Figure Skating

Hanyu using Olympic winning routines in bid for career 'Super Slam' at Four Continents 

Japan's double Olympic champion Hanyu Yuzuru brings back PyeongChang 2018 programs as he and teenage star Kihira Rika headline competition in Seoul

By Rachel Griffiths ·

Hanyu Yuzuru will aim to become the first man to complete a career ‘Super Slam’ of singles figure skating titles at this week's Four Continents Championships, and according to the ISU music list he's using Olympic-winning routines in his attempt to do so.

The double Olympic champion has won every major title available at junior and senior level with the sole exception of the Four Continents, a competition open to skaters from the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.

Japanese star Hanyu took silver in 2011, 2013, and 2017, and is well placed to go one better in the Korean capital Seoul with his two nearest rivals Nathan Chen and Uno Shoma both skipping the event.

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Hanyu's PyeongChang routines return

In his bid to capture the crown, Hanyu will bring back the routines which saw him retain his Winter Olympic title at PyeongChang 2018, according to the music list on the ISU official event website.

Hanyu will be performing his short program to "Ballade No. 1 in G Minor" by Chopin, with the free skate to Umebayashi Shigeru's "Seimei".

You can relive those PyeongChang performances in full on Olympic Channel.

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Hanyu's chance for history

Since PyeongChang 2018, Chen has dominated the men’s circuit and beat Hanyu at last year's World Championships in Saitama and December's Grand Prix Final in Turin.

But double world champion Chen, who earned a fourth consecutive national title at the US Championships last month, will skip the Four Continents for a third successive year following his win in 2017.

Olympic silver medallist Uno, who endured a rocky start to the season after splitting with his long-time coaching team, enjoyed a welcome return to form to defeat Hanyu and claim his fourth consecutive Japanese national title in December.

Uno is not defending his Four Continents title as he continues to adjust to life under new coach Stephane Lambiel at his Switzerland training base, with March's World Championships in Montreal his primary target.

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That leaves the door wide open for 25-year-old Hanyu, who has also experienced ups and downs on the rink since retaining his Olympic title at PyeongChang.

After injury interrupted his 2018-19 season, he hinted at a return to his masterful best with his first Skate Canada triumph in November before winning his second Grand Prix assignment at the NHK Trophy.

Then followed an epic free skate showdown against Chen in Turin, but fatigue appeared to take its toll on Hanyu later that month as he was surprisingly beaten into second by Uno at the Japanese nationals.

Hanyu upped the technical difficulty of his free skate for the Grand Prix Final, re-introducing the quadruple Lutz to his repertoire for the first time since 2017 to take his long program quad count to five.

The decision to change his programs midway through the season is a shock, but his technical content at Four Continents will also be telling for Montreal.

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Hanyu will be competing against two of his rink-mates in Seoul – USA’s Jason Brown and home favourite Junhwan Cha.

The three train together under Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson at the Toronto Cricket Club.

Brown’s resurgence under that coaching team continued with silver at last month's U.S. Championships, and the 25-year-old could reach greater heights this season if he masters the quadruple toe loop in his free skate.

Other medal hopefuls in Seoul will include China’s Jin Boyang, who has struggled for consistency in recent seasons but won the Cup Of China back in October, and recently-crowned Canadian national champion Roman Sadovsky.

Japanese youngster Kagiyama Yuma is a hot prospect having followed up his bronze medal at the Japanese nationals, behind Uno and Hanyu, with a memorable victory at the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games.

The 16-year-old junior, whose father and coach Masakazu is a two-time Olympian in figure skating, delivered the free skate of his career so far to clinch gold in Switzerland and will be looking to continue that momentum in Seoul.

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Triple Axel alert

Kagiyama is not the only Youth Olympic champion competing, as women’s victor You Young seeks success on home ice.

Young, who delivered two exquisite skates in Lausanne to claim the title, will hope to challenge favourite and defending champion Kihira Rika of Japan.

Both women work with Japanese coach Hamada Mie and boast the notoriously difficult triple Axel in their repertoire.

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Kihira was crowned Four Continents champion in Anaheim, California during a storming debut senior season last year, and will be looking to repeat that success.

The 17-year-old was a runaway winner at the Japanese Championships in December 2019, claiming her first national title after finishing fourth at the Grand Prix Final earlier that month.

That was behind the Russian senior debutants who have dominated the women’s circuit so far this season - Alena Kostornaia, Anna Shcherbakova, and Alexandra Trusova.

Rika Kihira of Japan performs her routine in Ladies free skating during day three of the 88th All Japan Figure Skating Championships at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium on December 21, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

The ‘3A’ are not eligible to compete in Seoul but a strong showing there would put Kihira, who is training the quad Salchow, in good stead for their anticipated rematch at the Worlds.

Sakamoto Kaori, who beat Kihira to take the Japanese title in December 2018 and won the 2018 Four Continents title, is also in the line-up.

The 19-year-old from Kobe will not go to the Worlds after only finishing sixth in the Japanese nationals, but she warmed up for Seoul with victory in Japan's National Winter Sports Festival which included an unsuccessful attempt at a quad toe loop.

Bradie Tennell is another skater who will have an eye on the podium after a rare setback in a fine season for the American.

After her best Grand Prix finish - second at Skate America - she was fifth in her first Grand Prix Final in December.

The PyeongChang 2018 team bronze medallist led after the short program at the U.S. nationals, but finished third behind reigning champion Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell after underperforming in the free skate.

With Liu still a junior and Bell focusing on the Worlds, Tennell has a chance to return to form in Seoul with Karen Chen, who finished fourth in Greensboro, and Amber Glenn completing the American team.

2020 US Championships women's podium (L-R): runner-up Mariah Bell, winner Alysa Liu, third-placed Bradie Tennell, fourth-placed Karen Chen

Sui and Han aim for pairs repeat

In the pairs competition, defending champions and reigning world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong are the ones to beat.

China's Olympic silver medallists won both of their Grand Prix assignments before making it a clean sweep in the Final and are favourites to retain their crown in Seoul.

Compatriots Peng Cheng and Jin Yang will be hoping to challenge, while PyeongChang team bronze medallists, married pair Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, are medal contenders after winning their third US national title.

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In ice dance, the top two from the US nationals look set to fight it out for gold again.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates took victory in Greensboro ahead of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, with both duos training together in the Gadbois Arena in Montreal.

That was the same order as at December's Grand Prix Final, where they finished second and third behind fellow Team Gadbois members Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

Newly-crowned Canadian national champions Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier won their first Grand Prix event earlier in the season, and will be hoping for consecutive Four Continents podiums after taking bronze in Anaheim last year.

Evan Bates and Madison Chock during their free dance at the 2020 US Championships in Greensboro, NC

Four Continents Championships 2020 - Schedule

All times are Korean Standard Time (UTC+9)

Thursday 6 February

11:00 Ice Dance Rhythm Dance

14:15 Pairs Short Program

18:40 Ladies’ Singles Short Program

Friday 7 February

13:30 Ice Dance Free Dance

18:05 Men’s Singles Short Program

Saturday 8 February

13:00 Ladies’ Single Free Skating

18:15 Pairs Free Skating

Sunday 9 February

11:30 Men’s Single Free Skating