Hanyu undaunted despite short program setback

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yuzuru Hanyu performs his short program on Tuesday.

BEIJING — It was a near-perfect performance from Yuzuru Hanyu, but a divot in the ice doomed his first jump, a quadruple salchow that is usually one of his best moves.

The two-time Olympic champion scored 95.15 points on Tuesday, putting him eighth in the short program of the men’s figure skating at the Capital Indoor Stadium.

In the upcoming free skate, Hanyu will have to chase Nathan Chen of the United States, who topped the short program with 113.97 points, as well as six others who finished higher, including fellow Japanese skaters Yuma Kagiyama and Shoma Uno.

“There were no problems with my condition,” Hanyu said.

There was a divot in the ice, however, and the quadruple salchow planned for the beginning of his routine ended up as a single.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yuzuru Hanyu checks the ice at the spot where he botched a quadruple salchow.

The quadruple salchow is one of Hanyu’s strongest jumps, and he almost never botches it during practice. “I took off with perfect form and perfect timing, but just at that moment I went into the hole,” Hanyu recalled.

The edge of his left skate went into the hole as Hanyu attempted to take off, and he was unable to gain elevation.

It was bad luck, not a mistake, but he earned no points for the jump, bringing down his total score.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yuzuru Hanyu performs his short program on Tuesday.

Over the rest of his program, Hanyu demonstrated the superlative abilities that made him a gold medalist at two consecutive Olympics. He executed a clean, sharp quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination soon after the failed salchow and had no problems with his last jump, a triple axel.

After he finished his performance, Hanyu went over to the divot and touched it with a bitter smile. Hanyu had wanted to convey through his “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso” music his struggles with the quadruple axel that no one has ever pulled off.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yuzuru Hanyu finishes his performance.

Wanting to skate to piano music that would “let me express myself from within,” Hanyu asked famed pianist Shinya Kiyozuka to arrange and play the piece, which was originally written for a violin and orchestra.

In keeping with the music, Hanyu never gave up. His choreography was based on the theme of “going forward by changing a light from the darkness into power,” and he carved his highs and lows into the ice.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yuzuru Hanyu performs his short program on Tuesday.

There are 18.82 points between Hanyu and Chen, a daunting gap to fill. But Hanyu is not despairing.

“Did I do something bad to make the ice dislike me?” he said with what seemed to be a defiant smile.

Hanyu is determined to attempt a quadruple axel during Thursday’s free skate. “I’ll take on the challenge of doing [a quadruple axel]. I’ll continue to do my best in every program,” he vowed.