Skating star Hanyu dazzles on return to competition

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Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu returned from injury to compete at the Japanese national figure skating championships (AFP/Philip FONG)
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  • Yuzuru Hanyu
    Yuzuru Hanyu
    Japanese figure skater (1994-)

Two-time Olympic figure skating gold medallist Yuzuru Hanyu dazzled in his first competitive appearance in eight months on Friday, returning from injury six weeks before the Beijing Olympics.

Hanyu, who hurt his right ankle ligaments in a fall in practice last month, looked back to his imperious best as he unveiled a new short programme at Japan's national championships.

Taking to the ice in a sparkly light blue top and skating to the sprightly piano of "Rondo Capriccioso", Hanyu showed no signs of discomfort as he wowed the crowd in Saitama, north of Tokyo.

He gave a nod of satisfaction after finishing his routine and claimed a score of 111.31 to take the lead going into Sunday's free skate.

"I remember making a mistake right at the start of my short programme the last time I competed at this venue, at exactly the same spot on the ice," Hanyu told reporters.

"So I was nervous, but when I landed my quad salchow at the start of my routine, I settled down and was able to perform."

Hanyu said this week for the first time that he intends to defend his Olympic title at the Beijing Games, which begin on February 4.

But first, he intends to attempt a quadruple axel -- which has never been successfully landed before in competition -- in Sunday's free skate.

The 27-year-old almost nailed the legendary jump in practice on Thursday, and he is determined to get the job done in competition.

"Of course, I intend to attempt the quad axel," he said.

"But first I have to make sure right until the end of practice that I don't injure myself. I need to look after my body and keep my concentration so that everything goes according to plan."

Pyeongchang Olympics silver medallist Shoma Uno was in second place after the short programme with a score of 101.88, followed by current world number one Yuma Kagiyama on 95.15.

Kagiyama, who won both of his Grand Prix competitions this season and is considered a strong contender for the gold in Beijing, fell while attempting a quadruple toe loop.

"I was left with some frustration, but I was able to put it together on the other parts of my routine," said the 18-year-old.

"Tomorrow I want to practice as much as I can, so that at the end of my free skate on Sunday, I'm punching the air in celebration."


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