Yuzuru Hanyu goes from feeling ‘like I could have quit’ to fifth Japan figure skating title

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Yuzuru Hanyu won his fifth Japanese national figure skating title, tying the beloved Daisuke Takahashi in the record books and moving closer to a March showdown with Nathan Chen at the world championships.

Hanyu, the two-time Olympic champion, landed six quadruple jumps between two programs to tally 319.36 points and prevail by a whopping 34.55 over Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno. Yuma Kagiyama was third, likely rounding out the world team.

Hanyu skated a full competition with all positive grades of execution on jumping passes for the first time since the December 2015 Grand Prix Final — when he was at the peak of his dominance, breaking world records in back-to-back competitions.

“Last year, it felt like I wasn’t developing anymore,” Hanyu said, according to Agence France-Presse. “It felt like there was nothing left to fight for. I think I was tired of fighting, and it felt like I could have quit any time. But I’ve come to realize that I enjoy the satisfaction you get from competing and coming through the hard times.”

Hanyu, after landing a quad Salchow and quad toe loop in Friday’s short program, hit a quad loop, quad Salchow and two more quad toes in the free skate (video here). Uno landed four quads among jumping errors in his free skate after falling on a quad toe in the short.

It marked Hanyu’s first Japanese crown since a run of four straight from 2012-15. He then missed three consecutive nationals due to injury or illness and took silver behind Uno last year.

Hanyu broke his tie with Uno at four national titles, tied the 2010 World champion Takahashi at five and moved one shy of Takeshi Honda, a two-time world medalist in the early 2000s.

Nobuo Sato holds the men’s record of 10 Japanese titles — consecutive in the 1950s and ’60s — before coaching some of Japan’s top skaters.

Hanyu, 26, performed this week for the first time since February, marking the longest span between competitions of his senior career.

He passed on the autumn Grand Prix Series, citing asthma, plus travel concerns for himself and his Canada-based coaches. Usually based in Toronto, Hanyu left for Japan earlier this year and has been practicing without his coaching team.

“As the national championships got closer, the third wave hit and I felt very conflicted over whether I should compete or not,” Hanyu said before nationals, according to AFP. “But thinking about the world championship, the Four Continents [in February] has been canceled so the national championship is the qualifying event for worlds, and it was compulsory that I compete.”

Worlds are in Stockholm. Chen, who outscored Hanyu in their last five head-to-head programs, is all but a shoo-in to be named to the U.S. team after nationals in Las Vegas in three weeks.

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Aksel Lund Svindal, Olympic Alpine champ, has testicular cancer, ‘prognosis good’

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Aksel Lund Svindal, a retired Olympic Alpine skiing champion from Norway, said he underwent surgery for testicular cancer and the prognosis “looked very good.”

“Tests, scans and surgery all happened very quickly,” Svindal, 39, wrote on social media. “And already after the first week I knew the prognoses looked very good. All thanks to that first decision to go see a doctor as soon as I suspected something was off.”

Svindal retired in 2019 after winning the Olympic super-G in 2010 and downhill in 2018. He also won five world titles among the downhill, combined and giant slalom and two World Cup overall titles.

Svindal said he felt a change in his body that prompted him to see a doctor.

“The last few weeks have been different,” he wrote. “But I’m able to say weeks and not months because of great medical help, a little luck and a good decision.

“I wasn’t sure what it was, or if it was anything at all. … [I] was quickly transferred to the hospital where they confirmed what the doctor suspected. Testicle cancer.”

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France vs. Mali Group B
4 a.m. Australia vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada vs. Japan Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final