Hanyu nearly lands quad axel while winning Japanese title

Dec 25, 2021, 8:36 PM | Updated: Dec 26, 2021, 10:39 am
Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan prepares to perform during men's free skating competition of Japan Figure Ska...

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan prepares to perform during men's free skating competition of Japan Figure Skating Championships at Saitama Super Arena, in Saitama, north of Tokyo, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu nearly became the first skater to land a quadruple axel while easily outpacing Shoma Uno and Yumi Kagayami to win the Japanese national championship on Sunday.

Hanyu tried the jump, which unlike other quads includes an additional half rotation, at the beginning of his free skate at Saitama Super Arena in Japan. He ultimately two-footed the landing and the jump was downgraded to a triple axel, but it still set the stage for a program that included three more quads and left him with 322.36 points.

“I’m honestly relieved,” Hanyu told Kyodo News. “I felt as though I was about to cry even before the six-minute warmup.”

Uno packed five quads into his free skate but barely hung onto his quad flip and quad toe and fell on another quad toe, leaving him with 295.82 points and the silver medal. Kagiyami finished with 292.41 points.

The trio of Japanese skaters are expected to be the toughest competition for American star Nathan Chen at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, which is set to begin in just under six weeks. Chen competes at U.S. nationals in two weeks.

“It is good to be able to watch skating. Even if I wasn’t competing I would still want to watch,” Chen said last week, when asked about Hanyu’s return from an eight-month absence from competition due largely to an ankle injury.

“It will be exciting to see how everyone is doing,” said Chen, who has beat Hanyu head-to-head four times since the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. “Will that really impact how I plan? Probably not. But it is still useful, I think, to sort of have an understanding where everybody is at. But more than anything, skating is fun to watch.”

In another potential Olympic preview this weekend, Russian star Kamila Valieva drove home her status as the overwhelming favorite in Beijing with a record-setting performance at her national championship.

The winner of Skate Canada and the Rostelecom Cup scored 193.10 points in her free skate, eclipsing her record 185.29 set earlier this year, and finished with an astounding 283.48 points. That put her far ahead of Alexandra Trusova, who finished with 248.65, and Anna Shcherbakova, who claimed the bronze medal with 239.56 points.

Valieva had set the record for a Grand Prix event with her score of 272.71 points at the Rostelecom Cup.

Trusova and Shcherbakova could be Valieva’s closest competition at the Beijing Games. And if that’s the case, the trio could allow the Russian skaters to become the first to sweep the Olympic podium for a single nation.

In other results over the weekend, Kaori Sakamoto won the Japanese championship with a score of 234.06 points, making her one of few skaters in the world to post a score high enough to challenge the Russians.

Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin won the Russian ice dance title with a score of 223.37 points. That score topped the world best set by Olympic favorites Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France at Internationaux de France.

Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov won the Russian pairs title, scoring 243.74 points to outpace silver medalists Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii and the third-place team of Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov.

Tarasova and Morozov, who finished fourth at the Pyeongchang Games, had a season-best 228.49 points during the Grand Prix season.

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Rihanna attends an event for her lingerie line Savage X Fenty at the Westin Bonaventure Hote...
Associated Press

Rihanna to headline the next Super Bowl halftime show

NEW YORK (AP) — Rihanna will take center stage at February’s Super Bowl halftime show. The singer, who declined to perform in the 2019 Super Bowl halftime show out of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, will headline the 2023 Super Bowl, the NFL announced Sunday along with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and Apple Music. Rihanna posted an […]
13 hours ago
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert throws during the second half of an NFL football ga...
Associated Press

Chargers’ Justin Herbert expected to start despite rib issue

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Quarterback Justin Herbert is expected to start for the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars after being questionable all week due to a rib injury. Herbert fractured rib cartilage on a hard hit from Kansas City defensive lineman Michael Danna during the fourth quarter of a game Sept. […]
13 hours ago
Buffalo Bills linebacker Matt Milano (58) rushes towards Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa ...
Associated Press

Dolphins’ Tagovailoa injures head, stumbles, returns anyway

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa briefly left Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, returning despite appearing to be disoriented by a head injury. Tagovailoa hit his head on the turf and missed the Dolphins’ last three offensive snaps of the first half, then was back on the field for the start […]
2 days ago
Tennessee running back Jaylen Wright (20) celebrates a touchdown during the second half of the team...
Associated Press

AP Top 25: Vols, Wolfpack join top 10; Florida State returns

Tennessee and North Carolina State broke into the top 10 of The Associated Press college football poll Sunday, and Florida State is back in the rankings for the first time in four years. Georgia remained No. 1 and received 55 of 63 first-place votes in the Top 25, presented by Regions Bank. No. 2 Alabama […]
2 days ago
Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery reacts after being injured during the first half of an ...
Associated Press

Bears RB Montgomery, WR Pringle depart with injuries

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery and wide receiver Byron Pringle left Sunday’s game against Houston because of injuries. Both players got hurt in the first quarter, and the Bears said their return is doubtful. Montgomery’s right leg got twisted under him while he was blocking on a pass play. He walked […]
2 days ago
Team Europe's Roger Federer, center, looks at Andy Murray, left, and Matteo Berrettini during a mat...
Associated Press

Analysis: Think of Federer’s Laver Cup as an All-Star affair

LONDON (AP) — Roger Federer is, by his own admission, a jokester. A couple of his Laver Cup teammates would agree. Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 2021 French Open runner-up, described the 20-time Grand Slam champion as “goofy and giggling” in the locker room during the three-day affair that finished Sunday and amounted to a celebration of […]
2 days ago
Hanyu nearly lands quad axel while winning Japanese title