Home Figure Skating News Yuzuru Hanyu defends Olympic title in Pyeongchang

Yuzuru Hanyu defends Olympic title in Pyeongchang

by Paula Slater
Danielle Earl

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan performs his free skate at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

2018 Winter Olympics: Figure Skating News

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan defended his title in the Men’s Figure Skating event at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Teammate Shoma Uno won the silver in his debut on Olympic ice, while Javier Fernandez of Spain captured the bronze.

Overnight leader Hanyu landed a solid quad Salchow, quad toe, triple flip, and quad Salchow-triple toe right out the gate, earning many positive grades of execution (GOE) across the board.

The 2014 Olympic champion stepped out of his quad-toe combination and put a foot down on his triple Lutz, but was otherwise clean, showing good spins and footwork.

“I have no words right now,” he said. “I am overwhelmed. I am just happy with my performance and my hard training and everything.”

Hanyu earned 206.17 points for a second-place finish in the free skate and first overall (317.85) to win his second consecutive Olympic gold.

“I am indeed very happy to win the medal,” said the 23-year-old. “The many skaters who have competed, and those who had made these Games possible, and all the coaches, the supporters and the team members, I will extend my appreciation and to honor the brilliant skaters. Because of all you we make this Olympics. I stand in front of you smiling. This is the best day of my skating life. My tears were from my heart. I can find one word and that is ‘happy.'”

Since November, it has been an uphill battle for Hanyu due to injury. Earlier that month, the skater sustained ligament damage to his right ankle while practicing a quad Lutz. As a result, the skater had to withdraw from NHK Trophy and the  2017 Japanese National Championships in order to recover.

“I just had to do what I could do,” he said. “My injuries were more severe than I thought and I could not practice as much as I wanted to. If you are a protagonist of a comic cartoon, then the setting has been made. Now I have been cheered by so many people. I really am in bliss.”

Hanyu and Fernandez train together, and both know each other’s “ins and outs.”

“To be honest, it was rare that we were both in good shape,” said Yuzuru. “When he is in bad shape, I am in great shape. I have seen instances when Javier was quite emotional. Strong emotions is an advantage to us because without emotions and feelings you cannot practice.”

“Without him I wouldn’t have gone to Canada,” he continued. “I was able to have a stable jump with Salchow and loop because of him. Without Javier, the training would have been so hard I would not have been able to bear it. As a figure skater who has been closest to him, in Sochi (2014 Olympic Winter Games), he could not win a medal and this time he had a really strong feeling to win a medal and I could feel that and now he is next to me and a medalist and I am happy.”

“Of course I’m a gold medalist and that’s fine with me,” he laughed. “It is a wonderful moment we can share.”

Yuzuru isn’t sure whether he will compete at the upcoming worlds as his ankle is still not fully healed. “I think I pushed it somewhat hard for this competition. There are some jumps and elements I can’t perform, but I forced myself for this competition.”

Uno fell on his opening quad loop and later put a foot down on a quad toe-double toe combination, but was otherwise solid, landing a total of three quads and six triple jumps.

“I missed the first jump, but the rest of the program was fine,” said the 20-year-old from Nagoya. “I stayed calm after the mistake and was able to give a good performance. I tried to skate like in practice. I tried hard for the jumps. I know the success rate is not that high, but I still wanted to try everything.”

The 2017 World silver medalist scored 202.73. finishing third in the free skate and second overall (306.90).

“Looking back at my performance, there is no disappointment. It was close to perfect,” said. “I missed the first jump, but the rest of the program was fine. I stayed calm after the mistake and was able to give a good performance.”

“I know that the Olympic Games are a special stage for many people and it is special story for them,” said Uno, “but I didn’t have that attachment. For me it was just one of the competitions I was participating in. I am a bit jealous of the other skaters that have this kind of attachment.”

“For the remainder of the Olympic Games, I will be back to Japan and back to practice,” said the skater from Nagoya. “I will come back for the end of the Olympic Winter Games. Tomorrow or the day after I will resume practice for the world championships.”

Fernandez placed fourth (197.66) in the free skate after a near-solid routine to “Man of La Mancha.” The Spaniard landed two quads as well as seven clean triple jumps, but popped a Salchow.

