Hanyu eyes skating first with Beijing Olympics in view

·2-min read
Hanyu is returning from an ankle injury that forced him to miss the entire Grand Prix season (AFP/Philip FONG)

Yuzuru Hanyu on Thursday gave his clearest indication yet that he intends to defend his figure-skating title at the Beijing Olympics and said he will attempt a quadruple axel at this week's Japan national championships.

The Japanese star came close to nailing the legendary jump in practice on Thursday, allaying fears about his fitness for February's Games after an ankle injury forced him to miss the entire Grand Prix season.

The quad axel has never been successfully landed before in competition and is considered the holy grail of men's figure skating.

The 27-year-old Hanyu, who won Games gold in 2014 and 2018, is determined to do it in Sunday's free skate at the Japanese nationals -- and may attempt it again at the Beijing Games.

Hanyu has never explicitly stated that he intends to compete in Beijing, but he told reporters on Thursday: "If I land the jump here it might make me complacent, but I won't give up trying it.

"I think Beijing might be the end point of this, so I've come here fully resolved to meet it head-on."

Hanyu has been out of action since last month after injuring his right ankle ligaments in a fall in practice, and skipped official practice on Wednesday.

But he came back with all guns blazing a day later, launching himself into the quad axel near the end of the session.

He appeared to land cleanly on one foot, but said later that he felt he had under-rotated by a whisker.

"Today was about creating the axel -- I wasn't focusing so much on the rotations," he said.

"I did what I set out to do today."

Hanyu is looking to lay down a marker this week in Saitama, north of Tokyo, in his first competitive appearance since April.

Hanyu will face stiff competition from 18-year-old Yuma Kagiyama, the current world number one and winner of two Grand Prix titles this season.

The 2018 Pyeongchang Games silver medallist Shoma Uno, who won the NHK Trophy in November, is also among the favourites.

The men's short programme is set for Friday, with the free skate on Sunday.

The Beijing Olympics start on February 4.

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