Grand Prix Final champion Yuzuru Hanyu will represent Japan in the men’s singles portion of the inaugural Olympic Games figure skating team competition it was revealed on Wednesday.
Hanyu, who beat three-time defending world champion Patrick Chan of Canada in the GP Final in Fukuoka in December, will be the final skater to take the ice in the short program on Thursday evening at the Iceberg Skating Palace. The 19-year-old is believed by many to be the favorite for the gold medal in the individual event next week.
Hanyu, who trains in Toronto under coach Brian Orser, flew to Sochi from Canada and worked out here for the first time on Tuesday.
“The Japan team is strong — especially the men,” Hanyu said. “I will do my best for Japan and hope we can get a medal.”
The team competition consists of one skater in men’s and women’s singles, pairs and ice dance. Teams are allowed to have separate skaters participate in the short program and free skate.
Following the short program in men’s and pairs on Thursday, there will be a one-day break for the Opening Ceremony on Friday. The event will resume on Saturday with the short dance, women’s short program and free skate for pairs.
The speculation is that after Hanyu skates in the short program, Tatsuki Machida will take the baton in the free skate on Sunday.
There are 10 nations vying for medals the first time around.
The order for the short program will be as follows: Great Britain, Italy, Ukraine, Russia, the United States, Germany, China, France, Canada and Japan.
In addition to Hanyu and Chan, Evgeni Plushenko, the gold medalist at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and also a three-time world titlist, will represent the home nation.
Other names of note include Jeremy Abbott, the three-time American champion, and France’s Florent Amodio, the 2011 European title winner.
Both Hanyu and Tatsuki Machida looked good in training on Wednesday.
Narumi Takahashi and Ryuichi Kihara will skate in pairs for Japan in the team event, which will conclude on Sunday with the men’s and women’s free skate and the free dance.
Interested spectators: Among those taking Wednesday’s afternoon training session were five-time world champion and 1998 Nagano Olympic silver medalist Michelle Kwan and 2010 Vancouver gold medalist Evan Lysacek.
Scheduled arrival: Defending Olympic champion Kim Yu-na is expected to fly into Sochi on Feb. 12. With South Korea not entered in the team competition, Kim will still have plenty of time before the women’s singles begins with the short program on Feb. 18.
Taking the high road: Mirai Nagasu spoke out last week on Facebook after the controversy surrounding the decision that left her off the U.S. Olympic team for Sochi.
After finishing third at the U.S. nationals last month, outrage followed the United States Figure Skating Association decision to take fourth-place finisher Ashley Wagner instead of Nagasu.
“I want to take this moment to thank everyone, fellow skaters and fans of the sport, who have reached out to me to offer support after the U.S. championships,” Nagasu wrote. “Not being chosen to represent the United States at the Olympic Games in Sochi and at the 2014 world championships in Japan has been extremely disappointing to me, and it has been very difficult for me to process.
“I know that I performed my best at the U.S. championships in Boston. I am proud of the way I skated and of being awarded the bronze medal. The 2010 Olympics in Vancouver was one of the best experiences of my life and I am proud that I finished in fourth place. For the past four years my goal had been to make the Olympic team again and pick up where I left off.
“Not being selected to this year’s team was devastating and I remain confused by U.S. Figure Skating’s decision to not select me for the 2014 Olympic or World teams. Once I have time to fully process the impact of these decisions, I do know it will renew a fire inside of me. My Olympic journey does not end here. I will continue to work hard, to train and grow and improve as a skater and realize my dream of once again representing the United States at an Olympic Games.
“In the immediate, I will jump back into my training in the event that I should be needed in my role as alternate for the Olympics or World Championships. Most importantly, I want to wish Gracie (Gold), Polina (Edmunds), Ashley and the rest of the U.S. team the best of luck at the 2014 Olympic Games. Representing your country at the Olympics is one of the biggest honors and best experiences in an athlete’s life, and I hope they all do well and have a great time. I will be watching and cheering them on.”