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Ipsum. A mega-city that is located beachside, with mountains and a river surrounding its expansive homes and towering buildings. The city is beyond beautiful... yet none of the residents have any idea how they arrived, and have yet to leave, because Ipsum is a city you can never leave -- not by choice. People appear here without any knowledge where they are, no one knows what country or world they are even in. Yet, the city still provides for her people. Jobs, homes, goods are all readily available, and there is a place for everyone, be it the good or bad — Ipsum shall provide.
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Yuri!!! on Ice
OTABEK ALTINYuri!!! on Ice
My Father is a powerful businessman from Almaty, a man with money and a business that deals in the exporting Natural Gas to surrounding countries, the bigger powers like Russia and China. He wasn’t born rich, nor was he born with much promise. He carved a place for himself in the Russian occupied Kazakhstan, played the part of a good Orthodox while keeping his Sunni ways hidden within his home. He says it was easy to pretend, and that Allah wouldn’t let him fail. He is a learned man, fluent in six languages and an education that was earned with hard work. And now he is a man who provides for his family and does so well.
My mother, My mother was the daughter of an Uzbek man who escaped to Kazakhstan from a cruel master. My grandfather was a man I have never known, aside from his grave and the stories my mother has told me. He could only run with little to his name, and he forwent all that to save his only daughter, crossing the Aral Sea into Kazakhstan when she was just three. He soon made his way to Almaty, the then capital, and made a life for himself and his daughter. He was a butcher and she worked hard to make sure that she could support her father, even if it was against the Uzbekistani tradition to do so.
From what I have been told, my parents met when in University in Astana, and fell in love at once. They had a courtship like a fairytale and were married before Father graduated, even if her dowry was meagre. Mother would soon bring her firstborn into the world, a son and a blessing upon both families. But, sadly, the blessing was short lived with the passing of my Grandfather. Mother cared for my elder brother through her grief but was unwilling to consider a second child for several years…
I was born in the middle of a mid-autumn thunderstorm. Mother said that Allah was announcing my arrival to all of Almaty like it was an omen of who I was to become. Upon my birth, mother named me after my grandfather, to honour his memory and continue his legacy. Father tried to demand that my name be a Kazakh alternative, but Mother claims my name was the only fight she has ever won against Father. My elder brother, Miras, is my father’s shadow and I, my mother’s shining. And with a family name that means ‘gold’, it is our destiny to pursue the object. Mother firmly believes her boys are destined for greatness in the eyes Allah.
It when I was a young boy that I decided my path with such conviction. Being the younger of two boys, I knew my older brother’s future was decided for him, that he was to continue the legacy of the Altin name. I knew my future, even as a little boy, was on the ice. And my mother supported my desires to skate. My desire was to not live in my brother’s shadow, but shine in my own light. To bring more honour than he could in a country that, even as a boy, I knew was designed to keep its people oppressed.
But my mother wanted me to live my dream, so once I turned 5, my life became early morning rush to the rink, Morning Prayers on the ice, hours of training, Mid-morning prayer in the locker room, rush to school for the rest of the day. It was hard on mother, as she was very full with her third child during this time, but even as she grew she supported me and accompanied me to every practice and cheered for me as I learnt to jump, as I learnt to spin. Eventually, Mother took it upon herself to home school me after my Sister, Hanifa, was born. Both were always there, Hanifa always right by mother as I trained, always so excited to see me when I approached from the ice, always offering me giggles and smiles when I spoke to her.
I was blessed with a family that loved and supported my dreams, saw them as a talent and not a shame. This alone was the first building block to a passion that would drive me to the top.
Within four years of the start of my training, I could land all the jumps I was allowed to partake in, I could even combine two jumps, the second, of course, being a simple 1 spin, much to the joy of my mother, sister and coach. I was only 9 and already I was beyond what most skaters my age were doing in Kazakhstan. I thought I was on point, even beyond it. I worked hard day after day, hours on the ice, only taking breaks for prayer and light meals, working into nights to prepare for international juniors. I thought I was almost at the same level, with my limited resources and just the ice to train me.
