Yuzuru Hanyu completes his short programme – and the ice is bombarded with cuddly toys. © Getty ImagesOlympic Games News
Date : 16 Feb 2018
Gangneung, Korea, February 16, 2018: Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu is on course to become the first Olympian in 66 years to win back-to-back gold medals in men’s figure skating after a mesmerising display at Gangneung Ice Arena on Friday. With question marks hanging over his fitness due to an ankle injury in November that had forced him out of competition for three months, the Sochi 2014 Olympic champion returned to the ice in dominant fashion to lead the short programme.
Looking supremely confident and fluid in his movements and jumps, Hanyu scored 111.68 points to lead from Spain’s Javier Hernandez with 107.58 and fellow Japanese Shoma Uno, the 2017 Sapporo Asian Winter Games champion who earned 104.17 points.
China’s in-form Jin Boyang, skating to music from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, finished fourth in the short programme with 103.32. The free skate will start at 10am on Saturday and Hanyu has thrown down a challenge to his rivals as he bids for his second Olympic gold.
As expected, the handsome young prince of the ice received incredible support, not just from the hundreds of flag-waving Japanese fans in the arena but from figure skating aficionados around the world. Every jump was greeted with roars of approval as Hanyu transformed his sport into an art form and glided around the ice like a man born to fulfill his destiny.
When he finished his short programme, the traditional throwing of cuddly toys, flowers and other gifts on to the ice for the audience to show their appreciation turned into a flood of Winnie the Pooh bears, which has become his trademark.
“I don’t think there can be many athletes who receive this kind of encouragement and support, so I feel really privileged,” said the 23-year-old Hanyu. “Even though I was not able to practise properly on the ice after my injury, I was still able to keep training in other ways.
I have to thank all the people for their support and encouragement at this time and I was trying to live up to their expectations. To be able to perform like this makes me full of joy.” Hanyu said he would have plenty of time to recover on Friday evening and come back in top shape for the free skate on Saturday.
Regarding the flood of cuddly toys from the audience, Hanyu said that he would, as always, give them to the local community as a mark of gratitude and appreciation, as the emotions of the occasion he could keep in his heart.
TEN MISSES OUT
While Hanyu looks to defend his gold medal, Kazakhstan’s Sochi 2014 bronze medallist Denis Ten was eliminated after scoring 70.12 points and finishing 27th of 30 skaters with only the leading 24 advancing. “We have ups and downs,” said Ten, who has Korean ancestry and described competing at the Winter Olympics in Korea as
“very special”. “That is basically the reason why I stayed in the sport,” he added. “I was thinking about retiring in 2014 and I really wanted to show a better performance and speak to the audience in a better way. I will try to keep my chin up.”
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