Hanyu fever hits Helsinki

Yuzuru Hanyu's coach Brian Orser says the double Olympic champion will not attempt a quad Axel at the ISU Grand Prix event in Finland.

Double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu is in Helsinki ahead of his ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating seasonal debut.

Since the Japanese skater stated his intent to land the first quadruple Axel in competition, the topic has come up regularly in the build-up to this competition.

Yuzuru Hanyu speaks to the press at GP Helsinki 2018

It won't be in Finland though, with coach Brian Orser confirming there will be no quad Axel this weekend.

"Not here! Not this time around" - Brian Orser tells the Olympic Channel

But Orser, who guided Hanyu to his two Olympic titles, believes that his charge can pull it off.

"If anybody on the planet can do it, it will be him. He has the talent and he has the twitch but it’s on another level of physical strength that he will, and is, working on... It is on the radar."

A record-breaking weekend?

Hanyu opened the season with a win at the Autumn Classic despite finishing second to training partner Junhwan Cha in the free skate.

Orser is not too concerned about that mishap, and is confident the 23-year-old will be able to improve on that showing.

Brian Orser speaks to the press at GP Helsinki 2018

"If it's clean that early, it's too easy. We always go out in that event to have something to work towards early in the season... it’s just kind of a test for us"

Reigning world champion Nathan Chen got his Grand Prix campaign off to a winning start, taking victory in Skate America.

In doing so, he set the highest score of the season so far, 280.57 which is almost 17 points more than Hanyu managed at the Autumn Classic.

That looks a large deficit, but Orser hopes he can eclipse Chen's mark.

"If he skates clean this weekend I think we’re going to be back to breaking world records again. He has a jam-packed program and it’s very difficult. Really difficult."

Hanyu faces Cha again in Helsinki with further threats coming from China's Jin Boyang and Russian Mikhail Kolyada.

However, the 17-year-old Korean was seen heading to the medical centre after official practice so may not be able to stretch himself to his limit this weekend.

Rare Olympic treat

Hanyu is not the only Olympic champion on the ice this weekend as Russia's Alina Zagitova also makes her Grand Prix seasonal bow in Helsinki.

It's the first time that both reigning individual Olympic gold medallists are competing at a top-level event since Kristi Yamaguchi and Viktor Petrenko did so at the 1992 World Championships.

Expect fireworks.

Alina Zagitova poses for a picture at GP Helsinki 2018

Can Zagitova score higher still?

The new scoring system which came into effect this season means that records are waiting to be written.

And Zagitova has grasped the opportunity with both hands.

The 16-year-old opened her season strongly with a dominant win at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, setting a new highest overall score of 238.43 points, almost 19 points clear of the field.

That was back in September. We've since had two Grand Prix events and no one else has come close.

Which Russian will rise to the top?

We were expecting the Russian's score to be challenged by her former training partner, Evgenia Medvedeva, at Skate Canada.

But the Olympic silver medallist failed to skate clean in her short program and was beaten by another compatriot in Elizaveta Tuktamysheva.

Tuktamysheva was world champion in 2015 before Medvedeva took the crown in 2016 before retaining her title 12 months later.

The stage is set for a three-way battle to determine the best of the Russian skaters, and Zagitova can raise the bar even further this weekend.

Apart from the 2018 World Championships, Zagitova has won every event she has entered since December 2016.

Her nearest rival this weekend will probably be Japan's Kaori Sakamoto who finished second at Skate America.

North Koreans feature in Pairs

With such a pool of talent in the Men's and Ladies' events, the Ice Dance and Pairs events could almost be overshadowed.

While neither field features any of the top five finishers from PyeongChang 2018, North Korean duo of Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik will take part in the Pairs.

The duo made headlines as their country's first qualifiers for the Olympic Winter Games in South Korea.

North Korea figure skaters Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik


Free live sport events. Unlimited access to series. Unrivalled Olympic news & highlights.