Ballet had never been an option for me, as there wasn’t a school to be found anywhere near my home. Any person who was serious about ballet would move to Moscow or St. Petersburg to attend the schools there, and it was hardly feasible for me, a young boy, to move to a new country on my own, even if I spoke the language. Mother had said that if she had her way, the whole family would have moved to St. Petersburg for my ice skating, but Father refused to do so. He was not a very supportive man.
But opportunity did not elude me as the years pressed on, and I was extended an offer to join an ice skating training camp in St. Petersburg, run by the esteemed Yakov. Being sent to Russia for training was the scariest thing that had happened to me up until that point in my life. They had requirements and standards that Kazakhstan did not. And Mother and Hafina would not be following me, which upset my baby sister very much. I swore to her I would do my best, and bring her back a Matryoshka doll if she was good for mother and father while I was away.
I feared to leave her the most of all and made Miras swear to watch over her before I left. Kazakhstan had never been friendly to women as they were men, and if something were to happen to her, I would never forgive him. Of course, at a young age, we all knew that the “constitution” that Mother taught us about was nothing more than a sheet of paper to the leaders. The president had always been the same man, as long as I could recall, and while there was supposed Religious freedoms, we knew well that it was a limited stance. Police were feared, by myself and my friends. Especially for Johann. He wasn’t Kazakhstani like Almal and Sasha, nor was he Muslim like we had been raised. Johannes Lang was the son of a German Immigrant, a firm protestant Christian and a pale skinned, blue eyed, blonde boy. Sasha was half Russian, but he still looked as Kazakhstani as Almal and I. They were, and still are, all so troublesome...
But… Leaving them behind was as hard as leaving Hafina.
Russian standards and expectations are incredibly high, to this day. Nothing has changed really from when I first stepped onto Russian Ice as a Junior competitor, nothing changed from when I failed to impress Yakov with my “skill”. Nothing has changed at all. I learnt within the first day I was there as the ‘pitty case’. Not five minutes on the ice I was verbally assaulted in Russia, kicked from the rink and walked, humiliated, to a different class within the building. To my horror, looking upon the faces of the children around, I realised almost instantly I was being placed in the Novice class the very year of my Junior Debut. I was fourteen years old, I didn’t want to be seen with babies.
And, worst of all things… It was ballet. Never in my life had I touched the dance, which was apparently a requirement to ice skate in Russia. All of the snot nosed brats held no interest for me, I wanted to lash out, throw a fit. I didn’t want to be in trouble, even if my angry was boiling to the surface. But I decided that, instead of giving up, I would try. I would try so hard. But even the novices were ahead of me.
The humiliation, the pain to the soul and to the ego… I could barely handle it. If it wasn’t for Yuri Plisetsky, I could have very well given up on ice skating completely. He was a beautiful boy, I can still remember his grace and poise on and off the ice, a fae next to a bumbling idiot such as myself. He was my first skating friend; sitting with me as we ate lunch, helping me with my poses and my flow. He was only 11, yet he was so much more skilled than I. And his eyes, those teal jewels filled with the determination and fire of a soldier, they drew me to the boy. The first night he came to my room so we could talk, he probably still has no idea how much that conversation inspired me. I cannot remember the exact words that were spoken, tomes of knowledge from a pre-teen lost to the ages. But I do remember after listening to him, I knew I would find my own path.
The week was a long one, and the decision to never do ballet again was a tough one-- knowing it was the easiest path to greatness… but Yuri had told me there was no one path, but many to the same destination. He had become a special friend, one that would continue to inspire me even beyond the week we had to forge our friendship. His final goodbye to me was a kiss of good luck on my cheek and a request that we meet again on the international stage. I agreed quickly and ran from the fae that set me on my path to gold, returning to Kazakhstan with a new conviction and new goals for myself. I would have to travel beyond Asia to get to where I needed to be, to fulfil the promise that I had made to the Fairy of Russia.
