Yuzuru Hanyu tried a quadruple Axel in competition for the first time, and though it was downgraded with a two-footed landing, he still won a sixth Japanese figure skating title on Sunday.
Hanyu, a two-time Olympic champion, has for years said a goal is to land the quad Axel, the hardest quad and the only one that nobody has hit in competition. He even elevated it above further Olympic success.
Hanyu landed two-footed and under-rotated quad Axel attempts in practice last week at nationals in Saitama, plus in his warm-up 45 minutes before Sunday’s program.
He tried it at the start of his free skate, not completing the four and a half rotations yet still staying on his feet. It was downgraded to a triple Axel.
He then hit three later quads, totaling 322.36 points for the competition. He won by a comfortable 26.54 points over Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno.
“I’m honestly relieved,” Hanyu said, according to Kyodo News. “I felt as though I was about to cry even before the six-minute warm-up.”
Yuzuru Hanyu attempts a quadruple Axel in competition for the first time. Downgraded. pic.twitter.com/VAnu6lRt0C
— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) December 26, 2021
World silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama was third to round out the expected podium and the three-man Olympic team.
Hanyu, Uno and Kagiyama are the primary international challengers to American Nathan Chen at the Olympics.
Chen, who competes at the U.S. Championships next week, beat Hanyu in all four of their head-to-heads in this Olympic cycle.
Hanyu competed this weekend for the first time in eight months. He missed the fall Grand Prix Series due to an injury to his right ankle. That ankle has sidelined him three of the last five seasons.
He reportedly said Sunday that in the fall, he couldn’t do anything for a month while also dealing with an illness.
“I’m not even at the starting line yet, but will steadily move forward,” Hanyu said in a mid-November statement, according to a Kyodo News translation.
The 27-year-old tied the record for most Japanese men’s titles in the last 50 years (Takeshi Honda).
Nobuo Satō holds the men’s record of 10 Japanese titles — consecutive in the 1950s and ’60s — before coaching some of Japan’s top skaters.
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