The Biography of a Celebrity Figure Skating Banner
I still remember the look on D’s face when she got the idea to start making banners for Javier Fernandez. Troika Javi (D, G, and I) was at the Internationaux de France in Grenoble in November 2017. It was towards the end of the competition, and she looked contemplatively around the rink. “Javi has never had many banners. Maybe we should do something about it?” We agreed, and the two first ones were debuted only a few weeks later at the Spanish Nationals in Jaca.
But before wroting about the first two, this is the story of the third banner in honor of the 10th anniversary of Javi’s first European crown in 2013. On January 26, 2013, he skated a glorious Chaplin free in Zagreb and started a winning streak that lasted for seven seasons. The blue banner commemorated his absence from the last competition in 2018, World championships in Milan.
The Beginnings and Debut: Milan 2018
D recollects vividly getting the idea and making the banner:
For the creative process the key was the quote from Kurt Browning: “Javi is the heart and soul of this sport.” Among all the social media reactions to the men’s event in PyeongChang, that jumped out to me as the one summarizing Javi’s entire career, really: his evolution into a wonderful all-around skater and soulful performer, but also the general respect and love the skating community clearly shared for him as a person.
I had had the idea to create a banner specifically to commemorate Javi’s absence at Milan first, with the image of a huge “We miss you, Javi!” sign already in my mind, but that “heart and soul” quote, ringing so true to me, was what gave it a center and focus, and everything else followed from it very quickly.
I immediately knew that the large image should be a photo of Javi with his Olympic medal, the jewel in his crown so to say, but also that the banner cannot be complete without including his journey to becoming that heart and soul of the sport. So, I picked images from the programs that have had the greatest impact on me personally as a figure skating fan: Javi’s transformative first short program with Brian’s team, Petit Fleur / I Love Paris (2011–12), along with Black Betty (short 2014–15), Guys & Dolls (free 2015–16), Malaguena (short 2015–17, with my most favorite image ever of Javi performing), and of course his two 2018 Olympic programs, Modern Times (short) and Man of La Mancha (free). Spanning across eight seasons, they show to me, and hopefully to others as well, the evolution and many different sides of Javi as a skater and an incomparable, once-in-a-generation performer.
The banner then debuted at the Worlds in Milan 2018. We got a pretty good spot for it: opposite the judges’ side so that cameras caught it regularly. It attracted a bit of attention and was photographed and shared by Javi fans on social media.
The most important acknowledgement came from Madrid around the start of the men’s short program – almost caused a heart attack. We were so happy to know he got the message!
A Full Grand Prix Season 2018
Then we settled down to wait for his last competition in January 2019. At some point in the summer/early fall we started to think that it might be cool to get the “We miss you, Javi!” banner to other competitions as well.
None of Troika Javi was planning to go to very many of them, so I asked my Finnish friends, B and I, whether they might be interested in taking the banner to the Grand Prix of Helsinki. They were excited at the possibility and the banner traveled from Budapest to Helsinki by post.
B and I were keen on the job and offered to take the banner also to the Internationaux de France – we were truly delighted to see that happen!
Both occasions were noticed by the keen eyes of skating fans and also by others: Brian Orser was caught pointing out the blue banner to Junhwan Cha at Helsinki.
Thank you so much for everyone for posting pics and feelings!
What happened next was a couple of amazing coincidences. Firstly, in November 2018, D and I travelled to Malaga to see the first show in Javi’s Revolution on Ice 2018 tour. We did some sight seeing and at the castle of Malaga noted a pair of ladies wearing jackets from Virtue / Moir “Thank you, Canada” tour. We went to say hello to obvious fellow skating fans, and indeed E and B were also there for the show.
Secondly, after the two Grand Prix competitions, we got greedy and wanted to get the banner to the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver, Canada. Who did we know who would be going there? B from Malaga…
Thirdly, B from Malaga travelled also in Grenoble and the banner was delivered to her by the Finnish B hot from the Helsinki GP. Figure skating and Javi connecting people! The social media had certainly caught on and the banner was being sought after in different competitions and it did not take long for it to get noticed. After the display in Canada, B sent the banner by mail back home to D in Budapest.
The Last Competition: Europeans 2019
It would have been unthinkable to leave the banner home when we headed out to Minsk for Javi’s last competition, the European Championships. We went to the rink bright and early Monday morning to try and get a good place for all our four banners (there was one more now!). There were some limitations as to where you could hang banners and we were caught immediately when discussing the place with the organizers – it is difficult to hide anything from social media!
Luckily, our requests were met by very helpful and sympathetic organizer ears, and we got some prime positions for all four banners, especially the blue banner was there in the background of just about every program.
There were also other banners commemorating the last competition and my favorite was the one from the Chinese fans which carried 7 stars for Javi’s European crowns – the last one he got to color with gold after the competition. (I happened to be there when it took place which was one of the billion special moments at Minsk.)
Our banner business was also newsworthy as the well-known figure skating journalist Titanilla Bõd decided to write a piece on us. It came out in a Hungarian online publication on January 24.
The Japanese Tour 2019
After the small medals ceremony at Minsk, we gave the blue banner to the representative of the Japanese Javi fan club, Equipo Javier Japon, to go to the World Championships at Saitama 2019. However, banners were not allowed inside the rink in Saitama, but fans could see it on several occasions during the competition. The banner stayed in Japan for some time and went also to the Fantasy on Ice shows as well as to Japan Open as far as I know. It was having a life of its own!
By now, it had already travelled around the world, although it has never flown over the Pacific.
Madrid December 2019: Javi and the Banner Meet
After spending most of 2019 in Japan, the banner got sent back to Europe by the Japanese fans by mail. It almost did not reach its destination – postal services are not that reliable these days. Luckily, it was sent back to Japan and then came to Madrid for the New Year shows of Revolution n Ice with Y. D and I were there and received the banner from her. Thank you for taking care of it!
When we went to the meet and greet, the banner was of course with us and got to meet its inspiration. Javi signed the banner – he chose the place without hesitation: over the heart (and shoulder) of the Olympics medal picture.
The Last Show: Graz 2020
It was now my turn to travel with the banner as I was headed out to work as a volunteer at the 2020 European Championships at Graz. We of course wanted to the banner witness the changing of the crown after seven years on Javi’s head. I was helped in the process by the lovely bosses of the volunteers: V and J. They got the banner be set up on the short side of the rink where it was caught on camera literally behind every skater. Javi was sorely missed in many ways.
After the men’s competition the banner was taken down and it was almost lost. No one knew where it was, and I thought I was going to have to go home without Javi. Luckily, my boss V went after it doggedly and found it just in time for which we are eternally grateful!
The Perfect Lockdown Companion
I had already found a courier to take the banner to the 2020 Worlds in Montreal, a dear friend W. But I discovered just in time that banners were not allowed at the rink there, so that plan was scrapped. Just as well, because we all still remember what happened next: pandemic, lockdowns…
The banner served its unexpected retirement as my lockdown companion in Vantaa, Finland. It was perfect company: a delight to look at, always happy, no unnecessary chat.
A Comeback: Espoo 2023
On this day, January 26, 2023, a decade after the first European Championships gold for Javier Fernandez, I am again at the European Championships. This time in Espoo, Finland. The competition starts with the men’s short and the banner got back to work! The King, El Rey, is watching the crown princes battling for the European title on the ice. Javi’s incredible seven year winning streak is full of unforgettable moments and although the current skaters are wonderful to watch,