But what I find humorous is that Astana is claimed, and proven, to be the world’s second coldest capital, not a “sandy hell” as what was slung at me several times. Kazakhstan is green. It has snow, it has vast different land types. It’s the eighth largest country in the world. Like any country, there are corruptions, there are setbacks, there are advancements. Being a woman in Kazakhstan is great, honestly. Women in my home country experience more broad and complete qualities than they do in world powers like America, Russia, Japan. Their only unique fear is kidnapping for forced marriage, but even that is uncommon as far as I am aware now. Also, a great point I would make to the friends I made while in America, Islam is not the only accepted religion even if Kazakhstan is considered an Islamic country. Anyone is welcome to worship whatever they please if governmental requirements and paperwork is met and completed.
People I have spoken to seem to think that Kazakhstan is some backwater third world country, but in reality, it is very modern. Kazakhstan has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, we inherited from the USSR a strong infrastructure and a strong school system. It has grown leaps and bounds within my lifetime, the Kazakhstan I knew as a boy has grown into the Kazakhstan I know now. But, like I said, there are setbacks.
To be gay in the world I grew up in, the world I lived in, is subject to inherent dangers. LGBTQ and anything related to it is frowned upon, to put it lightly. There is no protection for those who choose to live the lifestyle. I say choose in a careful since, because while I know it is not a choice to be gay, trust me. I know… It is a choice to be open about it, to wear it as a banner. Pride can be a private matter, and in the case of being Kazakhstani, it’s usually wiser to make it so. Without legal protections, Gay men and women face discrimination on an unprecedented scale. It is not uncommon for someone who is gay to be spat on, beaten, and occasionally you hear of a murder. And, sadly, the police are just as guilty as the perpetrator in these cases by doing nothing to stop it, or even participating.
Islam dictates that all human life is sacred, but sometimes it is not...
But, is it not true with Christianity? With Judaism? All religions teach kindness, respect, casting the first stone only if you are without sin. It is not the religion's fault if the follower does not follow its teachings, just like it is not the dog’s fault he eats dinner left out. Words are only followed if convenient for the follower. This is true for every human.
Landing in New York City at fifteen was, honestly, more frightening for me than going to Russia. I have spoken Russian every day of my life, but English? I was more than broken when I spoke, and the actions of grown men to a young boy were astonishing. I was tan, I had an accent, and I was simply trying to ask how to get to the ice rink… when the punch met my chin. My introduction to America was Islamophobia. Being called a terrorist, being accused of being Taliban. When I finally found the rink, I was a mess of a man, and my new coach, may Allah bless her, nearly had a heart attack. I wasn’t prepared for America, for the culture or the people. I was not ready to see how fast sex sells, or how the woman is mistreated. I was not prepared for the rudeness, for the cruelness, for the insanity that is New York. I landed in New York a boy, full of bright hopes for a future, I left New York a man, cold and sullen, disillusioned with the world yet a soldier of the Ice.
I was there for perhaps a year, dealing with a school in which because I was different I was a target. I learnt to fight, I learnt that people cannot be trusted until they earn the trust. I learnt to stay guarded, to not let anyone in easily. America taught me many harsh lessons, ones I carry still. My coach saw how I struggled, not on the Ice, but off, and arranged for me to be moved to Montreal. I could not leave the city fast enough. But with a new city came new issues, and one of those issues was a language I could not understand. French. However, this issue was easy to overcome. It was a matter of learning to ask, in french, if the speaker could speak English, which was widely used yet many times they did not. But, if this was the case, the french speaker would seek out someone to translate. It wasn’t the main issue.
No, the main issue was another teen my age. His name? Jean-Jacques Leroy. Upon our first meeting, he threw himself at me, insisting I call him JJ, and that he would call me Bek. I refused this nickname. He claimed us friends after talking for 5 minutes. He was annoying. Not much has changed. I quickly deduced that he was what Americans like to call a “Try Hard”, and opted not to interact with him as much as possible.
While living in America, I had cut my hair for the first time in years and adopted my signature undercut. It has been a style I have worn since I was 16, cut for my senior debut. It was not popular at the time for a person to have an undercut unless they were military or ‘edgy’, but I felt it suited me. I was, after all, a warrior of the ice, and wanted to portray that in my performances. Besides, it had been a secret joy for me to run my fingers through the short hairs on the back of my head and feel the sensations of it, a guilty pleasure. For my 17th birthday, JJ this took a part of me and kept it.