“I feel like I had a few little mistakes,” said the 26-year-old, “but I think it was a good program, a good fight. Overall, we are happy with the performance and with the skating. It was a good experience. Even though it wasn’t a perfect performance, today it was a good one. Everybody was skating really well. I am so happy with the medal!”

With a total score of 305.24, the two-time World champion finished third overall to win the bronze. He was fourth at the 2014 Sochi Games.

“I finally got the medal I always wanted,” said Fernandez, who made history by winning Spain’s first Olympic medal in figure skating. “I am proud I can take it home and share it with the people. It means a lot. For my country I hope it means a lot also. I know it means a lot for my family, they put so much effort, so much money, so much time into this. Same as me. I am sure they are as happy as I am. It means the world.”

“It has been a lot of work and a lot of years, for the Olympic dream to win an Olympic medal,” he continued. “And I finally got it. Now I can sleep, I can rest, and I can really enjoy it with my people around me.”

Being fourth at the 2014 Olympics definitely motivated Fernandez into doing a better job.

“Even when you know you are ready for something, things don’t always go as planned,” he said. “I think that’s what it taught me. I became a better skater, a better person after Sochi for sure.”

Fernandez and Hanyu have worked and trained together on the same ice for a long time and they know how much effort and work goes in on the ice.

“It’s always good to share a podium with somebody that you have seen on practices and how hard they work,” said Fernandez. “It’s a real pleasure and we are also really happy for our coaches Brian (Orser) and Tracy (Wilson). They have two skaters on the podium in the Olympics in men’s figure skating. That’s the most important, they have done a great job with us. They are amazing coaches and they deserve this just as much.”

Fernandez is unsure of his plans moving forward.

“You never know what is going to happen with your life,” he said. “Right now, I am going to sit down with Brian and Tracy and see if I will go to the world championship, or if I am not going to go to worlds, or if I am going to do next season or not. I am one of the oldest skaters already and I have been pretty much in the top in the last few years. It’s hard for you to keep yourself up here. You have seen how talented the skaters are, they are younger. They are more fresh, so we’ll see.”

Boyang Jin of China took a fall on a quad toe in his “Star Wars” routine, but otherwise landed a quad Lutz, quad Salchow, quad toe-double toe, and six triple jumps. The two-time World bronze medalist finished fifth in the free skate (194.45) and fourth (297.77) overall.

USA’s Nathan Chen stood in 17th after a dismal short program on Friday, and try as might, could not deny that he felt a lot of pressure.

“I think that tightened me up and made me super cautious out there and that’s not the right way to skate,” he said.

The skater rebounded, however, landing a whopping and historical six quads—all clean except for a hand down on a quad flip.

“I think honestly putting down a rough short program, and being so low in the placement, just took the pressure away from me,” said the 18-year-old. “I no longer felt like I was striving for that first-place spot. It mostly was just me being out on the ice an enjoying myself, playing to the crowd and really soaking in the Olympic experience.”

Chen also landed a triple Axel and triple flip-loop-triple Salchow and showed strong footwork and spins to earn a new personal best of 215.08 points for his routine to “Mao’s Last Dancer and “Sacre du Printemps.” He finished first in the free skate and managed to climb 12 spots to fifth overall with a total of 297.35 points.

“I wasn’t that nervous at all,” said the two-time U.S. champion. “After putting down such a disastrous short program and being so, so low in the ranking, lower than I am usually ever, allowed me to completely forget about results and I was able to completely enjoy myself out on the ice. Getting rid of expectations helped a lot.”

Chen felt redeemed.

“Honestly, I just wanted to leave here satisfied with what I have done, and I definitely am,” he said. “I was really happy that I was able to at least do what I did. I made a mistake on the (quad) flip, so, I have to think about that a little bit and I was able to put down the five quads and the triple Axel.”

“I really had a good time on the ice,” he continued. “I am happy I was able to do that, because it was risky, and it was just hard. I really just wanted to do it, I was so low that there was nothing I could really lose at that point and I just put it out there to see what would happen.”

Chen claims he has been working on doing six quads in the free skate for a while.

