The $64,000 question: What now Hanyu Yuzuru?

Having wrapped up his Fantasy on Ice tour in Japan, a new figure skating season awaits the two-time Olympic champion. And the world is keen to know what he has in mind.

By Shintaro Kano
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

The guessing game with Hanyu Yuzuru will continue for a little while longer, it seems.

Last month, the figure skating star completed a four-stop ice show tour through Japan - Fantasy on Ice - his first public appearance since the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games.

But media were only allowed to cover the opening night of the month-long tour on 27 May in Makuhari. He did not speak then and since coming home from Beijing, has not definitively said one way or another regarding his future.

This past weekend, the Japan Skating Federation listed their skaters for the upcoming 2022-23 season - including Hanyu, who issued the following brief statement.

"Thank you very much for your continued support. As always, I will strive to aim high this season".

Word for word, it was exactly the same statement Hanyu issued ahead of the Olympic season last year, when he was gearing up to defend his title as the then two-time defending champion of the Games.

Some of Hanyu's faithful actually thought it was a glitch on the JSF website because the statement was a carbon copy from a year ago.

What does this mean? Only the man himself knows.

The only thing the rest of the world can deduct from these words is that he has not completely ruled out (with emphasis on completely) competing this season - but at this stage and only at this stage, to be precise.

Hanyu has not taken part in the last two Grand Prix seasons, first due to the pandemic and then a right-ankle sprain, the Achilles' heel of his storied career.

But that did not stop him from winning the Japanese national championships, especially last year when he dominated over eventual world champion Uno Shoma and Beijing silver medallist Kagiyama Yuma.

In Beijing, buried beneath Hanyu's quest for the quadruple Axel and the botched opening jump of his short program is the fact that he was in razor-sharp form at the age of 27, comparable to that of his previous two Games - if not better, by some accounts.

It remains to be seen whether Hanyu plans or even wants to compete in the Grand Prix Series starting in October.

However one thing is certain: Hanyu does not need the Grand Prix events to stay competitive at the world's highest level. He's figured it out.

The next world championships in March will be in Japan, in Saitama, which some say would be a fitting way for Hanyu to bow out.

Maybe that will be his last hurrah or maybe it won't. Or maybe he really has found his second wind and is eyeing a fourth Olympic appearance in Milano Cortina in 2026. Or maybe he will keep going until he becomes the first man to land the quad Axel in competition...

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