He had said he wanted to be twins with me for Halloween, as he stood there with his hair boasting my signature cut, in leather like I enjoy to wear, and his annoying smile. I wanted to punch him. Instead, I told him I didn’t celebrate Halloween and moved to skate on the ice. He has not stopped celebrating Halloween. And, because of this, people confuse me for him often, which is the greatest of annoyances. I have never been so happy to leave the North American continent. I had chosen to return to Asian soil and to make Moscow my home rink.
I no longer feared Russia, not after what I had been through. Moscow was a tame, safe zone, with a language I understood and a coach willing to work with what Russians saw as a shortcoming. And together, we worked on my jumps, my speed, my landings. We perfected my craft of war so that when I entered the battlefield, I was not only prepared for the battle, but I had the tools to win the war.
I couldn’t stand standing next to that Russian, he was so pompous, he was so full of himself. I refused to speak as I internally ripped my performance to shreds trying to figure out how I could raise my points base high enough to actually… go farther. I was the proclaimed Hero of Kazakhstan, and yet I could not even topple third place. It was so hard not to let my anger bubble forward as the press tossed they questions like lances at the three of us. I was battle weary, I was a failure to my people, to my family. How much was sacrificed, how much time was lost for nothing?
Once alone, once truly alone, I allowed myself to cry for the first time in years. Never had I felt like so much of a failure, I was still sobbing as my mother called me, and with much shame as she chastised me for taking a medal as a failure. But for me, it was defeat. I asked her to tell my coach there was a family emergency, that I would be unable to skate in the exhibition, attend the Gala. I asked her to help me get away from this and come home… She obliged. As I walked from the hotel, my eyes caught a glimpse of someone I feared I would never see again, walking with the man who brought about my defeat. Not once did he look my way, not once did he notice my gaze lingering upon him. He was wrapped up in the world of Russian stardom, my Yuri Plisetsky, the tiny fae that had saved my future walked by me that night as if he had never seen me in his life.
That crushing moment alone stuck with me as I boarded the plane to Almaty, my Coach covering my leaving with the coordinators of the event, making sure my escape wouldn’t blemish my name in the skating world. But I doubted I would go back. My war was lost, my soul wounded. How could a wounded man be asked to return to battle? Nyet, I was done, I was ready to hang up my skates and not return. I had dreamed as a boy, if I could not skate, If I ever found myself injured, I would become a firefighter. Once back in my room in the condo my family owned in Almaty, I looked into how to make my fall back a reality. Classes were required, yet I found I could also volunteer for a year in lieu of classes. I was in the act of signing up when my phone rang.
‘Johannes Lang’ the screen read, how could I not answer? Even if I was a lost pup, looking for the right way to turn, I would never ignore a friend. Johannes said he wanted to hang out, for me to come over and we would ‘talk shop’. Meaning, the other two idiotic boys wanted to do something foolish and I would have to come to talk them out of it. He suggested I bring my medal, it could act as a distraction. I fell for the ruse.
It was a surprise party. My siblings, my friends, a few Kazakhstani skaters I had trained with… they were all there, screaming at me to my shock as I walked through the door. They all held noisemakers and had words of pride and congratulations for me. How could they be so happy in the wake of my shame, I couldn’t understand why they were here celebrating, drinking. I held my medal as people I knew pat my back, thrust me a drink and seemed happy. Happy. How could they be happy when I failed them, I failed them all.
I wanted to scream in rage, I wanted to flee once again, but I endured the party. I acted a part, as I should. A humble winner. But the charade could only last so long, but shame and guilt boiling to a violent rage within me. My cracks were showing, and it took one act to shatter the mask. Almal and Sasha both approached, fully intoxicated and longing to see the medal of ‘The Hero of Kazakhstan’. I remember this conversation so well, it was burned into my memory so that I would never repeat it.
“Keep it.” I had said to my friends, letting the medal fall into their grasp, “I never want to see the damned thing again. I am no hero, I am a failure. Keep that vile piece of shit.”
