Figure skating champion Hanyu braced for new rivals
Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu reacts as he celebrates his first place following his performance in the men's free skating competition at the world figure skating championships in Saitama, on March 28, 2014 - by Kazuhiro Nogi
The 19-year-old Japanese beat Canada's three-times world champion Patrick Chan for the gold medal at the Grand Prix Final in December and again at February's Sochi Olympics.
He closed the Olympic season by lifting his first world title at home last month for a rare hat-trick of global honours.
"I didn't expect to prevail so easily after stepping up to the senior level," Hanyu, the first men's Olympic figure skating champion from Asia, said Thursday when asked about possible rivals at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"While I myself get older and older from now, rivals may change one after another as junior skaters continue rising," he told a news conference.
"I think I really won't know who my rivals are until the time comes," said Hanyu, who won the junior world title in 2010 when American Evan Lysacek beat Yevgeny Plushenko into second spot with Japan's Daisuke Takahashi third at the Vancouver Olympics.
"In the final analysis, figure skating is not a sport in which individuals compete against each other," he said. "What is most important is how much you can control yourself to perform at 100 percent or 120 percent."
Hanyu's rise to stardom came after his hometown of Sendai in northern Japan was devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. His home and skating rink were badly damaged.
But he managed to win his first senior Grand Prix in late 2011 in Russia. He moved to Toronto in April 2012 to be coached by Canadian Brian Orser, who guided South Korean Kim Yu-Na to the 2010 women's Olympic gold.
In late 2012 Hanyu triumphed at the Japanese Grand Prix in Sendai's suburbs. In 2013, he finished runner-up to Chan at their two Grand Prix events before winning the series final.
"It is difficult for me to talk about the disaster," Hanyu said, wearing the Olympic gold medal around his neck. "But this gold medal is a kind of symbol of hope or a symbol of everyone's support for me. I am really happy if this has become a symbol of our effort toward one goal."
Hanyu said he had yet to decide what kinds of quadruple jumps he would attempt in the run-up to the 2018 Olympics. But he has succeeded in nailing a quadruple loop in training and is working on his quadruple Lutz.
No skater has yet to land a clean four-revolution loop in competition. A quad Lutz was ratified for the first time only in 2011.
"I want to work hard to accomplish all kinds of jumps in the future," he said. "I will work hard as long as my strength lasts."