Winter Olympics

‘Prince’ Hanyu prep overshadows Russians’ Olympic figure skating gold

‘Prince’ Hanyu prep overshadows Russians’ Olympic figure skating gold

STAR SKATER. All eyes are on Yuzuru Hanyu as he competes in the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Toby Melville/Reuters

Japan's figure skating star Yuzuru Hanyu wants to conquer the quadruple Axel as he eyes a third straight Winter Olympic gold medal in Beijing

BEIJING, China – The Russians may have won figure skating’s first gold medal at the Beijing Games but the most anticipated event on Monday, February 7, was at the nearby training rink where Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, at long last, made his first appearance for a practice session.

Touching down a day earlier in the Chinese capital after leaving fans guessing over his whereabouts, the two-time Olympic champion drew a mob of press and photographers, many not allowed in due to capacity restrictions in the COVID-19 distanced Games.

Hanyu, masked and wearing a white Team Japan top, glided onto the ice as photographers lining the entire length of the rink pointed their lenses and journalists scribbled in their notebooks.

Shedding his top after a few minutes, the skater, nicknamed “Ice Prince,” warmed up with spins and triple jumps, sharing the ice with five others including compatriot Shoma Uno.

As the score to his free skate program played at his turn, Hanyu attempted the quadruple Axel – the most difficult jump that no skater has ever landed successfully in competition – and fell on the ice.

Determined to conquer the quad Axel, or “4A,” Hanyu said on Monday he had focused much of his training since his last competition in late December on the jump.

“There was some nervousness (initially), but in the end I think I was able to concentrate and practice,” Hanyu told reporters after the 30-minute session where hundreds of eyes were fixed on him.

Hanyu attempted the 4A several times and confessed to reporters later that he had yet to nail it.

“I’m keeping at it, feeling how difficult it is. But it’s a goal that I just have to achieve … For me to go higher at the Olympics, [the 4A] is something that I absolutely feel I need,” he said.

Hanyu won a second gold medal at the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018 and would break a near-century record of a third consecutive Olympic title if he wins again.

Italian Matteo Rizzo, who was also on the rink, said the media circus was part of the routine when Hanyu was in the mix.

“We all knew it beforehand,” he said of all the fuss. “We’re used to it.”

Hanyu will be skating on a different rink on Tuesday, when he first competes in the men’s singles event. –