Now or never: Hanyu Yuzuru's quadruple Axel quest nearing climax

With his back to the wall, the reigning Olympic champion will have to swing for the fences in the free skate. No man has ever landed the quad Axel in competition.

By Shintaro Kano
Picture by Kentaro Aragaki/Olympic Channel

Hanyu Yuzuru is trying to hit it out of the park.

A night after a shocking short program that crippled his chances of an Olympic three-peat, Hanyu was back at it on Wednesday (9 February), putting in the final work on his still incomplete quadruple Axel.

Hanyu trails leader Nathan Chen by more than 18 points going into Thursday's free skate.

Chen on Tuesday broke Hanyu's world record in the short, and the gold medal has become his to lose.

Hanyu will start in the next-to-last group of the free, 17th overall, as a result of his popping the opening jump of his short program and ending up with 95.15 points - well short of his personal best of 111.82.

Hanyu said he hit a hole just before taking off on a quadruple Salchow, which he singled and was ruled invalid.

The Japanese, knowing the stars will have to be perfectly aligned to reach the podium, changed his elements for Thursday.

He has added a triple Axel-triple loop, which no one has ever done in competition. The quad Axel, which Hanyu will open his program with, he hasn't even been able to land in practice - as was the case on Wednesday.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. But stranger things have happened - like Hanyu being the only one out of 29 to hit a hole.

Hanyu's peers in Beijing have hailed his bravado for trying to write history, when he could have played it safe.

Among them are the coach of Hanyu's compatriot Uno Shoma, Stephane Lambiel.

"For me it's unbelievable to think about doing the quadruple Axel", Lambiel told Olympics.com last week. "He's been working hard on it and I admire his commitment.

"It's beautiful to see an athlete putting that effort mentally and physically into such a big challenge. I admire his commitment.

"Just the fact that he works on it and that he puts so much commitment into it is unbelievable".

Hanyu Yuzuru on the practice rink on Wednesday.
Picture by Kentaro Aragaki/Olympic Channel

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