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Yuzuru Hanyu
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Yuzuru Hanyu to skip Grand Prix Series due to coronavirus risks

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Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu will not compete in this autumn’s Grand Prix Series, citing asthma, plus travel concerns for himself and his Canadian-based coaches.

“There is no conclusive evidence about the relationship between bronchial asthma and COVID-19 so it’s difficult to make a judgment,” Hanyu said in comments posted on Japan’s figure skating federation’s website, according to an Olympic Channel translation. “But there is information that those with asthma contracting COVID-19 will make the condition worse so I need to be as cautious as possible.

“I believe we should not create opportunities to spread the infection. If my withdrawal can help protect against the spread of infection, it may become one action which will contribute to stopping the spread of infection.”

The International Skating Union said earlier this month that this season’s six Grand Prix stops are restricted to skaters from the host country or who regularly train in the area. That limited Hanyu’s options to Skate Canada in late October, if he returns to Canada from Japan, or NHK Trophy in Osaka in late November, though those have been his most frequent Grand Prix stops anyway in recent years.

Hanyu normally trains in Toronto, but he has been in Japan during the pandemic. Hanyu said it would be difficult for anyone from his coaching team to travel from Canada to Japan and difficult for him to travel to Canada to compete given quarantine rules that would significantly keep him off the ice.

Hanyu last competed in February, winning the Four Continents Championships. That event lacked Nathan Chen, his top rival who won both of their head-to-heads in this Olympic cycle.

Chen expressed interest in competing at Skate America, the first Grand Prix stop, in late October.

After the Grand Prix Series, the next top-level competition available to Hanyu is Japan’s national championships, typically in late December.

MORE: Nathan Chen has questions about figure skating’s restart

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Olympic Flame returns to public display next week

Olympic Flame
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The Olympic Flame, which was taken off regular public display in early April, will return to view at the Japanese Olympic Museum on Sept. 1, according to the facility.

Four months ago, the flame was taken off public display in Fukushima after a state of emergency was declared for Tokyo and surrounding areas due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The flame arrived in Japan from Greece on March 20 and was on public display in Fukushima for about two weeks after it was announced that the Tokyo Games were postponed until 2021 (and the torch relay suspended, too).

The Japanese leg of the Olympic torch relay was to begin on March 26 in Fukushima, where the first competition of the Tokyo Games — softball — is scheduled two days before the Opening Ceremony.

In 2011 in Fukushima, more than 18,000 people died or went missing after an earthquake and tsunami.

Organizers have not announced when the Olympic torch relay will resume, but the flame will be in the museum for two months. The flame made an appearance at a one-year-out ceremony on July 23, held by Rikako Ikee, a top Japanese swimmer returning from leukemia.

“The Olympic Flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in announcing the Olympic postponement in March.

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MORE: IOC president looks to Tokyo Olympics in 2021, tasks they entail

Rikako Ikee, Japan swim star, moves up return from leukemia

Rikako Ikee
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Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee moved up her return to competition from leukemia from October to later this month, according to Japanese media.

Ikee, who was a Tokyo Olympic medal contender before her February 2019 diagnosis, is entered in a 50m freestyle at a meet in Tokyo on Aug. 29, according to the reports.

Ikee, a 20-year-old who was ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100m butterfly in 2018, has repeated that her goal for an Olympic return is the 2024 Paris Games.

“I think my swimming ability has returned to about the level in my first or second year of junior high school,” Ikee said last month, according to a Kyodo News translation. “My aspiration as a 20-year-old is to compete in some kind of event, get an accurate read on my current status, and then find more and more ways to get stronger.”

Ikee, Japan’s premier female swimmer in 2017 and 2018, was discharged after a 10-month hospitalization in December.

“I’m aiming for 2024,” Ikee said in July, according to Kyodo. “I’m hoping to build a solid foundation since I’m no longer tied down by next year’s Olympics.”

Before her leukemia diagnosis, Ikee won the 100m butterfly at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, the year’s major international meet. She also took silver in the 200m freestyle ahead of Katie Ledecky. She later earned six golds, including four in individual events, at the Asian Games.

Ikee finished fifth in the 100m butterfly as a 16-year-old at the Rio Olympics.

MORE: Simone Manuel’s experiences shape her voice for change today

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