March 24 (Reuters) - Rather than turning into a green-eyed monster following the Olympic success of his training partner, Yuzuru Hanyu, Javier Fernandez cannot wait to see how he measures up against a man he calls his skating ‘wife’.
The two Brian Orser graduates will be gunning for gold at the figure skating world championships in Shanghai this week. But whatever happens on the ice, Fernandez is looking forward to catching up with Hanyu after spending three months apart while the Japanese world and Olympic champion recovered from illness and injury in Sendai.
“With Yuzu, we are everything, we are friends, we are team mates, at some point we have to be rivals,” Spaniard Fernandez told Reuters in a telephone interview from his Toronto training base.
“It’s like having a wife, your wife is your friend, your wife is everything but it depends on the time.
“When we are on the ice we are competing against each other but when the competition is done, we are friends again and we work together again.”
Whereas having the same coach could spark fireworks in other sports — imagine tennis players Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe jostling for ‘me time’ under the same mentor — Fernandez feels there is more pros than cons with the set-up he shares with his great rival.
“We’ve never had that feeling (of jealously) that Brian is working more with Yuzu or is working more with me because he wants one of us to win. That’s not Brian at all,” said Fernandez, who has been guided to a hat-trick of European titles by the 1987 world champion.
“He’s absolutely neutral. He doesn’t have a favourite.
“Brian takes the same care with all his skaters, it doesn’t matter what level they are. He cares about his job and he wants to make figure skaters the best skaters they can be.”
Orser certainly has the golden touch when it comes to moulding champions.
The Canadian missed out on getting the ultimate prize himself, after coming off second best in the ‘Battle of the Brians’ at the 1988 Calgary Games — pipped by Brian Boitano.
As a coach, however, he has enjoyed rip roaring success with Kim Yuna at the 2010 Olympics followed by Hanyu in Sochi last year.
Fernandez feels that having a ringside seat to Hanyu’s training sessions with Orser has helped him to become a better skater himself.
“Sometimes we learn just by watching,” said Fernandez, who narrowly missed out on an Olympic bronze last year.
“I got the chance to see how Yuzuru trained to get that gold medal, how much he was working.
“It gave me the opportunity to see how hard an Olympic champion has to work, how talented he has to be, how much effort you have to put in every day — those things help you to get on the right path and put you in the same position. It helped me to figure out how to win the gold medals at the big competitions.
“It (watching Yuzuru) changes the way you approach your practice. On the days I am not feeling my best, or I’m just tired, I think of Yuzu, and that he was so tired but he was able pull out great run throughs in training which helped him to skate better and better,” added Fernandez, twice a bronze medallist at the worlds.
“Training with somebody at the same level... it gives you more excitement day by day. I like it.
“You take a little bit of the skaters around you and a little bit of your coach into competitions.
“Those memories help to motivate me on.”
While Fernandez would like nothing better than to get his hands on the gold in what he called the “big, big, huge city with a lot of people”, he believes that goal will have to wait for another year.
“I want to be on the podium again,” said the 23-year-old Madrid native.
“I don’t like setting goals that I can’t reach. I don’t want to say ‘I want to be world champion’ and then I go to the competition and I’m not the world champion and my goal is not done.
“I want to get at least the bronze medal that I’ve already got twice but I’m gonna be working to be the world champion. My training is to get the gold medal but my goal is to be on the podium.” (Editing by Justin Parlmer)