The room went silent at my words, all around me in abject shock. I knew I had lost the usual firm grip I hold on my emotions, as Almal and Sasha just started at me in shock and awe. I heard Miras start to speak, and was ready to turn and face him, my face turning just to feel the sting of a palm strike my cheek. The shock of pain caused every emotion to be rewritten into shock, my balance to be lost for a mere second or two, my fingers pressing to my assaulted cheek. I remember looking at Johannes in utter shock, as he stood there with a drink in one hand with his other crossed over his form. He was far from a violent man, so for him to slap me… I knew I had fucked up.
“NEIN!” He shouted, “Du dummes Arschloch.” He hissed in his mother tongue. He didn’t need to translate. I knew what he had said, “How dare you.” His words reverted to Russian, so that I could understand his words… Words I will never forget, “You cannot be this stupid, Otya. How can you say such a thing? Are you giving up on your passion? For what? Because you didn’t grasp gold? You stumble once, and you give up? Is the pressure of being the Hero to much for you? Fuck that, Otya. You are Otabek Altin. If being the Hero, holding yourself to that standard is to hard on you when you fail, find a different path. You have always forged ahead through hardships, and that has made you the greatest figure skater Kazakhstan has ever seen. You bring honour to us all just by stepping into the international stage!
“You think we care about your medals, your placing, your stupid score none of us non-figure skaters understand? No. We care about you. Your growth, your presence, your performance. You are our hero, the greatest figure skater Kazakhstan has ever seen. You follow your heart, fuck medals. You follow your heart and make a goal you can be proud of, even if you don’t meet it.”
The rest of the night, I thought on those words, mulled over every single one. Even as the party died, and all left, leaving just Johannes and myself on his couch, looking at the bronze medal that sat on the table as if inviting me to take it. The path of my heart would take me back into skating, take me back on the path to the GPF. I would have to work hard, I would have to put in more than 100%, more than 200% to make it back there. The new talent was frighteningly good, it would be a harder climb than it had been before.
My heart's path… Would I continue to be the Hero of Kazakhstan if I followed my heart, I wondered. But my fingers reached forward and I stood. I wouldn’t give up, I wouldn’t roll over. Looking to Johannes, I gave him a nod and left, wearing my medal with pride. And took the first steps down a road that I was scared shitless to follow, but now… now there was no turning back. I would follow this road to ruin to the very end.
Samarkand Overture, when I found it, touched me in a way I could not describe. Samarkand is the city in which my mother was born. Most do not know, for I choose for them not to know, but I asked my coach to choreograph something that would honour my Grandfather’s plight from the city. I wanted something close to my heart, my history. When I told my mother, even though I think she could tell as after I finished the piece for her as she was in tears, she wept in pride. Even if the point base wasn’t as high as it could have been if we added in another quad, that didn’t matter to me. I wanted to thank my mother the only way I knew how. For Samarkand Overture, I swore to her I would skate it upon the international stage, and that her father, my grandfather… his story would be written into history with my program.
As for my Free Skate, Symphony No.9, 2. Movement “Advent” program, I decided to dedicate that to one single person, someone important to me that was not family. The first friend I ever made, Johannes Lang. It’s not a program that has much meaning for our friendship, no. But I wanted to give him a nod, to let him know that he was an important factor in my life. It was a nod to him, to say I was not giving up, not on skating, not on winning, not on anything. I still wanted gold, who didn’t? But I was also still following my heart as he instructed. I could carry the title of “hero” and could earn it, too. To have the poise and strength of a hero, to accept defeat as a step in my journey. I could accept never winning a gold. But I could never accept giving up, no. I would regret giving up so easily. I was in my prime, I was alive.
My craft is one meant to be for others, not myself. I am a performer, first and foremost. And the ice is my stage. To give up so easily would not only put shame on myself and my family, it would let down my nation. I have millions who support me, who look forward to watching me. Before me, people I had met couldn’t point to Kazakhstan on a map, and now they know of the country. My inclusion in such high-profile events has done more for my country than I will ever fathom, I now understand. Every quad I land raises awareness of our commerce, of our friendly businesses. Every spin I masterfully complete brings more research into our lands for holiday and for new residence. I am not a hero in the sense of saving the country. I am a hero in the sense of bringing Kazakhstan to the western world’s attention. I have become a poster boy for my country. It is a heavy burden to bare.
