No quadruple axel for Hanyu Yuzuru at World Team Trophy, Kihira Rika suffers injury

Two-time Olympic champion Hanyu pulls 4A from programme due to post-worlds quarantine and an obligation to deliver for fans in Osaka, hit hard by Covid.

By Shintaro Kano
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Hanyu Yuzuru will not be attempting the quadruple axel at the figure skating World Team Trophy starting on Thursday (15 April) in Osaka.

Following official practice on the eve of the season-ending event, the men's two-time defending Olympic champion told media on Wednesday (14th April) that circumstances since last month's world championships have made it difficult for him to try the hardest jump on ice at Marzuen Intec Arena.

Hanyu has spent the last two weeks in quarantine after returning to Japan on 30 March from Stockholm, where he finished third.

The 26-year-old also said he wants to turn in the best performance possible for the fans in Osaka, which currently has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Japan and is on the cusp of another state of emergency.

"With the schedule I've been on, I don't think it's feasible to try the quadruple axel here", said Hanyu, who is taking part in the competition for the first time since 2017. He skipped practice in the morning.

"I have an obligation to perform even better than I normally do. How well I perform takes precedence over anything I want to do in particular in the programme.

"I know full well how dire the situation is in Osaka right now. My home, Miyagi Prefecture, is also in bad shape and I come here with mixed emotions."

"What I can offer is a good performance, a performance that might help or uplift the people who are facing challenges." - Hanyu Yuzuru

"It is definitely not easy to find the right words for such a complex and difficult situation for so many people.

"I have a job to do here and I want to fulfill it".

Hanyu praises golfer Matsuyama and swimmer Ikee

Hanyu gave a shout out to a pair of fellow athletes who have done a lot of inspiring of their own: Matsuyama Hideki, the new Masters golf champion and Japan's first-ever male major winner, and swimmer Ikee Rikako, who battled back from leukemia to qualify last week for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021.

Matsuyama played his university golf in Miyagi. He and Hanyu have met on occasion, when they have received various honours in the prefecture.

Hanyu said he watched bits and pieces of the Masters live during isolation. The tournament is aired during the wee hours in Japan.

"It was on super early here so I couldn't watch the whole thing but I think I watched around nine holes every day", Hanyu said.

"He made me feel so proud as a citizen of Miyagi and Sendai. Being Japanese and winning the Masters is no ordinary feat, needless to say.

"I don't think a 'congratulation' or 'amazing' begins to describe what he has accomplished. Matsuyama Hideki without question has carved out his place in Japanese history".

On Ikee, he said, "I don't think you can compare the hardship she had to go through and me. I can't even imagine the pain, the struggles. Only she will be able to understand that.

"But as someone who has been at the Olympics and done that, I really hope she does well this summer".

Kihira strains lower back

Hanyu's teammate in the ladies' singles event at the World Team Trophy, Kihira Rika, said she is suffering from a lower-back strain but will still compete.

Kihira said the pain forced her to rest most of Tuesday but felt much better when she woke up on Wednesday.

It remains to be seen how fit the reigning national champion will be come Thursday, but may have to adjust her programme accordingly because of the injury.

"I felt it yesterday morning. I’m being careful with it now", she said. "It was pretty bad yesterday but much better today. Hopefully I’ll be fine by tomorrow.

"It’s in the right part of the lower back. Not something I’ve done before. I iced it and took some pain killers.

"Compared to yesterday I feel like I can jump now. I actually feel really rested now because I took it easy yesterday. I just I hope I can contribute to the team".