Yuzuru Hanyu attempts quadruple Axel, wins Japan figure skating nationals

90th All Japan Figure Skating Championships - Day 2
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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.”

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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In a tie, Wendy Holdener puts to rest a remarkable stat in Alpine skiing

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Swiss Wendy Holdener ended one of the most remarkable victory droughts in sports by tying for the win with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson in a World Cup slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday.

Holdener, after 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career, stood on the top step of a World Cup slalom podium for the first time. She shared it with Swenn Larsson, who had six World Cup slalom podiums before Sunday and also earned her first win.

They beat Austrian Katharina Truppe by .22 of a second combining times from two runs.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener, 29, previously won three World Cups in other disciplines, plus two world championships in the combined and Olympic and world titles in the team event.

“To be tied first when I came into the finish was such a relief,” Holdener said while shoulder to shoulder with Swenn Larsson. “On the end, it’s perfect, because now we can share our first win together.”

Mikaela Shiffrin had the best first-run time but lost her lead midway through the second run and finished fifth. Shiffrin, who won the first two slaloms this season last weekend, was bidding for a 50th World Cup slalom victory and a sixth win in six slaloms in Killington.

“I fought. I think some spots I got a little bit off my timing, but I was pushing, and that’s slalom,” she said before turning her attention to Holdener and Swenn Larsson. “It’s a pretty special day, actually.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves next weekend to Lake Louise, Alberta, with two downhills and a super-G.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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