It is a burden that took me to America again, where I barely missed grasping gold. Holding fast to the whitish blue ore, I knew… I knew I could do better than this. I had mis-landed once, omitted my quads for triples for ease, to not push myself. But I still held the medal aloft in my grasp with pride, showing off my accomplishments as I continued down my path to the GPF, to Barcelona. In Japan, I took hold of the reigns and added quads where I said I would jump triples. And with this, I earned myself a gold, and a spot into the Grand Prix once again. My path was a winding one, and it was taking me all over the world, but my finale would bring me to the greatest international stage.
Stepping off the plane into the terminals of El Prat, I kept my hat low and my sunglasses firmly on my face. The sun was high in the sky, and I still had much to do. Check in, unpack, rent a motorbike for transport, sleep. The next day would be for sight seeing, would be for taking in the culture and the food. I knew that Johannes and his family had come, along with my own. My sister was so excited to see the city and already had an ‘itinerary’ for her and mother. Father was likely going to conduct business except for the days I was to skate, Miras by his side. It was expected, honestly.
I found myself in my hotel room, flicking on the lights and looking at the single bed and the view of the city from beyond the glass. With a quick tug to block out the sun once my bags hit the ground, I turned and fell into the bed. Exhaustion took me before I could consider how I was going to complete my goals.
He didn’t recognise me, of course. I wasn’t surprised, honestly. He hadn’t noticed me the year before, nor had he even seen me before this point. Slipping my sunglasses glasses back over my eyes, I wanted to run away. Instead, I waited, seated on my bike as I looked over instagram to see what the other skaters were doing, what Mother and Hafina were getting into and to see if the pictures Hafina was posting to my account were acceptable. I only glanced up as the blonde ran by, yet again not noticing me-- this time not blaming him as the gaggle of hens called Yuri Angels ran past as well.
It was almost pathetic to run from women, yet I couldn’t blame him. If I had been in his shoes, I wouldn’t know how to handle such rabid fans either. As I coasted past a little of the cat eared girls acting, frankly, insane, my heart bled for the blonde. It was obvious where he was hidden. Turning down the alleyway, I pulled up to Yuri Plisetsky and tossed him a helmet. He needed to escape from the situation, and I wasn’t going to leave him there to be eaten alive. I was thankful when he jumped onto the bitch seat of the motorbike, and quickly gave my friend an escape.
Friendships can be lost, but it’s easy to rekindle them into something stronger. My mind toiled on how I should restart the flames we once held as I drove aimlessly until we found a park. Yuri said it was Park Guell Mosaic, made by the famous Antonio Gaudí. I had to confess I had never heard of him, but the park was cool. Empty. Private. Gaudy. It was oddly perfect, and once on the colourful observation deck, I explained to Yuri we were no strangers. It was easier to let the memories trickle back in themselves if they ever came. But I told myself I wouldn’t let him escape from my life a second time. We agreed to forge a new, stronger friendship, and with a handshake, we started again. We started anew.
We spent time exploring the city and happened upon a cafe that we both found interest in. If we were going to catch up on lost time, now was the best time. We talked of our adventures via skating, Yuri told me of Yuuri and Viktor. He talked about so much, and I took care to listen to each word, relaxed in my seat and taking in everything. Yuri was so animated, so happy. It felt right, not at all awkward like I had worried. It felt like it was something never lost, just put on hold until the right moment. It was what one could consider ‘bliss’.
But all things come to an end, and this short bliss ended with a dinner invitation/demand from the Russian legend. Viktor Nikiforov was… an annoyingly flamboyant man. I knew Yuri and I were invited to this meal as a means to suss me out, figure out my intentions with the other. But unfortunately for Viktor, I am and have always been a shut book unless I allow myself to be opened. In this, it seemed, we had much in common. We could not read each other, nor would we let the other in to see more. He was never a man I really trusted, truly. Even when he seemed to open up about the marriage, or the ‘engagement’, or whatever... I saw right through it even as I clapped. I didn’t want to be given away, after all. I could almost see what was beneath… But even that was interrupted as Le King Annoying decided to speak with his showpiece on his arm, promptly, thankfully, ending the dinner.
