machida was also one of those rare skaters who preferred to pick for his flip with his toe a fair distance away from his takeoff edge (people usually keep their takeoff circle much tighter on this jump). That combined with the outward pick made his initial position quite unusually open on the flip so I’ve always found it fascinating that he could still get into a very nice, tight air position for the rotation 🙂