Hi everyone, I thought this interview was very insightful (with regards to Tracy, Yuzu and TCC), so I have made a transcript of it for everyone who don't have the time to listen. Enjoy!
Jack: Hello and welcome to the Ice Time Podcast. I am your host, Jack Gallagher. Today we have a very special guest, that is Tracy Wilson, the former champion ice dancer and one of Yuzuru Hanyu's coaches. Tracy, how are you today?
Tracy: I am actually... I am great, thank you. I am happy to be in Japan and it was so wonderful to witness Yuzu skating at home. A big competition for him, and he had injuries the last couple of years in his Grand Prixs, so it was key for him to stay healthy to get to the next round for the Grand Prix Final. He is just going to another place, I think we thought we have seen the best of him, and the best is yet to come.
Jack: OK Tracy, let me ask you this. Can you explain your role in the Brian, Ghislain, Tracy triangle? Just to understand better.
Tracy: So when Yuzuru first came to Toronto, he was working with Brian as the head coach, technique and myself on the skating skills and balance. That's what we do. I try to come up with all kinds of exercises for him to practice, to train, to make sure in terms of his balance, control, the technique across the ice, because if you are not balanced going into a jump, three of four steps before, often you can't. So yeah, we work on that, we work on the artistry, general flow and ease across the ice, all of the stuff between the jumps.
Jack: Alright, let me ask you, if there anything that we don't know about Yuzu that you can disclose?
Tracy: I can tell you, he is such a student of the sport. He never stops learning. He is like a sponge. We will do a stroking class, Brian and I, with a group of the skaters, and he will be right at the front, and he will be wanting to understand that, and the other skaters are so inspired by him, but also he is such a leader that way. I look at Yuzuru at the high level that he is at, and he wants to go higher. For him, there is such a love of the sport and the challenge I think we all know that he has an incredible gift, but he takes full responsibility for it. He has such a respect for the sport, it's like redefine what's possible. That's one of my philosophies in skating. It's like OK, this is what we do, we redefine what's possible, while (chuckle) Yuzu is just taking it to another level.
Jack: Right I remember when he won NHK Trophy three years ago, I sat directly behind him on the bus on the way back to the hotel, and I said, 'God, he must be exhausted', but he doesn't seem worried. He talked skating with the person sitting next to him the entire way back to the hotel, and I just thought, this is incredible.
Tracy: It is... and he does. He will come off the ice, and then we will want to sit and talk. It's in his bones, he's remarkable. I don't think we have ever seen a skater like him, and I don't know if we will ever see. I mean, it's magic what he does, and we get to witness it at The Cricket Club too on a regular basis in all the years. He has been with us for eight years now. I've seen him more driven, but he has also got a control now and confidence. That's what makes him so successful.
Jack: We were in PyeongChang, I mean that was just incred... I saw him with gold in Sochi, I saw him with gold in PyeongChang, I mean that was just an incredible moment. What was it like to be inside there?
Tracy: For us, for me as a coach, to watch him, in especially something like the Olympics, knowing what it means for him, there is a lot of tension, because you know how quickly it can go, and you are watching to see how he is going to handle it, so of course, elation afterwards, absolute elation. But you have to remember, at the Olympics, he was injured going in, and he didn't have the benefit of months of practice. He had weeks of practice, he had to really save himself, and strategy came into play, he is brilliant that way. That, for me was like, once it was over, elation, but not going through it, because you just didn't know.
Jack: It was just... like you said, it was even more dramatic because of that. Now, you're also a broadcaster, how does that work? I mean, you schedule must be really busy, you have coaching, you have children. How do you make that work?
Tracy: When I started, I was in the TV business right after I think in the 1990, after the Calgary Olympics, I moved into TV, and I raised a family, and then it wasn't until Brian Orser and I got together and talked about helping the Cricket Club find some new coaches, so this was about 14 years ago. We went for 3 months to help them build a coaching team and we fell in love with it and stayed. Yuna came, Javi came, Yuzuru. Gradually, I got more and more involved, but initially I would work in terms of philosophy and organising the club and doing the stroking sessions. I would be the coach when Brian was on the road, I would train the athletes. Since that time I move more out of broadcasting because of PyeongChang, we knew to do service to both Javi and Yuzu, they needed more and I had been with them both for so many years, so I've moved more into coaching.
Jack: I want to ask you just to clear up, you're not related to David Wilson?
Tracy: I am not, except that we are best friends.
Jack: David is a friend of mine, he's a great guy, he's over in Spain now with Javier, and he's posting all the stuff on Facebook... You are special yourself but you are surrounded by some incredible people. Do you ever think about that?
Tracy: Always, always. When we went to the club, Brian and I talked about, for me it was creating an energy, a learning environment and a place for skating to grow. Brian and I, as athletes, we are very much about building team, camaraderie, building a skating community. We have many great friends from around the world because of that. When we took on the coaching role, it was about power skating, learn to skate, adult skating, and then all the other levels. We wanted it to be international, we wanted it to be where you can re-imagine what was possible. Our first student was Yuna, who came in to do choreography with David Wilson, was learning triple axels with Brian, and then started working with me on the technique, and so it was the three of us. We kept saying, if we build it, if we create this kind of energy, and it's not about necessarily being the most successful, the most winning, it's not about that. It's excellence, it's about pushing yourself and as I said, we saw what Yuna did, Javi, brilliant, and each skater is so different. They are such individuals, and we have to make room for that. Javi and Yuzu are completely different, and so, we learn from them, we redefine what's possible in terms of how we see it. Yuzu, has just taken the sport to a new level and again, he is a treasure.
