Yuzuru Hanyu receives medal on crutches but is hopeful of Grand Prix Final appearance

The Japanese skater's bid for a fifth Grand Prix Final title is in jeopardy after a sprained ankle in Russia

What an emotional rollercoaster weekend for Yuzuru Hanyu in Moscow.

On Friday, the Japanese skater was at the top of his game setting a new world record.

On Saturday, he twisted his ankle during practice but opted to complete the competition at the Rostelecom Cup, which he won.

On Sunday he arrived at the Megasport Sport Palace to collect his winner's medal on crutches.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan on crutches during the Rostelecom Cup medal ceremony
Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan on crutches during the Rostelecom Cup medal ceremonyYuzuru Hanyu of Japan on crutches during the Rostelecom Cup medal ceremony

Victory at a cost?

Cheered on by his adoring fans, the 23-year-old limped to the podium for the victory ceremony at the ISU Grand Prix event.

It's Hanyu's second victory in Moscow, his first being in 2011, but he must have been wishing the circumstances were different.

After receiving his winners medal, the double Olympic champion put down his crutches and screamed his "thank you" to the crowd for their continued support, before hobbling off the ice.

Yuzuru Hanyu thanks the crowd after collecting his Rostelecom Cup medal
Yuzuru Hanyu thanks the crowd after collecting his Rostelecom Cup medalYuzuru Hanyu thanks the crowd after collecting his Rostelecom Cup medal

The 23-year-old sprained his problematic right ankle while attempting a quadruple loop in Saturday's practice.

It's the same ankle that resulted in him sitting out most of last season and ended his run of four-consecutive Grand Prix Final titles.

"The swelling around his ankle has yet to subside and so he is applying ice on the area and staying off his feet at much as possible until he can get it properly examined." - Japan Skating Federation Director of High Performance, Yoshiko Kobayashi, told The Asahi Shimbun.

Yuzuru Hanyu on crutches to receive his Rostelecom Cup medal
Yuzuru Hanyu on crutches to receive his Rostelecom Cup medalYuzuru Hanyu on crutches to receive his Rostelecom Cup medal

What Hanyu could miss

The double World Champion is now in a race against time to recover.

As the clock ticks down to the start of the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver on 6 December, Hanyu is hoping that he can not only return to the rink, but also be at his competitive best as he eyes a fifth title in the event.

But he'll have to tread carefully, bearing in mind that he also has the Japanese Nationals at the end of December and the World Championships in March 2019.

He can't afford to aggravate the injury with a premature return to skating.

2018 Rostelecom winners [L-R] Second-placed Morisi Kvitelashvili, Yuzuru Hanyu, third-placed Kazuki Tomono
2018 Rostelecom winners [L-R] Second-placed Morisi Kvitelashvili, Yuzuru Hanyu, third-placed Kazuki Tomono2018 Rostelecom winners [L-R] Second-placed Morisi Kvitelashvili, Yuzuru Hanyu, third-placed Kazuki Tomono

Future Focus

Also looking ahead to the World Champs is the other Olympic champion at the Rostelecom Cup.

Alina Zagitova has yet to win a World title, but the PyeongChang 2018 winner's form in claiming a Grand Prix crown in front of her home fans for the first time was impressive.

The Russian produced a masterclass in Moscow during the short program to set a world record as she went on to clinch victory by almost 25 points.

"I feel a responsibility when I skate here in Moscow. But when the audience started to cheer, I realised that I am not skating on my own. The whole crowd was jumping with me. I see it all. It’s an unreal feelings that gave me energy both mentally and physically.” - Alina Zagitova

Alina Zagitova Rostelecom Cup
Alina Zagitova Rostelecom CupAlina Zagitova Rostelecom Cup

The 16-year-old has the opportunity to win back-to-back titles at the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver, but can expect stiff competition from at least a trio of skaters which should include compatriots Evgenia Medvedeva and 2015 World Champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, as well as Japan's Rika Kihira.

When asked about the potential threat from the rest of the field of skaters, the 2018 European champion curtly replied:

“I refuse to answer this. I don’t think about them, I think only of myself.” - Alina Zagitova

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