Musical accompaniment

Yuzuru started figure skating at the age of four. When he was ten, he competed overseas for the first time. The word travel is now something he associates with tours and practice. Since 2012, his training base has been in Toronto, Canada.

"The flight to Toronto is a 12-hour trip, so I'm used to long flights," he says. "And with all the overseas competitions, I've become an experienced flyer. When I travel to a tournament, I'm careful to get my basic sleep to ward off jet lag. After the event, I might review my performance on the flight and try to figure out any problems, but I usually just chill out completely and play video games or something like that."

Asked what he likes to take with him on trips, Yuzuru's eyes light up. "My earphones are really important," he says. "I use different ones depending on my mood, the song, and where I am. Sometimes I choose them based on how good they are at canceling noise or how well they suit the music, but the main factor is sound quality. I'm really picky. Sometimes I choose a type that lets me hear extremely fine or pure sound, or warm sound if I'm tired. When I want to listen to something to pump myself up, I'll select headphones with a really clear sound. I always carry five or six pairs, sometimes even eight!"

Yuzuru grins when he is shown a just-taken photo of himself with a favorite set. "Wow! I've hardly ever seen a picture of myself with earphones! I like it!" For him, earphones are both travel companions and an invaluable aid: "Even though I listen to the songs in my program every day, I still feel new things deep inside, sounds I haven't heard before."

A figure skater doesn't earn a high score simply by following the choreography. He or she also has to interpret the music in an expressive way. Success at the highest level involves the ability to take in the music, move in complete harmony with it and execute the technical elements, all while communicating a vision of the piece. Nonetheless, it is still surprising to see Yuzuru giving so much thought to earphones. Listening to him, it is clear that he wants to realize his vision of a song by absorbing every nuance of the sound for his performance on the ice.

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