It’s never really fully come together,” he explained. “I already fell so many times, I was like, ‘I already fell so many times (in performances earlier this week), I might as well go out and throw everything down and see what happens.'”

Chen, who trains in Calif., under Rafael Arutyunyan, Nadia Kanaeva, and Vera Arutyunyan, felt the support of his family and fans, getting lots of phone texts and crowd cheers, which helped him a great deal.

“I can’t even explain it,” he said of his Olympic debut. “It’s like, it’s not necessarily happiness, I’d say. I am very satisfied and very fulfilled with this experience. I am glad that I was able to end it like this. I was really disappointed with the start, but to end it like this is at least something.”

“I mean, obviously I will use this as a good experience, but I can’t plan for the future,” he said regarding the next four years. “I’ll just take it day by day and see what happens four years from now.”

Teammate Vincent Zhou earned a personal best of 192.16 points for a sixth-place finish after a highly difficult routine. The 2018 U.S. national bronze medalist landed three-clean quads: Lutz-triple toe, Salchow, and toe, but made stepped out of a quad flip and had a subpar landing on a solo quad Lutz.  He finished a respectable sixth place overall with 276.69 points.

“For me to skate that well, to do two great programs, was just amazing,” said the 17-year-old. It is difficult to put into words. It has been such a ride over my 17 years. I have been through so much that it would take hours for me to say. To have a successful performance means so much to me. It is incredible. It was pure joy.”

The skater will 21 when the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing roll around.

“It’s prime time baby!” he laughed, adding that was his “Adam Rippon” moment.

“He is such a sassy, confident guy,” said Zhou of Rippon. “It’s kind of empowering to have him in the house.”

Zhou’s next competition is Worlds, so he won’t be staying for the Closing Ceremony.

“I will spend a few days watching competition and enjoying myself and after that, it’s time to get back and focus on the worlds,” he said. “I will continue to give it my all. No break.”

Dmitri Aliev (OAR), who stood in fifth after the short, finished 13th (168.53) after taking two falls. He slipped to seventh overall (267.41).

Teammate Mikhail Kolyada landed two clean quads, but struggled with other jumps, taking two falls to finish eighth overall (264.25).

Patrick Chan of Canada opened with a solid quad toe-double toe, but stepped out of triple toe and later put a hand down on a triple Axel. The three-time World champion placed eighth in the free skate (173.42) and ninth overall (263.43).

USA’s Adam Rippon rounded out the top 10 men with 259.36.

“After I saw the scores, I saw the way Nathan (Chen) and Vincent (Zhou) skated and I am so proud of my two really little, really young teammates,” he said. “They are amazing and they inspire me to be better and better every day.

“For me personally, I am going into my last spins and I’m like, ‘I am having my Olympic moment that I have worked so hard for,'” said the skater who trains in Calif. “Three clean programs here at the Olympic Games and to come away and finish in the top 10 in the individual and have a bronze medal you know, that bronze is worth its weight in gold.”

When asked why he felt he touched so many people, Rippon was frank: “On some level we can all relate to just being rat shit. And I’m a little rat shit. I try my best to keep it real and in my interviews, I try my best to be myself and when I am out there on the ice, I am just showing another part to myself.”

“I came here and I wanted to show the world who I was on and off the ice,” he continued. “I wanted to go out there and show that I am a serious athlete, but at the same time, have fun and show everybody, who I am. And I think that people have kind of enjoyed my honesty and my openness.”

Rippon stands by his words on being open honest, especially during his Olympic experience in Pyeongchang.

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said, “and I wanted to be be open and honest about it and fun with the media. It’s a whole part of it that I wanted to enjoy and I enjoyed every single second. I am America’s sweetheart!”

The skater has soaked up the experience like a dry sponge and “had the time of his life.”

This Olympic Games has been just amazing,” he said. “It’s been a wild ride. I’ll bring a lot of memories home, but more importantly, I will bring an Olympic bronze medal from the team event.”

Like other skaters, Rippon is still unsure of his future in figure skating.

“I think at first I need a five-minute break and a really stiff drink and then maybe like a day or two off the ice, at least to dry out my costumes, and then we’ll see,” he said.

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