20 of the Best Skating Programs from the Fall of 2016

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1. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN): Long Program

These days, honestly, it’s considered a let-down if Yuzuru Hanyu’s programs aren’t brilliant. A skater of the Olympic Champion’s abilities requires challenging programs that allow him to display them to the fullest. Maybe a bit too challenging in some aspects. Fans were dismayed to hear he was going to be trying four quads in his freeskate, simply because it made it unlikely we’ve ever see him skate it completely clean. But also, Hanyu has now skated plenty of programs musical, emotional, memorable, and chock-full of difficulty even between the technical elements.

This year, with choreographer Shae-Lynne Bourne, who had done last year’s much-lauded free, Yuzuru Hanyu combined two pieces by Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi, most known for his film scores, into a program christened “Hope and Legacy.” One of the two tracks was from the 1998 Winter Paralympics in Nagano, a choice they no doubt made on purpose. It’s beautiful music the choreography attunes itself to. The program even outside the jumps is a demanding one, with plenty of content between the technical elements. Yet it never feels overloaded or rushed. Instead, there’s still time to feel the moves, and the emotion behind them.

Even when a fall briefly disrupts the program, it remains worth watching. Still, it would be nice if at some point Hanyu could somehow skate it clean. The program meets his potential, after all. He ought to return the favor if he can.