GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA – Repeat men’s figure skating Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu is “from another planet” and can succeed in his next mission of becoming the first man ever to nail a quadruple axel, according to his Canadian coach Brian Orser.
Hanyu said Sunday he has found new motivation with a plan to add a quad axel to his arsenal of jumps after he became the first man in more than six decades to defend the Olympic title at the Pyeongchang Winter Games.
“That (the quad axel) is in his hands but could he do it? Yes, if anybody could do it, it would be him. I just don’t want him to get hurt again,” Orser told reporters earlier this week at the practice rink at Gangneung Ice Arena.
“He is very competitive. I have been around this sport a very long time and I have never seen anything like this type of athlete. It’s like he is from another planet. He keeps moving the sport forward.”
Hanyu’s gold medal win completed a memorable comeback from a serious right ankle injury suffered during practice for the NHK Trophy in November.
The two-time world champion revealed on Sunday that he had performed in Pyeongchang, his first competition in four months, with the aid of painkillers.
Orser believes his achievement can inspire people all over the world.
“It was a journey, I have to say, and it is really incredible what he went through in order to overcome these obstacles,” said Orser.
“He was never depressed. He was always very optimistic about what he had to do each day with his trainers and doctors and physios.
“He had a plan, he had a schedule, but I think the greatest message after all this is done is what an inspiration this is going to be for so many people in the world, not just athletes, but just people who have struggles and that they can overcome them,” said Orser. “He overcame his challenges. He never took his sight off of the Olympic gold medal.”
Hanyu only resumed training on the ice in January and skipped the Olympic team competition to focus on the singles.
Orser said Hanyu’s steely mental resilience played a key role in his victory.
“(He won it) because he is young, because he feels he is the best. He wanted to win another one. I never for one moment underestimated him,” said Orser. “I know what he is capable of and once he sets his mind to something.”
Orser did concede that he had concerns about how little time the 23-year-old from Sendai had to prepare for his title defense.
“I was concerned because we lost a lot of time,” said Orser. “I have been with him for six seasons now and we have always trained all the way up to the competition.
“There might be a little moment here and a little moment there but this was the biggest chunk of time that we had when he wasn’t training. So I was concerned about how he could come back. But there was a day when I said to (fellow coach) Tracy (Wilson) he is going to do it.
“All of a sudden I could see a lightness of the jumps starting to happen and I thought, OK, he is going to do it.”