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. Jamaican sprinters Asafa Powell and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce dominate at Paris Diamond League

    Jul 4, 2015, 6:57 PM EDT

    ATHLETICS-DIAMOND-FRA ATHLETICS-DIAMOND-FRA

    The two claimed victory in the men’s and women’s 100 meters, while American Evan Jager came heartbreakingly close to making history in the steeplechase.

  2. 2012 Olympic 4x100m relay medals officially reallocated after U.S. team stripped of silver

    Jul 4, 2015, 10:12 AM EDT

    Olympics Day 15 - Athletics Getty Images

    Trinidad and Tobago have been upgraded to silver and France to bronze.

  3. Bicycle fall takes swimmer Kosuke Hagino out of Worlds

    Jul 4, 2015, 9:11 AM EDT

    Kosuke Hagino Kosuke Hagino

    The Japanese swimmer confirmed that his right elbow is fractured.

  4. Nick Lucena and Theo Brunner final American team in Beach Volleyball World Championships

    Jul 3, 2015, 5:13 PM EDT

    AVP Championships at Huntington Beach AVP Championships at Huntington Beach

    Three of the four remaining American teams were knocked out in the quarterfinal rounds. Lucena and Brunner will face the Brazilians in semifinals on Saturday.

  5. Jordan Burroughs on Rio: ‘My chances of winning’ are better than in London

    Jul 3, 2015, 2:13 PM EDT

    US' Jordan Ernest Burroughs celebrates a US' Jordan Ernest Burroughs celebrates a

    In an interview before the July 4th stop of the Road to Rio tour before Philadelphia, the Olympic wrestler explained how his age has become an advantage.

  6. Rio 2016 Olympic torch unveiled

    Jul 3, 2015, 12:26 PM EDT

    Screen shot 2015-07-03 at 11.35.56 AM

    The torch will begin in the capital city of Brasilia, passing through a planned 500 cities before reaching Maracana Stadium in Rio for the Opening Ceremony.

  7. Allyson Felix considering 200-400m double at Worlds

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:11 AM EDT

    150704_AllysonFelix Getty Images

    Won’t face Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who will forgo 200 meters to focus on 100.

  8. Japanese swim star Kosuke Hagino potentially out of World Championships

    Jul 2, 2015, 11:29 AM EDT

    Comments Off on Japanese swim star Kosuke Hagino potentially out of World Championships
    Japan's Kosuke Hagino competes in the me Japan's Kosuke Hagino competes in the me

    A suspected elbow fracture may force Hagino to pull out.

  9. Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross historically dominant at World Championships

    Jul 1, 2015, 10:07 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Walsh Jennings had never been part of such a rout with Misty May-Treanor.

  10. USOC eyes majority support for Boston 2024 ‘relatively soon’

    Jun 30, 2015, 7:33 PM EDT

    Boston 2024

    “We’re not discussing right now the possibility of not submitting a bid.”

  11. Usain Bolt pulls out of July track meets

    Jun 30, 2015, 2:37 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Bolt flew to Munich to treat an injury.

  12. Brazil’s president offers Barack Obama ‘standing invitation’ to Rio Olympics

    Jun 30, 2015, 2:25 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Obama has never attended an Olympics as president, and this is his last chance.

  13. Simon Shnapir retires from figure skating

    Jun 30, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Shnapir won Olympic bronze in Sochi.

  14. Missy Franklin named top NCAA female athlete

    Jun 30, 2015, 10:37 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Franklin beat out another Rio 2016 Olympic hopeful for the honor.

  15. Cristiano Ronaldo ‘a possibility’ for Rio 2016 Olympics

    Jun 30, 2015, 9:19 AM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo Getty Images

    Ronaldo debuted at the Olympics two years before his first World Cup.

  16. Angela Ruggiero to become fourth women’s player in Hockey Hall of Fame

    Jun 30, 2015, 8:59 AM EDT

    AP AP

    The 2015 Hall of Fame class also includes four men’s Olympic medalists.

  17. Michael Phelps’ career in photos on his 30th birthday

    Jun 30, 2015, 8:10 AM EDT

    Michael Phelps

    Most decorated Olympian of all time turned 30 on Tuesday.

  18. Michael Phelps’ potential record chases at Rio Olympics

    Jun 30, 2015, 7:50 AM EDT

    Michael Phelps AP

    Phelps still trails a legendary gymnast, U.S. track and field champions and one of his 2004 Olympic swimming teammates.