Motivated by setbacks

The next Winter Olympics will be in PyeongChang in February 2018, midway through the 2017-18 figure skating season. For competitors hoping to stand on the podium at the main event, the current season is vital for preparation.

Top skater Yuzuru Hanyu ended last season early, sidelined by ligament damage in his left foot. After treatment and rehabilitation, it wasn't until mid-June that he was able to get back on the ice. Speaking in late August, ahead of international competitions in September and October, he is relaxed and confident.

"My practices aren't very detailed yet, but I'm not too fussed," he says. "It's still preseason, so I just want to get ready for my more difficult techniques. When I started practicing on the ice, I was doing a lot of jumps that didn't put much stress on my left foot, like Lutz jumps and loops. It kind of made me want to try quadruples, but that's not realistic right now."

The first Japanese figure skater to win Olympic gold in men's singles delivers his analysis calmly, having already overcome numerous hurdles in his glittering career. Pushing himself to new levels, he successfully took on the challenge of performing a program with two different kinds of quadruple jumps. He has also raised his own world-best points score. When tested, he invariably gets results. Despite the injury setback, he is unlikely to lose focus on his goals.

For the upcoming season, Yuzuru is seeking fresh ways to move audiences. "In the short program, I have a fun song with a quick tempo, and hope to express energy and beauty," he explains. "Meanwhile, in the free skating, I don't want to typecast myself as the character I portrayed last year, so I chose a very sentimental piano piece. People will probably take different things from it, but I definitely want to stir something in their hearts. The two performances will leave totally different impressions, so I hope to use them to show contrasting sides of myself at the same tournament."

Just forty days after our interview, at the first event of the new season, Yuzuru became the first skater to land a quadruple loop in an ISU competition. This season, he is using "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince in the short program and "Hope & Legacy" by pianist Joe Hisaishi in the free skating.

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