Standing in the view of the famous Sagrada Família, we looked on as it glowed bright, a beacon of immeasurable beauty in the night skyline. I stole a glance toward my companion, whose eyes seemed to glitter at the sight before him. I couldn’t help but feel some contentment in the moment, crossing my arms as I leant against the railing, “No matter what happens tomorrow, let's be sure to cheer for each other.”
I didn’t need to look at Yuri to know that he was nodding.
I took to the ice second to last for the short program, The first battle in a war I was to wage. Of course I wanted a medal, of course, I wanted on that podium. My travels had led me here, I had grasped gold once, I wanted it again. But if I didn’t, I knew I wouldn’t have a breakdown. I knew I would leave Barcelona with my head lifted high. Words were exchanged between my coach and I when the voice of the fae rang out above the rest. “Davai!” Looking upward to the skater's box, I saw him, feet up, looking cocky and confident. He looked calm, collected, and very much the Yuri I had spent the day before with. Not the mystic creature that had been on the Ice not a few minutes before. I gave him a thumbs up, signifying that I heard him, and would do my best.
My best… was flawless. The height was perfect, my jumps executed flawlessly. It was a battle I put my all and everything into-- but I knew I lost out of gold. I had wanted to change the triple axel to a quad… but in the last minute, I didn’t. I sacrificed a rotation for height and possibly missed out on some big points. I didn’t hesitate to make the sacrifice in the moment, but afterward… I was tearing my routine to shreds. Did I do my grandfather proud? Even if my score base wasn’t high enough to oust JJ’s? As I turned to skate off the ice, there was that idiot, his smug smile beaming at me, as he oozed confidence. He sickened me.
No one expected the routine he gave, nor would we have wished it on anyone… That fall was painful for us all to watch, even I felt the pain of it from the kiss and cry. It sobered the high of a personal best, even though I had thought I had failed. Watching the desolve of someone like that on the international stage… There are no words. And how such a fool was able to claw his way from the bottom to third place, I will never understand. How such a failure could lead to a win, whereas two flawless skates could leave a man medal-less… I sometimes wonder how subjective and deep the favouritism in figure skating scoring truly is.
My free skate was flawless as my short program, my jumps all landed. My quads executed with true perfection. Never once did I stumble or fall, I knew my point base was high enough to place me, at the very least, and with King Annoying as Hell’s score being what it was, I couldn’t foresee him staying in his place for long. I didn’t expect to come in behind him, however. The ultimate insult to a competitor is to be graded lower than someone who didn’t do as well as you due to the points for flair and showmanship. But, I was not given the time to be angry, as Yura slid out into the ice. “YURA! DAVAI!”
Normally one would be interviewed in this time, and I am sure there were Kazakhstani and Russian reporters who wanted my short, curt answers. But they could wait. I wanted to watch. I knew… I knew history would be made before my eyes, and I wanted to watch it in person, not on a screen. This was too important a moment in skate history. And as he reached the end of his program, my pride in Yuri… I don’t think I have ever felt my heart swell so large, except for the birth of Hafina, or the first time she said my name. He was a legend in that moment, I knew with that skate I would go home empty handed, and yet… I knew… I had still won in my own way.
I had my Yuri back…
“Yura… I was watching the youtube videos of my performance… Why did the announcers say this was my first GPF?” I looked from my seated position to gaze at Yuri as he changed, the only two left in the locker room after all was said and done, my phone in hand as Yuri looked at me like I was insane.
“Isn’t it?” He asked, looking very confused.
I’m sure my face gave way my frustration as I stood and turned from the blonde looking so annoyed. Was I that easy to forget? How could everyone forget that I had taken home bronze the year before?
“Beka? Isn’t this your debut? O-OI! BEKA!”
That one magical girl anime
Your Otabek is amazing, and I love reading about his dedication to his sport and how far he has come over the years. He is such a nuanced and wonderful character, and you capture it all so well. Great job with him, and hopefully gets along well in Ipsum <3
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