Japanese icon Yuzuru Hanyu completed his comeback from injury in style Saturday, capturing his second successive Olympic men’s figure skating gold medal at the Pyeongchang Winter Games while compatriot Shoma Uno won silver.
The gold is Japan’s first of the games in any competition. Victory saw Hanyu become the first skater to defend the men’s title since American Dick Button achieved the feat 66 years ago.
“So many people have supported me, and first of all, I’m relieved that I was able to skate on this rink,” said Hanyu.
“I’m happy with my performance. My right foot survived. I wasn’t able to train because of my injury and that worried a lot of people. I had more support and cheering than ever and feel very blessed for that.”
Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan performs during the men’s free figure skating final in the Gangneung Ice Arena at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Saturday, Photo: AP
Hanyu held the overnight lead after flirting with breaking his own world record score in Friday’s short program. The two-time world champion completed the job with an enthralling free skate (206.17 points) at Gangneung Ice Arena to finish with 317.85.
Uno scored 306.90 for silver in his Olympic debut and Javier Fernandez of Spain scored 305.24 for bronze.
“With my free skate, I wasn’t sure about my program composition so it was more difficult. But I was able to focus and do all the jumps I wanted,” the gold medalist said.
Uno slipped into silver, despite a mistake on his first toe loop.
“I felt like I wasn’t able to skate well from the beginning (of the free program), so I thought there’s a high possibility that I couldn’t score well today,” said Uno.
“I just started laughing after I missed my first loop. I didn’t feel pressured after my mistake, I just laughed and wanted to do my best.”
“But the practice I’ve been doing — being able to land jumps in whatever situation I’m in — worked out well. I was watching everyone’s performance today, so I knew what kind of routine I needed.”
Gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, center, silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan, left, and bronze medalist Javier Fernandez of Spain pose together on the podium. Photo: REUTERS
Fernandez was beside himself, having won his first Olympic medal after going so close in Sochi.
“It was awesome, a good experience for sure,” he said. “Even though it was not a perfect performance today, it was a really good one. It was just a competition (in which) everyone was skating really good.”
“So happy with the medal, a lot of work, a lot of years for the Olympic dream an Olympic medal, and I finally got it.”
“Now I can sleep, I can rest and I can really enjoy with my people around me what I’ve got after so many years. I’m really happy,” said the Spaniard.
The 23-year-old Hanyu joins three other skaters who have retained the title — Gillis Grafstrom of Sweden (1920, 1924, 1928), Karl Schafer of Austria (1932, 1936) and Button (1948, 1952).
Performing to the soundtrack from the film “Onmyoji” (The Yin-Yang Master), Hanyu had an awkward landing coming out of a quad toe loop-single loop-triple salchow combination but it was a minor blip in a skate that flowed like molten gold.
At the end of his skate, Hanyu got down on one knee and patted the ice as stuffed Winnie the Pooh bears rained down from the crowd above.
Skating girls collect Winnie the Pooh toys thrown on the ice following Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan’s performance in the men’s free figure skating final in the Gangneung Ice Arena at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Saturday. Photo: AP
Uno botched his opening quad loop but was clean the rest of the way. Hanyu and Uno also finished first and second, respectively, at last year’s world championships in Helsinki.
Hanyu was competing for the first time in four months. He damaged ligaments in his right ankle after falling attempting a quad lutz during practice for the NHK Trophy in November.
Hanyu’s recovery from injury was slower than expected and he and only began training on the ice at his base in Toronto last month, leading to speculation over whether he would be fit to defend his title.
Hanyu skipped the team competition here to focus on being ready for the singles.
Japan’s Keiji Tanaka ended the competition in 18th place with 244.83.
American quad king Nathan Chen rebounded from a disastrous short program that left him in 17th place to land six quads, touching down on one of them, for 215.08 points in free skate and a total of 297.35 for fifth.
“I have been working on it (putting six quads in the free skate) for a while. It’s never really fully come together,” said Chen. “I was like, ‘I already fell so many times (in performances earlier this week), I might as well go out and throw everything down and see what happens.'”