Four Continents: Hanyu Yuzuru's program music change self-determined, coach says

Hanyu's coach Ghislain Briand says the skater opted to switch his program music for the Four Continents Championships of his own accord.

Double Olympic champion Hanyu Yuzuru has arrived in Seoul, South Korea, for the Four Continents Championships as talk continues to swirl around his sudden decision to change his program music mid-way through the season.

The Japanese star did not take to the ice on the first day of official practice, having only landed in the South Korean capital from his training base of Toronto on Tuesday afternoon.

Hanyu arrived wearing a face mask in light of the recent coronavirus fears. He also told his fans to take care and not to run towards him, Nikkan Sports reported. He was accompanied by coach Brian Orser.

Earlier, one of Hanyu's other coaches, Ghislain Briand, confirmed the 25-year-old would skate using his Olympic gold-medal routine music from PyeongChang 2018 in Seoul, saying it was a decision Hanyu had taken himself.

Hanyu Yuzuru, wearing a mask, arrives at Incheon International Airport in South Korea accompanied by coach Brian Orser (right) on February 4, 2020. (Photo: Yomiuri Shimbun)
Hanyu Yuzuru, wearing a mask, arrives at Incheon International Airport in South Korea accompanied by coach Brian Orser (right) on February 4, 2020. (Photo: Yomiuri Shimbun)Hanyu Yuzuru, wearing a mask, arrives at Incheon International Airport in South Korea accompanied by coach Brian Orser (right) on February 4, 2020. (Photo: Yomiuri Shimbun)

'Super Slam' at stake

Hanyu could become the first men's singles skater to complete the so-called "Super Slam" if he wins in Korea.

That involves winning the junior world title, Junior Grand Prix Final, the senior world title, Olympic gold, Grand Prix Final, and continental (European or Four Continents) championship. Hanyu has each of those except the Four Continents.

But he has been having ups and downs recently, losing to Nathan Chen at this season's Grand Prix Final before being beaten by Uno Shoma at the Japanese national championships.

In a bid to recapture his best, Hanyu decided of his own accord to return to his PyeongChang music – Japanese composer Umebayashi Shigeru's Seimei for his free skate, and Frederic Chopin's Ballade No. 1 in G Minor for his short program.

"He decided to change on his own," Briand told reporters in Seoul, according to Kyodo News.

"That short program is, I think, the best short program in the history of figure skating. Now he just has to perform."

Earlier this season, Hanyu had skated to Otonal, in tribute to Evgeny Plushenko and Johnny Weir.

"He wanted something that is more Yuzuru," Briand added. "He was skating in honour of Plushenko, in honour of Johnny Weir.

"But when you do that, it's not your own performance. He wanted something from him. So now he skates for Yuzuru and not for anyone else."

Upon his arrival in Korea, Hanyu himself said: "When I think about the figure skating that I’m aiming for, currently I can skate my best to Seimei and Ballade No. 1.

"I felt from my heart that I want to skate to these programs."

Quad Axel soon?

No-one has ever successfully jumped the four-and-a-half-rotation quadruple Axel in competition.

Briand says Hanyu will not try the jump at Four Continents, but still intends to attempt it at the World Championships in Montreal in March.

"It is getting better and better," he said of the skater's practice jumps during training attempts.

"He's not going to do it here because he's planning to do it at the worlds. He's trying to find the best program he can to win the worlds. The Four Continents is just a step to recapture the world title."

Before that, Hanyu will rely on his tried-and-tested music as he aims to win the last major title eluding him.

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