Hanyu's strong competitive spirit could hurt his chances to top Olympus

Hanyu's strong competitive spirit could hurt his chances to top Olympus

Yuzuru Hanyu has prided himself on trying to keep up with the recent quadruple jump outburst in men’s figure skating, an explosion in numbers and types of quads since 2015 for which the Japanese star credits China’s Jin Boyang as having been the spark.

When Hanyu won a second world title last year, he alluded to the quad exploits of Jin, Nathan Chen of the United States and Shoma Uno of Japan – all of whom have pushed the jump revolution - when he said, “I am trying to keep up with many of the strengths of the other skaters.”

The question now is whether pride literally came before the fall that has cast some doubt on Hanyu’s chances to win a second straight Olympic title – an achievement that, added to the rest of his career record, I feel would make him inarguably the greatest men’s skater in history.

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Did Skate Canada lose virtue with gift pushing star skater's brand?

Did Skate Canada lose virtue with gift pushing star skater's brand?

It is customary for skaters, judges and other officials to receive a welcome gift from the organizers of Grand Prix figure skating competitions.

But a gift provided at Skate Canada, the International Skating Union Grand Prix series event last month in Regina, Saskatchewan, has raised ethical questions.

The gift, presented by the Canadian figure skating federation, was a pair of crystal earrings from the Regina-based company that manufactures and markets a jewelry line created by ice dancer Tessa Virtue, who, with partner Scott Moir, is reigning world champion and a favorite to win the Olympic gold medal next February in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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While waiting for Hanyu and Chen in Grand Prix opener, a look at stumbles, struggles and success

While waiting for Hanyu and Chen in Grand Prix opener, a look at stumbles, struggles and success

After a hectic first month of the Olympic figure skating season, there finally is a weekend to catch our collective breath, with just two low-level international events before the senior Grand Prix series begins with a bang:  Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and Nathan Chen of the United States at the Rostelecom Cup Oct. 20-22 in Moscow.

Chen established himself among the world's top skaters when he topped Hanyu in the free skate at last season's Grand Prix Final (Hanyu won the event for a record fourth straight time) and then beat Hanyu  for the Four Continents Championship title on the 2018 Olympic rink in South Korea.  Hanyu had the last (and definitive) word at the World Championships, rebounding from a subpar short program with a brilliant free skate to win worlds for the second time, while Chen stumbled to sixth overall.

The six Challenger Series events so far this season (and last weekend’s free-skate-only Japan Open) have produced some noteworthy performances, good and bad.

Ten random observations:

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Play it again. And again. Reruns, early brilliance and more in this Olympic figure skate season

Play it again.  And again.  Reruns, early brilliance and more in this Olympic figure skate season

It isn’t even October, and this Olympic figure skating season already has featured some stunning performances – all in Class C level competitions of the International Skating Union's Challenger Series.

(Class A is Olympics and worlds; Class B is Grand Prix - with the Grand Prix Final a B+.)

Does that still mean the best is yet to come or that a few top skaters – especially in singles - will have peaked too early, with the Olympics not until February in South Korea?

Only time will tell, of course, but the changed framework of international competition, with Challenger Series events now drawing media attention and audiences for live streams, means some skaters are trying to be great in many events from September through early April.

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With tweaks, proposed figure skating changes make sense

With tweaks, proposed figure skating changes make sense

It used to be that the start of the Grand Prix Series marked the start of a figure skating season.

The first Grand Prix event of this Olympic season still is three weeks away, but so much already happened, on the ice in Challenger Series events and away from it with discussions of change in format and scoring, that it’s already time to offer some observations on the sport’s present and future.

I will do it in two parts, one today and one tomorrow.

Let’s start with some thoughts on the potential scoring and program changes I revealed in an icenetwork exclusive Sept. 11.  A top International Skating Union official called the changes "radical" and part of an effort to help figure skating regain some of its past popularity after its rapid decline everywhere but Asia, especially Japan, without whose fans the sport would be reeling toward irrelevance.

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