Hanyu Out of Grand Prix Final
Olympic champion withdraws due to new ankle injury; Keegan Messing in as his replacement.
A little over a year ago, while attempting a difficult quadruple jump in practice at the NHK Trophy, Yuzuru Hanyu took a hard fall and busted his right ankle. It was bad enough it really should have taken him out for the entire rest of the season, and the one competition he did go to he only did so because it was the Olympics. Being Yuzuru Hanyu, he managed to win it for the second time in a row, but after that he was back into recovery.
He eased back onto the ice again during the summer show season, even holding one of his own where he did small amounts of skating. By the start of the Grand Prix, he seemed just fine, and in Helsinki, he did good, especially considering how that event went in general. In the short program at this year’s Rostelecom Cup, he gave one of his best performances. Then, in another practice session, he went down on another quad and reinjured the ankle. Not as badly, and he even finished the competition (and won it) but he warned afterwards he might miss the Grand Prix Final, as well as Japanese Nationals. As is all too typical for him, he made clear he wanted to compete in Vancouver, and so we awaited the doctors’ evaluations.
They came in with a week to go to the Final, and it’s not good: yesterday the news came he’s withdrawn. He hasn’t said anything about Japanese Nationals at the end of the month, but this certainly doesn’t look good.
By themselves, the competitions themselves are okay losses; he’s won each of them four times already anyway. But it’s sad that we’re getting so little of him for two seasons, now, because of these injuries. It’s likely we’ll only see him again at the World Championships now. And that’s if he’s fully recovered by then. Even if it’s not as bad as it was last year, we can’t be sure of anything anymore. And the fact that this happened again raises the alarming possibility it could continue to happen. Even with two Olympic golds, Hanyu wants to keep going. He’s only 23; he easily has another quadrennium in him if he can just get healthy and stay that way.
He’s also talked of going for the quadruple axel. It would certainly be a thrill if he landed such a thing. But now it’s hard not to contemplate what the attempts might cost him. At least he’s not likely to try it while still in recovery, but once he thinks he’s fine again, who knows.
With him out, gold is probably a rematch between Nathan Chen and Shoma Uno, the skaters who went one-two at last year’s final. Unless they both fall apart completely, though even then the other guys there would have to be at their best to beat them. It’s hard to guess what will happen at men’s competitions nowadays, or how many skaters in them will skate decently. Hanyu’s withdrawal also leaves bronze wide open. Any of the other four skaters could easily take that, including replacement Hanyu’s replacement, Keegan Messing.
The people running the event, while obviously very dismayed to lose Hanyu (especially since this will result in some ticket cancellations), do at least get one consolation in the form of Messing: a home skater in the senior events after all. All of Canada’s top skaters had failed to make it. In fact, in the initial lineups, they had only one junior ice dance team, although there’s already been a withdrawal in the junior men, and there, too, the first alternate was Canadian. The home audience can enjoy it as well, although those of them with sense will know that to have Hanyu would’ve been better.
For Messing himself, this week was actually a complicated one, because he is in fact from Anchorage, so his getting the invite to the Final came right before his home got rocked by a 7.0 earthquake. We have gotten word, however, that he and his family are okay. Obviously it’ll throw his preparation, though, and when he’s presumably been training with the awareness that his chances of being called up were higher than usual.
The Grand Prix Final starts in Vancouver on the 6th.