Yuzuru Hanyu says he's building towards landing a quad Axel

The double Olympic champ has kept the same programs as last year, and caught up with Javier Fernandez after practice at the Autumn Classic International.

By Rory Jiwani

The same, but different.

Double Olympic figure skating champion Yuzuru Hanyu ended months of speculation by retaining his short program and free skate music from last year.

But the 24-year-old has changed the components within and gave a glimpse of what to expect from his free skate this season in practice at the Autumn Classic International.

He was greeted by huge cheers and screams from the crowd as he took the ice for the warm-up in his first appearance since the World Championships in Saitama where he took silver behind Nathan Chen.

And there was more of the same as he bowed to the crowd at the end of the 35-minute session.

While speaking to reporters after practice, Hanyu revealed he has been attempting quintuple jumps in a harness in training as he "builds up his strength" towards trying to land the first quad Axel in competitive figure skating.

The Japanese also said he had landed quad Axels, the jump consisting four and a half turns, in the harness.

Hanyu's compatriot Shoma Uno discussed quintuple jumps with Olympic Channel as part of our series 'Is It Possible?'.

After triples and quads, quintuples are simply the next evolutionary step. Right?

Old Friends

Hanyu was reunited with his friend and old training partner Javier Fernandez in Oakville, Ontario.

The pair greeted each other warmly after Hanyu had completed his practice where he showed off new elements in his free skate which is largely a repeat of his 'Origin' program from last season.

We grabbed a quick word with the recently-retired Spaniard who says he's going to be back training alongside Hanyu under Brian Orser in Toronto.

Here's what the double world champion and Olympic bronze medallst had to say:

Javier Fernandez backstage at the Autumn Classic International

Olympic Channel: What brings you to the Autumn Classic?

Javier Fernandez: I arrived today in Toronto. I was talking with David Wilson, who was my choreographer, and he asked me if I wanted to come. Because after this, we're going to jump into the ice and do some work in choreography, new short programs and also the programs that I'm going to use in less than a month in the Japan Open.

I don't know if I'm going to come tomorrow, if I'm going to have time. It depends on my training, but if I do have time I would love to come to see it.

OC: I've just seen you were reunited with Yuzuru. Did he know you were coming?

JF: I don't know. Maybe they talked about it in the (Toronto) Cricket Club, because I asked Brian (Orser) if I could go and I could practise because I'm not an official competitor right now. But he probably said it. I don't know if he said exactly the date, but they probably knew I was going to be around.

OC: So you're going to be doing a little training together now?

JF: Yes, yes, just for a little bit more than two weeks really.

OC: You're coming back for the Japan Open. Any desire to get back and compete?

JF: I think it's just going to be this one, this Japan Open and that's it. But you know what, I have a lot of plans in Spain, a lot of shows to do. When I decided to retire, it was a final decision. But this is just like a little extra.

Hanyu's return

Hanyu gave the crowd plenty to cheer as he landed a flawless quad toe loop and quad Salchow at the start of his session.

Then came the runthrough of 'Origin', the routine inspired by Turin 2006 Olympic men's singles champion Evgeny Plushenko, with the Japanese missing his first jump before landing a quad Salchow.

This was followed by a double Lutz which observers expect will be upgraded in competition although perhaps not to a quad Lutz.

Hanyu put a hand down both times he attempted the jump later on in the session with a fall on a quad Lutz causing the ankle injury which almost ruled him out of PyeongChang 2018.

Next in the runthrough was a quad toeloop followed by a quad toeloop-Euler-triple Salchow combination, and his free skate ended with a triple Axel-double toe loop combo.

There was a fall on a quad toe loop-triple toe loop combo later, but otherwise it looked like Hanyu was keeping plenty in reserve for the competition starting Friday.

Hanyu will skate fourth in the first group in the short program which starts at 13:50 local time (1750GMT).

Yuzuru Hanyu on the ice ahead of his first practice at the Autumn Classic International in Oakville.

Having retained the same programs, the only way he can beat Chen is to up the ante on quad jumps and he looks to be doing just that.

The Japanese star suffered with ankle trouble for much of last season and the fans came out in force to see their hero, some armed with Pooh bears.

Yuzuru Hanyu fans at Thursday's Autumn Classic International practice

Before his practice, it was confirmed that Hanyu would be sticking to his short program and free skate from last year.

On his biog page on the ISU website, his routines are listed as 'Otonal' and 'Origin', the same as in the 2018-19 season.

It's not the first time he has 'recycled' programs for the following year, doing so with his 'Parisienne Walkways' short program from 2012-13 to 2013-14 and Chopin's Ballade No.1 the next two seasons.

The Sixteen Mile Sports Complex was pretty low on spectators yesterday, but it was a different story today with the biggest draw in figure skating in town.

The rest of men's practice

Junhwan Cha also impressed in the last group having received a similar reception to his training partner Hanyu.

The Korean landed a couple of fine quad Salchows and a quad toe loop before his runthrough.

Conrad Orzel outshone fellow Canadian Keegan Messing, landing the first quad of the week, an excellent quad Lutz.

France's Kevin Aymoz, sporting a new bleach-blond hairstyle in Oakville, pleased the crowd with something close to a front flip at the end of his runthrough.

Britain's Harry Mattick had a bit of a nightmare start to his short program run through.

Just a couple of seconds after his violin version of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' got underway, he slipped and fell, although he took it in good spirits, laughing along with the crowd.


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