Kevin Reynolds embraces Chrono Trigger likeness, Japanese fans

Canadian figure skater Kevin Reynolds and Crono from Chrono Trigger. (Reuters)

Canadian figure skater Kevin Reynolds and Crono from Chrono Trigger. (Reuters)

Steve Buffery, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

SOCHI, RUSSIA - The way Joanne McLeod remembers, it all began at the 2008 NHK Trophy Grand Prix in Tokyo when her skater, Kevin Reynolds, performed a strong short and long program and received a standing ovation from the Yoyogi National Gymnasium crowd. Reynolds was 17 years old at the time.

“Had a good skate and finished fourth,” said McLeod, who coaches out of the BC Centre of Excellence. “Which is pretty good in a deck of strong Japanese singles skaters.”

That’s when Reynolds’ popularity in Japan began to take off. Since then it has skyrocketed the point where the Coquitlam, B.C., skater is almost as popular in figure-skating mad Japan as the top Japanese skaters.

There are fan sites dedicated to the laid-back skater and anytime you post something about Reynolds on Twitter the response from the Land of the Rising Sun is overwhelming.

But it’s not just because Reynolds is a good skater and performs in a style the Japanese appreciate — with athleticism and grace. His popularity has much to do with Japan’s obsession with video games — in this case, a role-playing video game called Chrono Trigger.

The main character in the game is named Crono, and he is described as ‘the spiky-haired silent protagonist who never speaks, using facial expressions to communicate.’ There is actually a quaint resemblance between Crono and Reynolds, which the skater and his coach happily acknowledge.

“Kevin’s very humble and he has the hair. He kind of looks like him,” said McLeod, with a laugh. “If you look at Crono, you’ll see he has the big eyes and red hair and he stands very tall.”

Perhaps more than anything, Reynolds has sort of a pixie nose, like Crono. Japanese fans of Chrono Tigger latched onto the resemblance and have run with it.

Reynold’s popularity in Japan peaked last year when he won the Four Continents Championship in Osaka, his first major international title.

“That was really exciting,” said Reynolds. “My fans were all really happy for me and it was just an incredible experience to see the Japanese crowd react like that. And then I got taste of it again at the World Team Trophy event at the end of the season (in Tokyo). And once the Olympic Games are done, I’m looking forward to another trip to Japan for the world championships, so that will be real exciting.”

Reynolds doesn’t just appreciate his fan base in Japan, he has embraced it to the point where he began taking Japanese lessons last year and has made an effort to learn as much as he can about Japanese culture.

“Japanese is apparently the most difficult language for English native speakers to learn, but it’s a great challenge and it keeps my mind active and it’s something to take my mind away from the training of everyday skating,” said Reynolds, who skates the men’s long program in the Olympic team competition Sunday.

“If I have spare time, I connect with them on Facebook and on my unofficial fan page,” he said. “It’s great to talk to them. And their support has really meant a lot to me, especially this difficult first half of the season.”

For McLeod, watching her skater interact with Japanese fans is special.

“He’s very sweet to them and he spends a lot of time signing autographs,” she said.

Reynolds, 23, has been dealing with frustrating boot problems this season and while he said it’s an still an issue here in Sochi, the situation is not as bad as it was at the Canadian championships last month in Ottawa.

“It’s the Olympic Games and I’m going to push through no matter what,” said Reynolds. “Everyone has their own issues that they’re dealing with and this is mine and I’m just going to deal with it.”

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

twitter @beezersun

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