Upbeat Yuzuru Hanyu Appears Ready and in Top Shape for Short Program

Figure Skating – Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics – Training – Gangneung Ice Arena - Gangneung, South Korea – February 12, 2018 - Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan trains. REUTERS/John Sibley
Figure Skating – Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics – Training – Gangneung Ice Arena – Gangneung, South Korea – February 12, 2018 – Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan trains. REUTERS/John Sibley

Yuzuru Hanyu went through his next-to-last training session on Thursday afternoon at the practice rink beneath Gangneung Ice Arena and pronounced himself ready for the men’s short program on Friday.

Hanyu is looking to make history by becoming the first man in 66 years (since American Dick Button) to win consecutive Olympic gold medals. The superstar’s quest to etch his name alongside the giants of the sport has been called into question by the right ankle injury he suffered in November at the NHK Trophy in Osaka.

The Sendai native, who was sidelined by the injury for more than two months and has not competed since October, appeared healthy as he ran through his free skate to “Seimei.” He landed multiple quadruple jumps and triple axels during the 40-minute session.

Despite the presence of fellow medal contenders Shoma Uno, Javier Fernandez, Jin Boyang and Nathan Chen on the ice at the same time, observers in attendance were almost all focused exclusively on Hanyu.

As Hanyu answered questions in the mixed zone afterward, I asked him point blank if his right leg was good to go.

“Would you say your leg is 100 percent healthy now?”

“I can’t really say anything,” came Hanyu’s reply with a big smile, not willing to put a percentage on his physical fitness.

Shizuka Arakawa, the 2006 Olympic women’s gold medalist, was one of the media members on hand. Hanyu asked her what she thought about his readiness.

“Am I alright? What do you think?” Hanyu said to Arakawa.

“Your training looked good,” came Arakawa’s reply. “I think you are fine.”

Hanyu, who finished second behind Chen at the Four Continents in the Olympic rink here last season, mentioned that he has been reviewing video of his skating in that event.

The 23-year-old was clearly in a buoyant mood as he chatted with the media.

“Why are you feeling so bright?” one person asked.

“I couldn’t train for so long. It’s been quite a while since I had no concerns,” Hanyu commented. “I feel so much better now about being about to get out on the ice.”

Hanyu will have one final practice session on the main rink early Friday morning before getting down to business in the afternoon.

He has drawn position No. 25 in the short program, which means he will be the first skater of the final group of six in the 30-man field.

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SOURCE: Japan Times, by