Double Olympic champion has learned from the experience of his PyeongChang 2018 comeback
Yuzuru Hanyu says he felt burnt out after the competition that left him injured four months ago – but his fire is back for the World Championships.
The double Olympic champion injured his right ankle at the Rostelecom Cup in November when he fell on a quad loop while practising for the free skate, having set a season-highest score in the short program the day before.
In a repeat of his race to be fit for PyeongChang 2018 with a similar injury, Hanyu has been fighting to regain full fitness in time for this week’s Worlds in Saitama, Japan, and admitted his ankle is not “totally recovered.”
Speaking at a press conference following his first official practice session on Tuesday, the 24-year-old was asked if the fire inside was still burning as he targets a third world title.
“To be honest, during the competition in Russia, I almost burned it all,” he said. “At the time, it was very difficult and it was a big decision to skate the free program.
“When I completed the program in Russia, I feel like I released what had been burning within my mind. But it was very difficult when I was just watching competitions and couldn’t participate. It was like I had oil and fire, but it was burning in a small room.
“Since I finally started preparing for big competitions like this and now I’m at the venue, I feel like I have become a shining fire burning in a big room.”
Hanyu says the experience of recovering for PyeongChang on a short deadline and winning gold, having suffered an injury at NHK Trophy just three months before, has helped him this time around.
“I think I can use that experience well,” he said. “Now, the most important thing is this competition, but the Olympics was the most important competition for me back then. So the duration of the injury was one month shorter, and in that condition, I won the gold medal. I was almost happy with my performance and then won the first place. That gave me the confidence.
“Also, including the time I couldn’t participate in competitions, I learned how to maintain my fitness and how I should spend every day and what it’s like to compete right after an injury.
“So with that experience I was preparing for this competition. It hasn’t been easy but it was a good experience for me in preparation leading up to this.”
"It's not about just beating others but overcoming yourself." - Yuzuru Hanyu
Hanyu will go up against reigning world champion Nathan Chen of the United States for the first time since PyeongChang in Saitama, while compatriot Shoma Uno is another potential contender for the title.
But for Hanyu, who competes for the first time on Thursday in the short program, his main opponent is himself.
“My main goal is to be able to beat myself from my training and my previous performances during this season,” he said.
“I believe victory is the most important thing that an athlete must have but it’s not about just beating others but overcoming yourself, and your burning desire to win.”
Hanyu chose to skip his opening two practice sessions and skated for the first time at the venue on Tuesday, to rapturous applause from the home crowd.
Some fans had been queuing since the early hours to see Hanyu, who has a dedicated following in his home country and around the world.
“It’s very unique to have so many supporters and so many cheers because it is held in my home country. I don’t believe there is any advantage at the competition, but in terms of spending time here, it makes me more relaxed to listen to Japanese language and see the signs in Japanese.”
He also added his gratitude to his supporters during his latest injury setback: “In the process of training, many people supported me so I am very thankful to them and that’s what I’m thinking about when I’m skating.”