GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA – The real highlight of the skating day on Monday came not during the team event upstairs in the Gangneung Ice Arena, but downstairs in the evening at the practice rink long after the crowds had gone home. That’s when defending Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu made his first appearance on Olympic ice.
Hanyu went through a light workout for 15 minutes that primarily involved strokes and just a couple of jumps, before departing. He attempted no quads during his time on the ice. He did not appear to be in any distress or favoring any part of his body.
The anticipation was palpable, with an unusually high media turnout for an official practice. As the clock ticked down to 7:05 p.m. local time, when the session was to begin, the air became similar to that of a Muhammad Ali heavyweight title fight back in the day as people waited to watch the champ climb through the ropes and into the ring.
Coaches Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson appeared first, then out came Hanyu along with teammate Keiji Tanaka and one other skater for the session. Hanyu kept his coat on for the first several minutes, before returning to the boards and taking it off.
Though the appearance was brief, it was the first time media has had a glimpse of Hanyu since he injured the lateral tendon in his right ankle while attempting a quad lutz during practice for the NHK Trophy in Osaka. Hanyu has not competed since the Cup of Russia in Moscow in October.
Both 2006 Olympic champion Shizuka Arakawa and two-time Olympian Akiko Suzuki were on hand to see Hanyu work out.
Hanyu arrived in South Korea on Sunday afternoon and was ushered through Incheon Airport by a phalanx of security guards that one would normally see befitting a head of state, before being whisked off to Pyeongchang.
The Sendai native is set to train again on Tuesday morning in the main rink before holding a press conference afterward.