Exclusive: Brian Orser: 'We trust Hanyu's instincts' on injury

Faced with another injury in an Olympic season, Hanyu Yuzuru has been there before, says coach Brian Orser. The Olympic silver medallist also discusses his charge's quad Axel quest.

By ZK Goh & Nick McCarvel
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

News of Hanyu Yuzuru's latest ankle injury brought back memories of the lead-up to the last Winter Olympics for many of figure skating's Hanyu fans.

In November 2017, just months out from the PyeongChang 2018 Games, the Japanese figure skater damaged his right ankle and struggled in his recovery before making a successful, gold-medal-winning comeback at the Olympic Games to become the first male skater to go back-to-back at the Games in nearly 70 years.

With things seemingly repeating themselves four years on – Hanyu suffered ligament damage in his right ankle ahead of next week's NHK Trophy Grand Prix event – Hanyu's coach Brian Orser, the Calgary 1988 silver medallist, says he trusts his charge's experience in dealing with what lies ahead, with an eye on the forthcoming Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 in February.

Speaking exclusively to Olympics.com's Nick McCarvel at the Gran Premio d'Italia, the Canadian coach said: "He is experienced enough that he knows that any decision that he makes is the right decision; it's a good decision.

"We all trust his instincts and the direction that he wants to go."

Orser: We will 'stand behind Yuzu' in what comes next

Hanyu has not yet announced his intentions with regards to Beijing 2022. Normally, Japanese selection rules would require Hanyu to compete at Nationals in December to be considered for a spot, although he could be given an exemption if he does not recover in time, as was the case in the Olympic season ahead of PyeongChang.

Orser admits that he has not broached the subject with the 26-year-old, especially in light of the skater's latest injury.

The pair have not been able to work with each other directly since the start of the global pandemic, instead having coaching sessions virtually though video footage – with Orser at their usual base at the Toronto Cricket Club, and Hanyu in Japan.

"You know, you fast forward four years - [and] we are in the same situation," Orser said of the injury. "You have to talk to him about his expectations for the Olympics and his expectations for training and recovery and to recuperate from this injury.

"I don't have a lot of details and I'm not going to speculate or, you know, this is a question for Yuzu and what his intentions are. And then [his team] have to all stand behind him whatever those [are] with what his intentions are for the season."

Quad Axel quest on hold

Earlier this week, Hanyu told Japanese broadcaster NHK of his plans to attempt the never-before-completed quadruple Axel in competition at the NHK Trophy.

"My biggest hope is to land a quad Axel properly at NHK Trophy," he said then. "I hope to deliver a performance that would move the audience by pushing beyond my limits in techniques."

Orser acknowledged Hanyu's quest to break the barrier and become the first to land the jump cleanly.

"We all know that he wants to do the quad Axel. And if anyone will do it, he can do it," the Canadian said. "There was, you know, a change a little bit in his technique for that jump. And he has been able to work on that. So we have to sit and wait and see, me included like the rest of us."

With less than 100 days to go to Beijing, it remains to be seen if Hanyu will be fit enough to attempt the jump before then – or even decide to go to the Chinese capital.

But Orser reiterated his belief that Hanyu would make the right call.

"He doesn't need to lean on a coaching team to direct him, and he knows what he's doing. He's two-time Olympic champion and two-time world champion, and he's won everything now. So we stand behind him and support him."


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