Hanyu, Tuktmysheva Out of Respective Nationals
Hanyu’s expected withdrawal from Japanese Nationals accompanied by Tuktamysheva’s unexpected withdrawal from Russian Nationals.
With the Grand Prix over, Nationals season is now underway. Today saw the start of competitions in France and Italy, as well as the joint competition shared by Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, and that’s just the bigger ones going on right now. The biggest competitions of this month will be Russian and Japanese Nationals, both of which take place right before Christmas, in Saransk and Kadoma respectively.
But this year, we’ve been braced for a repeat loss from the latter. As he was last year, Yuzuru Hanyu is currently nursing an injured ankle from his second Grand Prix event, which already took him out of the Final. It’s not supposed to be as bad as it was last time, but Japanese Nationals still did not look likely for him. He was actually one of two Japanese skaters expected to withdraw, the other being Yura Matsuda, a lower profile lady also struggling with an ankle injury, and going in for surgery after her own Grand Prix events.
There was also the question of who was going to make it to Russian Nationals. Already one lady trying to come back, Anna Pogorilaya, wasn’t able to manage it in time to qualify. Another, Elena Radionova, also looked lost.
This week, all the news came out, including the full roster for Russian Nationals. The anticipated withdrawals are all official. But now her coach has ruled out another skater newly laid low, one who was looking to continue her comeback and possibly upend a result or two in Saransk.
Hanyu Out of Japanese Nationals
Yuzuru Hanyu’s withdrawal came today, via the Japanese federation. He made general remarks about how he tried to make it but couldn’t, and will come back as soon as he is fully recovered. It’s all very familiar from him by this point. Between one thing and another, he now hasn’t competed at Nationals since 2015.
So that means Shoma Uno will once again be keeping his spot on top of the podium warm for him, although one wonders if Hanyu would necessarily win at whatever time they’re both at Nationals again. The battle for the third spot on Japan’s World team will be completely unaffected, since the Federation will almost certainly name the Olympic Champion to that anyway. It’ll actually be a stronger one this year, with Kazuki Tomono having now pulled even or arguably ahead of Keiji Tanaka, last year’s silver medalist.
Hanyu can likewise go to any of the other competitions later in the season he wants to go to, including the Four Continents Championships. He might even do it, if he recovers fast enough, and wants the mileage. But at this point, his going on to the World Championships seems to most likely outcome of all of this. If staying out that long actually keeps his ankle safe, than it’s really what he should do, and perhaps he may have even realized that.
At least this year Hanyu wasn’t supposed to be the biggest draw of the men’s competition this time. At last report, Daisuke Takahashi was good to go. He was not looking like he was going to be at the top this time, nor did that seem to be overly important to him anymore. All anybody can really want from him at this point is to skate both his programs well, and give all his fans one last show.
Yura Matsuda is out too. She’s another skater getting held down for two straight seasons by her ankle, though at least she managed the Grand Prix this year. It would’ve been a pretty big ask for her to take on Japan’s stacked ladies field anyway.
Tuktamysheva Out with Illness
Although the Russian Nationals roster confirmed the loss of Elena Radionova, who seems to pretty much be losing the season, it did still contain Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. Federation officials are claiming they’re waiting for the doctor’s paperwork. But first her coach Alexei Mishin announced she was going to be in the hospital for two weeks with pneumonia, and when the press called her, she herself confirmed it. She’ll only get out literally on the eve of thec ompetition, and in no state to go up against all of Russia’s remaining ladies.
It’s really unlucky timing for her. She’s done an excellent second post-Olympic season comeback so far, even making the podium of the Grand Prix Final last week. But even that podium isn’t as competitive as the ladies podium at Russian Nationals, and making that would’ve proven her being back beyond a doubt. It would’ve also settled her comfortably onto the rosters for both the European and World Championships, at least as much as it can for any Russian skater in December, though that World team typically isn’t decided until February.
In theory, she still should at least be put on the European team; a Grand Prix Final medal justifies that. In any country that doesn’t have a simply crazy amount of supertalented ladies, she wouldn’t even have to worry about it. But Russia does have them, plus it has officials who have made political decisions about who to send in the past. They don’t seem to have anything in particular against her, but one wonders what would happen if someone favored by them came in third in Saransk.
Her withdrawal certainly leaves the field very wide open; the only skater you would absolutely put money on to medal now is Alina Zagitova. It’ll otherwise be a cutthroat battle for the silver medal and likely last spot to both Europeans and Worlds-which might not actually go to the same lady, if only because the former might go to someone too young for the latter.
Although Russian Nationals isn’t necessarily the only intranational event into Worlds selection. There’s also the Russian Cup Final in February, the outcome of which has occasionally decided a Worlds berth. Whether or not they send Tuktamysheva to Europeans, officials could easily hold a skate-off there.
Radionova and Tuktamysheva being out has also let two ladies into the competition, including Elizaveta Nugumanova. This is very fortunate for the former Junior Grand Prix Finalist, who is yet another lady trying to come back from last season, where she only competed at Russian Junior Nationals, and didn’t do too well in it. She needs this opportunity to make an impression.