Yuzuru Hanyu gives cryptic reply to Beijing 2022 question

Double Olympic champion Hanyu says he really wants to beat Nathan Chen next season, but would not commit to defending his PyeongChang title.

Will he or won't he?

in 2018, Yuzuru Hanyu became the first man to win consecutive Olympic figure skating singles titles since Dick Button in 1952.

But there are question marks around whether Hanyu will make it three-in-a-row, after an injury-hit couple of years, and following his latest comments about his future.

Yuzuru Hanyu takes the acclaim of the Saitama crowd after his free skate at the World Championships

The Japanese star is out of action for at least two months with an ankle injury, after taking silver at the 2019 World Championships in March behind Nathan Chen.

His coach Brian Orser told Olympic Channel after those championships that the star will be "back soon."

But now Hanyu has been speaking to the Japanese weekly magazine Aera about his longer-term future.

On defending his Olympic crown at Beijing 2022, Hanyu said, "I managed to win twice, but the Olympics are something special. The Olympic Games are what every athlete and figure skater wants to win. Winning them makes you a true champion.

"I am going to look forward to thinking about who will win at the Beijing Games."

So does that mean he will compete in China?

While he gave no further clues as to his participation in Beijing, Hanyu insists he is determined to reclaim his spot at the pinnacle of world skating.

"To me, losing is like death." - Yuzuru Hanyu

2019 world champion Nathan Chen (R) with silver medallist Yuzuru Hanyu in Saitama

The quad question

Chen beat Hanyu in Saitama to retain his world title and, injury permitting, the stage is set for some epic duels between the pair next season.

The American's array of quad jumps gives him the edge at present, and Hanyu admits this is an area he needs to work on.

The 24-year-old said, "The Technical Element Scores (TES) are getting higher and higher with several skaters clearing the barrier of quads.

"I'd like to overcome more barriers. I'd like to be in the position where, no matter what happens - even if they skate their free skate clean - if I skate clean, I will win."

"I'll do my best to land the quad Axel, the quad Lutz, and the quad flip."

"I want to be stronger. Maybe I need to become a Yuzuru Hanyu who is more Yuzuru Hanyu." - Yuzuru Hanyu

The two-time Olympic gold medallist spent three months out with an ankle injury before bouncing back to retain his crown at PyeongChang 2018.

But he suffered further damage to his right ankle in last November's Rostelecom Cup, ruling him out of the Grand Prix Final and the Japanese nationals.

After four months on the sidelines, he went straight into the World Championships on home ice.

And he knew at the end of his free skate that he had not done enough, muting his celebration by keeping his hand in a fist.

"When I think I have won, I point to the sky with my finger.

"I think I did my best, but I can do more and improve more. I think that even if I had skated both programs clean, I would not have won in the end."

Yuzuru Hanyu stands in the 'Kiss and Cry' after his free skate in Saitama with Brian Orser (R) and Ghislain Briand (L)

Plotting a path back to the top

Hanyu has lost none of his competitive instincts, although he says he does not carry the burden of expectation as much as he did before winning a second Olympic gold.

"There was a lot of pressure to get results, but I don't feel that anymore. Maybe I'm now skating for myself."

"I really want to beat Nathan because I have a great respect for him." - Yuzuru Hanyu

First, Hanyu needs to return to full fitness which means plenty of rehab on an ankle that has been weakened after a succession of strains and sprains.

"I have seen a number of specialists but it's not something surgery will resolve. After such a big injury, even a small impact to the area makes things worse.

"This injury is very different from the one I had before PyeongChang, and it is taking longer to heal. It's about the durability and lifespan of my ankle and I need to keep this in mind when I practise and take risks.

"I want to skate a full season next year, but I need to see how my ankle is and make plans accordingly." - Yuzuru Hanyu