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Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu holds flowers as he stands in first place on the podium during the Figure Skating Men's Free Skating Program at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, February 14, 2014. (ALEXANDER DEMIANCHUK/REUTERS)
Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu holds flowers as he stands in first place on the podium during the Figure Skating Men's Free Skating Program at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, February 14, 2014. (ALEXANDER DEMIANCHUK/REUTERS)

Torn loyalties

Two figure skating contenders trained at same Toronto club Add to ...

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It was nail-biting time at the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club (TCSCC) as the men’s figure skating long program reached its climax Friday. In the small-world department of globalized Olympic sport, two of the top contenders at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu and Spain’s Javier Fernandez, trained at the venerable club under the direction of former world champion Brian Orser.

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And even though their Canadian opponent, Patrick Chan, is a product of a rival Toronto facility, the Granite Club, there was enough homegrown patriotism in the room that nobody was quite sure where their loyalties should lie.

“It tugged at our heartstrings,” said TCSCC assistant general manager Terry Nolan, one of 100 club members and staff who crammed into a TV lounge to watch Hanyu wrest the gold medal from Chan, leaving Fernandez in fourth place. “There was a lot of divided emotion in that room. We’re cheering for a Canadian, we’re cheering for Brian, we’re cheering for the success of a Japanese skater and a Spanish skater.”

Hanyu is popular at the club both for his quiet friendliness and willingness to take to the ice with other TCSCC skaters. A celebration is planned when gold medalist Hanyu returns to his Canadian headquarters.