Skip to content

Worlds preview: Hanyu goes for double gold after Sochi

Mar 24, 2014, 4:17 PM EDT

Yuzuru Hanyu. AP Photo. Yuzuru Hanyu. AP Photo.

This week the reigning Olympic figure skating champion Yuzuru Hanyu looks to become the first man to win a World Championship gold medal in the same year he stood atop the Olympic podium since 2002.

Hanyu, the 19-year-old from Japan who held on to win gold in Sochi last month against three-time world champion Patrick Chan, will try to win a double gold in 2014 and become the first man to do so since Russian Alexei Yagudin in 2002.

The Championships will be without its three-time and reigning champion in Chan, the Canadian who faltered to a silver medal in Sochi and is sitting out these Worlds to rest and recuperate in looking towards his uncertain future.

The men’s event gets underway Wednesday morning (EST) in Saitama, Japan, and concludes on Friday.

More: Full Worlds schedule and streaming times | Entry list

The World Championships, often a depleted field following the Olympics, will be without silver medalist Chan, bronze winner Denis Ten (out with injury), sixth place winner Daisuke Takahashi (a bronze medalist in 2010) and American Jason Brown, who placed ninth.

The U.S. will send reigning national champion Jeremy Abbott (12th in Sochi) and 2013 U.S. champ Max Aaron, who missed out on the Sochi Games by one spot in January.

“Watching my teammates that I thought I was going to go to the Olympics with on TV was the hardest part,” the 22-year-old Aaron told NBCSports.com in a phone interview last week. “That was really tough for me.”

Aaron was seventh at Worlds in 2013 and was seen to be given a vote of confidence by the U.S. Figure Skating Association when selected for Worlds over Brown following Nationals.

More: World Figure Skating Championships pairs preview

The U.S. needs Abbott and Aaron to combine for a 13th-place finish overall to recover a third spot on the international stage, which the U.S. men haven’t had since the 2011 World Championships.

Abbott, who announced this would be his last season prior to the U.S. Championships, said a third spot was not his focus.

“Of course everyone wants the three spots but it’s nobody’s focus,” said the 28-year-old, who had his best Worlds finish in 2010 when he placed fifth following the Vancouver Games. “Everyone wants to do the best that they can do. The two of us are definitely good enough to get back the three spots. Max is very talented and I think I’m capable enough that the two of us combined can do that.”

But Aaron said a third spot will be at the forefront of his mind when he takes to the ice in Saitama.

“I knew that third spot was going to make a difference going into the Olympic year, but we came up a little short,” Aaron said referring to the two U.S. spots the team had for Sochi. “Unfortunately that person was me.”

Hanyu will skate before a figure skating-mad fan base in Japan after becoming the first man in the country’s history to win an Olympic gold medal as well as Japan’s only figure skating medal in Sochi.

He fell twice in his free skate performance at the Iceberg Skating Palace, but the favorite Chan wasn’t better, Hanyu holding on for gold in a competition that was riddled with mistakes and falls.

Without Chan and Ten in the mix, Spain’s Javier Fernandez (fourth at the Sochi Olympics) will be figured into the medal mix after winning the bronze at the same event a year ago and seen to have given up a medal in Sochi.

Other Sochi competitors will factor into the medal conversation along with Hanyu, Fernandez, Abbott and Aaron. Japan’s Tatsuki Machida was fifth at the Olympics, Han Yan of China was seventh, German Peter Liebers was eighth and Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic placed 10th.

Russia will send 18-year-old Maksim Kovtun, the teenager who beat Yevgeny Plushenko at the Russian Championships in December but was skipped over for the veteran for the country’s lone men’s spot in Sochi. Plushenko helped Russia to gold in the team event before pulling out of the individual event, facing ridicule domestically.

“I think people are a lot more relaxed having gone through the Olympics and I think it makes for a really good competition,” said Abbott, who had two disastrous short programs (in the team and individual events) in Sochi before skating mistake-free in the long program. “In 2010, there were some amazing performances and I think this year is going to be no different. It’s still a world-class competition and you’re going to get world-class performances.”

Aaron said it was too early to tell, but that he’d like for Saitama to be the first step in the long road to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

“I can’t look that far ahead,” said the 2014 U.S. bronze medalist. “I have to take it season by season, day by day. I’m focused on what I need to do and the task at hand.”

While Abbott didn’t put a placement expectation on his Worlds effort, Aaron was more forthcoming.

