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Yuzuru Hanyu practices at Saitama Super Arena on Thursday. | KYODO
Yuzuru Hanyu practices at Saitama Super Arena on Thursday. | KYODO

Two-time reigning Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu said Thursday he plans to compete at February’s Beijing Winter Games, a day after skipping training at the Japanese national championships and stoking concerns about his fitness.

Hanyu, who missed two straight Grand Prix events last month due to injury, fielded questions from reporters at Saitama Super Arena on Thursday after showing up for his first official practice ahead of the Dec. 23-26 nationals.

Asked if he was aiming to compete in Beijing, the 27-year-old answered, “Yes,” while also indicating he would incorporate a quadruple axel into his free skate routine for the first time in competition at nationals.

“I want to include (the quad) axel in the first half,” said Hanyu, who slightly under-rotated the jump in practice.

Hanyu fueled fears over his fitness for Beijing the previous day with his last-minute absence from training for the Olympic qualifying competition.

The nationals will be the first competition of the Winter Olympic season for Hanyu. The two-time world champion, who attended the opening ceremony and short program draw on Wednesday evening, will take the ice as the 24th of the 32 men’s singles skaters on Friday.

Hanyu pulled out of the Nov. 12-14 NHK Trophy, his first of two Grand Prix assignments for the 2021-2022 season, after suffering ligament damage in his right ankle. He also sat out his second Grand Prix event, the Rostelecom Cup, two weeks later.

He has remained in Japan throughout the pandemic instead of returning to his base of operations in Canada, where he works with coach Brian Orser.

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