GANGNEUNG, South Korea – Reigning Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan is back to jumping on the ice in training in Toronto and plans to travel to the PyeongChang Olympics on Feb. 11th.
Hanyu’s coach, Brian Orser – the two-time Olympic silver medalist from Canada – confirmed to NBCOlympics.com that Hanyu has remained in Toronto, their training base, as he’s continued to recover from an ankle injury he sustained in late November.
That means Hanyu will not compete in the figure skating team event, which is set to begin on Friday, Feb. 9. Japan is unlikely to win a medal in that event.
“He’s training and he’s training well, I can say that much,” Orser said on Tuesday at the Gangneung Ice Arena practice facility, where Orser was working with another skater.
“He’s back jumping and… the whole past week was really good. Every day he was getting stronger and stronger. He’s training without pain, and being cautious and smart.”
Orser continued: “It’s been quite a journey, actually. I’ve learned a lot about him and I think he’s learned a lot about himself. For me, I’m really impressed as to how he’s managed it and kept himself cool. We have a plan and we’re staying on it; every day is getting better. He’s quite remarkable.”
Hanyu, who won Japan its first gold medal in men’s singles skating at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, was the odds-on favorite leading into this season to be the first repeat winner in the men’s division since American Dick Button did so in 1948 and 1952.
After a second-place finish at the Grand Prix Russia in October to American Nathan Chen, Hanyu suffered a hard fall on his ankle in a practice session at Grand Prix Japan and did not return to the ice until January.
Hanyu now faces challenges from Chen, his training partner Javier Fernandez, countryman Shoma Uno and Jin Boyang of China.
Hanyu is set to travel from Toronto to South Korea on the 11th along with Fernandez and their coach, Tracy Wilson, the former ice dancer from Canada. The men’s singles event begins on Friday, Feb. 15 and concludes on the 16th.
Orser said that he and Hanyu sat down after the injury occurred in late November, setting out a plan to try and make it back healthy for the Winter Olympics.
“The important thing is that we have these little mini goals on his recovery,” Orser said. “Starting two and a half months ago, we sat down and I said, ‘This is possible. You can get healed.’ We’ve taken it slow, but it’s been productive. It’s doable. Time was on our side, but we have to make every day count.”
He added: “It’s been quite a road; it’s been the most unpredictable season.”