Hanyu overcomes injury to win Cup of Russia

AP, Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

Yuzuru Hanyu won the men’s title at the Cup of Russia despite an ankle injury that left him on crutches, while fellow Olympic figure skating champion Alina Zagitova won the women’s title on Saturday.

Hanyu, the two-time defending Olympic gold medalist, started strongly with two clean quads and appeared to be his usual assured self in the free skate, but he stepped out of his second pass at a quad toe loop then fell on a triple and singled an axel.

With his ankle wrapped in a bandage, Hanyu hobbled into a news conference and said he had aggravated a previous ankle injury in the morning practice.

He had considered dropping out, he said, but “I really love skating here. I really wanted to skate this program.”

Always his own biggest critic, Hanyu expressed disappointment in his free skate routine, where his only blemish was a fall on the penultimate jump, a triple axel.

“I gave a miserable performance in the free skate, so I feel very apologetic,” Hanyu said.

“I felt like I tried my best. It couldn’t be helped because of my weak ankle. I did what I could do.”

Hanyu went into the free skate with a 20-point lead after setting a world record in Friday’s short program, but his preparations were cut short when he fell during an official practice session.

After the competition, Hanyu said he was told by a doctor the injury will take three weeks to heal, possibly affecting his ability to compete at the Grand Prix Final, which begins Dec. 6 in Vancouver, and the national championships later that month.

Hanyu’s score was 29.84 points ahead of silver medalist Morisi Kvitelashvili of Georgia, who posted the second-best scores in both the short and free skates at the Megasport Sport Palace.

Kvitelashvili, who landed three clean quads in the free skate and earned 248.58 points overall, made his first Grand Prix podium appearance.

“I really managed to execute everything I planned,” said Kvitelashvili. “Not everything went smoothly.”

Kazuki Tomono, competing in his first season on the world tour, took bronze with a total of 238.73. The 20-year-old was fourth after the short program, but moved up a place by posting the third-best free skate score of 156.47.

Alexander Majorov of Sweden, who was third after the short program, had trouble on almost every jump after his opening quad and finished the free skate in 10th place.

Tomono said he had a bad case of the nerves at the beginning of his free skate and “was losing to myself,” but then regained control to win his first Grand Prix medal.

Zagitova turned her last jump into a double from a triple and struggled with the landing, and was only about 1.5 technical points ahead of the silver medalist Sofia Samodurova of Russia, who landed all seven of her triples cleanly. But Zagitova prevailed strongly on program components. South Korea’s Lim Eun-soo won bronze.

“I can’t say my performance today was too good,” Zagitova said. “On my last jump I made a stupid mistake.”

Yuna Shiraiwa (180.93) was fifth and Yura Matsuda was ninth with 137.99 points.