Jack: When Brian first took on Yuna, he had expressed that he had some concerns about whether he could do it or not. Did you have to convince him?
Tracy: Totally. I just said I got your back, Brian, I am with you on this with everything. You know 'Brian you can do it'. It was really easy for me as he was the one who was front and centre but it was like 'c'mon', and we really... Brian and I have been good friends for many many years since he and my partner were good friends, and so tremendous support meant a world for Brian and we balance each other. We are totally different, but what unites us is our love of people and our love of skating.
Jack: You were a world medalist as a ice dancer. Do you employ that when you are working with Yuzu, because he likes ice dancing?
Tracy: I learned so much in ice dance. I was a skater who was late getting into it, I was 18 or 19. I ended up with Rob McCall who was a Canadian champion and I competed in Seniors once and didn't do very well. I had to learn so much and so fast to keep up with Rob and to be worthy of that partnership. Anyway, I learned so much with ice dance. We were doing 6 hours a day because remember in those days, we were doing compulsory dances that were so technical, and we had to do endless amounts of repetitions, so we would have to do three or four patterns of this dance, and then if you didn't have excellent technique, you lost speed, because there was nowhere to gain it. Who we were competing against, had the exact same steps to the same music, so it's how you did it. At the time, I thought it was so interesting, so exciting and I thought it's too bad, I wouldn't be able to use this. Sure enough, yes, I use it for strategy coming out of a corner, how do you quickly build speed out of a corner without wasting energy, I use it with balance or with the ice dance. I also have worked with hockey players in Toronto and some top NHL players and they come at it from purely power. They don't care how you look like, it's purely power, and I learned from them too. So it's just a really cool thing and I just feel like the luckiest person in the world that I can pass this love of mine on, and the skaters find some of it useful.
Jack: I have heard that many NHL players want to improve their skating and they have turned to figure skating coaches, right? (Tracy: Yes) That's really interesting.
Tracy: Yes, it's all about learning. You learn from everybody. I learned... I have adult skaters who question me on things, question me on skate... you know usually the younger skaters they just want to go, it's like 'Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah', but the adults would 'Why would you say that?' and it really refines your coaching technique. You learn from everything.
Jack: How young is your youngest skater now?
Tracy: Ah... I work with a number of skaters at the club, so umm... (Jack: What I mean, do you have years under 10 or any other younger?) They are around 10, yup, we have a group that is around 10 and yup. (Jack: What about your older skaters? How old would that person be? Ah... 82. (Jack: Wow...) and you know what, that's beautiful, it really is. I do an adult class each week, and Brian does an adult class each week.
Jack: That's amazing. Now, we saw (somebody's name I could not get who he's saying) in his thirties, he's still skating. Yuzu is only 24, he's going to be 25 next month, and I mean, can he go on infinitely?
Tracy: It depends on Yuzu, because I would have said he couldn't compete at the level he did at the Olympics with the amount of training he had, so he proved me wrong, and I didn't know how, after two Olympic Golds, you'd find the motivation to continue. I have never seen him more motivated, and determined. So, we will see with Yuzu, it depends what the sports is asking. With the value they place on the quads, it will take a toll on a skater's body, and so depending on how, going forward, the weight between artistry and the sport, which the sport really tries to hold that, so I mean it would depend on that, but Yuzu has learned the hard way with injuries, and he has been very very focused this year.
Jack: What is an average day for you when you are at the club? Like what time do you get there...
Tracy: I do everything from ice dance. We have a Japanese dance team now, Shingo and Yutana, so I can be on the ice helping out at six-thirty / seven in the morning and then I teach an adult. It really depends. I pace myself, and it depends on the time of year. In the spring, I would do a lot more group work. When coaches are on the road, sometimes, then I would be on early in the morning till later in the day. But what I try to protect, for me, is my love of skating, and that I don't overdo it that it becomes a job, and I manage it that way. Really, there is no typical day for me, it would depend on how I need it, but I feel like I have got 5 hours of good work in me max.
Jack: How old are your children?
Tracy: 28, 26 and 23.
Jack: I thought they were like teenagers!
Tracy: No no no, that's why I have started coaching work.
Jack: I am not gonna disclose our ages, but I looked it up and I am 5 days ahead of you.
Tracy: Oh is that right? You're September? (Jack: Yes yes) and I share with Mao Asada. (Jack: Oh that's right.) Yeah so we are just 48 then, you and I. (Jack: There you go.)
Jack: OK, we are about to wrap it up here, and just tell me one more thing about Yuzu. What would you think, what would you say is his greatest trait? His physical ability? His mental ability? His fortitude? If you could sum it up in one sentence.
Tracy: He has... I don't think you can sum it up in one sentence, because people have this incredible talent, Yuzu has that incredible talent, Yuzu has the respect for the sport, and a sense of responsibility and purpose, and I just feel like he's always had that and he cares about his audience, he cares about putting on a show for them, his fans... so it's that combination that he has that it is so rare, and he's a student of the sport.
Jack: Yeah, I mean he is patient, when you get to be that famous, it's probably easier to just block everybody out but he seems to show incredible patience with everybody.
Tracy: He does, yes he does, even the kids at the rink. The other day, he was helping one of our boys who's 14 with his triple axel. He just saw him and he went over. He's remarkable.
Jack: Tracy, thank you so much, best of luck, and we gonna have you back on this podcast again, I guarantee it. Thank you.
Tracy: OK thanks Jack.