“I’m shooting for a medal to be honest,” he said. “I want those clean performances and I’m hopefully coming away with that third spot for the U.S.”

Icenetwork.com will provide live coverage for subscribers. The men’s short program is set for Wednesday morning (2:45 a.m. EST) and the free skate will take place Friday (4 a.m. EST). NBC will air a World Championships recap show April 13 from 3-6 p.m. ET.

Latest Posts
  1. Gwen Jorgensen wins seventh straight World Triathlon Series event

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:24 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    It marked Jorgensen’s largest margin of victory in her World Triathlon Series career.

  2. Meryl Davis, Charlie White won’t compete next season

    Mar 28, 2015, 8:42 PM EDT

    Meryl Davis, Charlie White Getty Images

    But they haven’t decided on the 2018 Olympics.

  3. Watch World Figure Skating Championships — 8 p.m. ET

    Mar 28, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT

    Gracie Gold Getty Images

    Terry Gannon, Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir and Tracy Wilson are on the call.

  4. Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman competitive with U.S. teammates in comeback

    Mar 28, 2015, 2:24 PM EDT

    Gabby Douglas

    How they fared against World champion Simone Biles.

  5. Javier Fernandez wins upset World Championship; top American fourth

    Mar 28, 2015, 11:44 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    “I don’t know if it’s going to ever happen again.”

  6. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva wins World Championship; U.S. just misses medals

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:53 AM EDT

    Elizaveta Tuktamysheva Getty Images

    Next year, Tuktamysheva can go for a feat not seen since 2001.

  7. U.S., Canada women’s hockey teams renew rivalry at World Championships

    Mar 27, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    AP AP

    The U.S. has a new former NHL player as head coach, is missing a major Sochi star and hopes to end a losing streak to Canada.

  8. How to watch Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman’s comeback gymnastics meet

    Mar 27, 2015, 10:13 AM EDT

    Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman Getty Images

    The Olympic champions are slated to compete for the first time since London 2012 this weekend.

  9. Yuzuru Hanyu tops World Championships short program; Jason Brown leads Americans

    Mar 27, 2015, 9:54 AM EDT

    Yuzuru Hanyu Getty Images

    The U.S. men are unlikely to secure three spots for the 2016 World Championships.

  10. Madison Chock, Evan Bates take ice dance silver at World Championships

    Mar 27, 2015, 9:53 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    A French couple became the youngest World champions in 40 years.

  11. U.S. women struggle, trail Russian brilliance after World Championships short program

    Mar 26, 2015, 10:14 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Elizaveta Tuktamysheva landed a triple Axel in one of the greatest short programs of all time.

  12. Canadians win World pairs title; best U.S. finish since 2011

    Mar 26, 2015, 10:01 AM EDT

    AP AP

    The last time Canada won a World title in pairs was before the 2002 judging scandal.

  13. U.S. pairs outside top five after World Championships short program

    Mar 25, 2015, 9:44 AM EDT

    AP AP

    A slight improvement could mark the best U.S. pairs finishes since 2002.

  14. Usain Bolt to race individually in U.S. for first time since 2008

    Mar 25, 2015, 9:13 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Bolt’s last appearance in New York produced his first world record.

  15. Madison Chock, Evan Bates top World Championships short dance with personal best

    Mar 25, 2015, 8:53 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The Olympians could become the second U.S. ice dance couple to win a World Championship.

  16. Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir preview World Championships men’s, pairs events

    Mar 24, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The Olympic and World champion returns to the site of a bloody collision.

  17. Boston 2024 calls for statewide referendum for Olympic bid

    Mar 24, 2015, 10:11 AM EDT

    Boston 2024

    Boston will not move forward with an Olympic bid if a majority of state and city residents don’t support it.

  18. Watch USA Luge video promoting fastest sport on ice

    Mar 24, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    USA Luge

    Olympians Erin Hamlin, Chris Mazdzer star in an inside look at the sport.

  19. U.S. would top 2016 Olympic medal standings in virtual projection

    Mar 24, 2015, 9:27 AM EDT

    Rio 2016

    Tuesday marked 500 days out from the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony.

  20. Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir preview World Championships women’s, ice dance events

    Mar 23, 2015, 5:50 PM EDT

    Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold, Polina Edmunds Getty Images

    Three U.S. women have a shot at the podium, and an American ice dance couple could win gold.