Ice Network

Sprinting out of the gate: Hanyu plans six quads

Olympic champ goes against coach's wishes; Chan shows off quad sal
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With two packed programs planned at this week's Skate Canada, Yuzuru Hanyu wants to prove he is just as technically sound as skaters like Nathan Chen and Boyang Jin. -Getty Images

On Friday and Saturday at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, Yuzuru Hanyu will try to land six quadruple jumps in a little over seven minutes -- two in his short program and four in his free skate.

His coach, Brian Orser, might prefer a different approach, maybe a slow build to the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki, Finland, next March. But Hanyu has other ideas.

"Yuzu wants to be great, every time," Orser said. "The arena is sold out. Half of the people here are Japanese, and they've come to see him, and he feels a big responsibility."

A Skate Canada spokesperson confirmed that every available seat at the venue, which has a capacity of about 5,000, has been sold for the men's events. At 5:30 a.m. on Friday, about 30 or so Japanese fans were already camped outside, waiting for doors to open so they could make a mad dash for front-row seats to the early afternoon men's practice, which wasn't scheduled to begin until 12:55 p.m. 

The coach's attitude to his skater's aggressive strategy is best described as resigned. He doesn't expect Hanyu to skate clean here at 2016 Skate Canada, but he does expect an uptick over the skater's performances at the Autumn Classic International in Montreal, Quebec, four weeks ago, where the Japanese star landed two quad loops -- the first ever in competition -- but missed several other elements.

"He attempts all these quads (in practice run-throughs). Does he do them successfully? No, because it's such a tall order," Orser said. "Your biorhythms are affected when you have such big elements. It takes a lot of energy.

"Last season, the first time he hit the third quad (in his free skate) was at NHK Trophy (in late November), so it took us a while to get there," he continued. "Now we usually get through the third quad successfully and it's the fourth one that's the challenge."

Even with Olympic gold from Sochi in his trophy case, the 21-year-old Hanyu is determined to push his technical boundaries. He could stick with what's worked for him in past seasons -- maybe focus on winning over judges and audiences with his dramatic style and polished skating skills -- but he hears footsteps behind him, from skaters like his countryman, Shoma Uno, who won Skate America last week with a quad flip in both of his programs, and U.S. bronze medalist Nathan Chen, who has landed four different quads, including flip and lutz. 

"Yuzu is pretty intense this season," Orser said. "He's keeping an eye on other skaters and doing what's necessary. The thing is, I need him to be his best in March for the world championships. Two years in a row, we've been great in December (at the Grand Prix Final), and for some reason he's peaked then and not for worlds. I'm all for a slow and steady rise, but he wants to go out with everything."

Orser's other top pupil, Javier Fernández, is 25 and at a different stage of his career. The Spanish world champion can do a quad loop, Orser said, but prefers to stick with quad toe and salchow, and work on his choreography and spins.

"Javi is happy to see the other guys do the flips and the loops, and he'll just say, 'I'm sticking with what I do well,'" Orser said. "That's his strategy. I know he can do quad loop, and I've talked to him about it, and he's just not that into it. But Yuzu -- he's still young, he's still developing. He wants to try everything."

Patrick Chan, who defeated Hanyu at Skate Canada last season, is also upping his technical ante, adding a quad salchow to his free skate. He already does two quad toes.

"He just needs to believe he can do it, because he really can do everything," Chan's coach, Marina Zoueva, said. "Today he made a statement: He did two different quads (toe and salchow) beautifully, which is very amazing. Patrick is coming back."

If he wants to compete for gold against the likes of Hanyu, Fernández, Uno and others, Canada's three-time world champion has little choice. A few years ago, he could win a world title with a fall or two; at the world championships last season, he placed fifth, his lowest finish at the event since his debut in 2008.

"I'm just going to go step by step, and maybe if I can do a quad flip later in the year, that's awesome," Chan told reporters Thursday. "But right now, I just want to be able to do two quad toes, a quad sal, two triple axels in the long program, and I think that will be enough to challenge for the podium."

Chan worked on quad salchow with a previous coach, Christy Krall, during the 2011-12 season, and he thought about adding it to his programs this year. Training alongside the 17-year-old Chen in Zoueva's group in Canton, Michigan, pushed him to revisit the jump.

"Nathan trains with me, and he is the epitome of what skating has become," Chan said. "I see how technically stronger he is than I am; I've learned to accept it and just be amazed by the ability of these kids. It's motivated me to do quad sal and to put it in this early in the season."