Brave 'Ice Prince' sees crown slip from grasp

By LEI LEI (China Daily) 11:02, February 11, 2022

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan performs during the figure skating men single skating free skating of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing on Feb. 10, 2022. (Xinhua/Lan Hongguang)

Despite missing out on the podium, Yuzuru Hanyu deserves the utmost respect for his Beijing 2022 campaign.

In a last-ditch attempt to salvage a medal, the "Ice Prince" took on figure skating's most difficult jump-the 4 1/2-rotation quadruple axel.

The 27-year-old under-rotated and stumbled upon landing. He fell again attempting a quadruple salchow before performing the remainder of his routine cleanly.

Taking a bow to loud applause and touching the ice before stepping off the rink at the Capital Indoor Stadium, the two-time defending champion cut a lonely figure sitting by himself as he awaited his score, intensifying the feeling that this could have been his swan song.

The judges scored him 188.06 points-good enough for third place in the free skate but fourth overall. He could only manage eighth in Tuesday's short program after missing a quad salchow near the start of his routine.

Nathan Chen of the United States won the gold medal with 218.63 points in the free program and 332.60 in total. Japan's Yuma Kagiyama and Shoma Uno took silver and bronze respectively.

"I have given my all, and the quadruple axel was better than I executed before," said Hanyu, who also under rotated the quad axel and landed it with two feet at the Japanese national championships in December.

"I made a big mistake in the quad salchow, but I performed well to the music Heaven and Earth. I regretted the performance in the short program, but I did my best today.

"Honestly, it feels like everything has gone wrong this time around, but I did my best," he added.

Hanyu started skating at the age of 4, and made his international debut at the 2008 Junior Grand Prix Merano Cup, where he finished fifth.

After joining the adult ranks, he quickly began to rack up silverware and milestones. He became the first Asian to win men's singles Olympic gold at the 2014 Sochi Games and retained his title four years later in Pyeongchang to become the first male skater to capture back-to-back Olympic titles since American Dick Button in 1952.

Pioneering difficult jumps and combinations has been a signature of his career. He was the first skater to perform a clean quadruple loop jump, a quadruple toeloop-Euler-triple flip combination, and a quadruple toeloop-triple axel sequence in competitions.

He has been crowned world champion twice, in 2014 and 2017, and has also broken 19 scoring records-the most in singles since the current judging system was introduced in 2004.

Hanyu has achieved all of this despite numerous injury setbacks.

Before the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, he injured his right ankle after landing awkwardly in practice before the 2017 NHK Trophy. Being unable to train for several weeks, he returned to the ice just in time for the Pyeongchang Games and remarkably came away with the title.

He endured similar problems in the build-up to Beijing 2022, withdrawing from the Grand Prix events due to a right-ankle ligament issue before coming back to win the Japanese national championships at the end of last year to secure his Olympic berth.

He raised the bar for the Beijing Games, challenging himself to complete the quad axel in a bid to claim a third straight singles crown. But it wasn't to be.

"It was a hard time for me on the ice. If I wasn't doing the quad axel, I could have done a better combo. But that was my target. It felt more complete to attempt it. That's why I did it," Hanyu said.

"As for whether I will continue to attempt the quad axel, I think I need more time to consider. This time I have tried my best."

Hanyu's bravery earned the respect of his younger rivals.

"Only Hanyu could complete the quad axel and he's always been at the top for years," said bronze medalist Uno. "He pushed the limits of himself, which I cannot imitate. I don't think I can do what he does. He carries everyone's hopes and pressure on his shoulders."

China's Jin Boyang, who finished ninth, also expressed admiration.

"It's incredible that he took on the challenge of the quad axel at the age of 27 at his third Olympics. It shows his hunger to keep striving for better performances, which is what the spirit of sports and the Olympics is all about. We can all learn from it," Jin said.

Chen, who atoned for his fifth-place finish in Pyeongchang, simply said: "In my opinion, he's the greatest skater ever."

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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