Yuzuru Hanyu plans quadruple Axel for world championships, coach says

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Yuzuru Hanyu plans to attempt a quadruple Axel, a jump nobody has landed in competition, at the world championships in March, according to a report quoting one of his coaches.

Hanyu competes at the Four Continents Championships in Seoul this week, live on NBC Sports. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

“[The quad Axel] is getting better and better,” coach Ghislain Briand said, according to Kyodo News. “He’s not going to do it here [at Four Continents] because he’s planning to do it at the worlds. He’s trying to find the best program he can to win the worlds. The Four Continents is just a step to recapture the world title.”

Hanyu, a 25-year-old Japanese megastar and two-time Olympic champion, took second at his last two competitions — to Nathan Chen at the Grand Prix Final and to Shoma Uno at the Japanese Championships in December. Neither Chen nor Uno is in the field at Four Continents.

Hanyu has often discussed eagerness to become the first skater to land a quad Axel in competition. It is the only quadruple jump yet to be mastered.

“There are very few people actually practicing even during training,” Hanyu said at the PyeongChang Olympics, according to The Associated Press. “I want to continue my challenge towards achieving my dream of successfully performing the quad Axel, even if I may not be the first person to do so.”

Hanyu went on to say in August 2018 that he hoped to land it in the 2018-19 season, but it didn’t happen.

“I promise that, while you are here in this world, I will do the Axel, and I will do it in competition, because otherwise I don’t think there’s much meaning to it,” Hanyu said, according to a translator, after taking silver behind Chen at last March’s worlds.

Hanyu fell on three quad Axel attempts during practice at December’s Grand Prix Final, according to figure skating expert Jackie Wong.

“I will try to land the quad Axel,” Hanyu said then. “Maybe some day, one day.”

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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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