Yuzuru Hanyu Out of Japanese Nationals
Hanyu pulls out of Japanese Nationals with news his injury is worse than first thought.
Japanese Nationals starts this week. Every skater who wants to compete anywhere in the spring of 2018 pretty much has to attend to qualify, save one. But that one, Japan’s biggest skating star, withdrew today. We knew beforehand he might, and the news that broke today isn’t a surprise, but it is a disappointment.
From the time he injured his ankle days before the NHK Trophy, Yuzuru Hanyu’s been trying to rehab it in time to skate at his next event. But after first reluctantly pulling out of his second Grand Prix event, he afterwards discovered the injury was worse than he thought. What initially might have just been a sprained ankle turns out to involve inflamed bone and tendons. Nearly a month and a half later, as late as last Thursday he still hadn’t returned to the ice or figured out when he was going to do so. Apparently he wanted to compete at Nationals until he had to face that he couldn’t, and those around him persuaded him not to risk making things worse less than two months before the Olympics.
They’re right to do so. It must be especially disappointing to Hanyu because he had to miss Japanese Nationals last year too. But he’d won it four straight times before that. And even the notoriously strict Japan has provisions in place to name an injured reigning Olympic champion to the team based on past work. It got Hanyu to the World Championships last year, so there was never any uncertainty that they’d use it. The Olympics are far more important than Nationals, and his health even more so, though like too many athletes, he may care less about that.
The big question may prove what shapes he and his jumps will be in come February. He injured the ankle attempting a quadruple lutz jump in practice, and it’ll be harder for him to land it if his right leg’s only at about 90% or so. All the top men’s skaters rely on quadruple jumps these days. Though not all of them rely on the hardest ones, and Hanyu’s certainly good enough to win even with easier quads. But that assumes he’ll be willing to forego the riskier quads. And all this assumes he’ll recover in time for the Games at all.
He’ll also have to choose between trying to get a warm-up in at Four Continents fairly close to the Games, a demanding effort that might not be worth the mileage. When we next see him, it may be at the Olympics, with everyone hoping he’s in shape enough.