BOSTON - There is some degree of irony in the flap over a near collision between Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu and Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten during a Wednesday morning practice session before the men’s short program at the World Figure Skating Championships.
The Toronto Cricket Club rink where Hanyu trains much of the year usually has a dozen or more skaters on a practice session, often including three of the top men in the world. Athletes who train there say dealing with such crowds helps them avoid problems when they are in smaller groups at competitions.
There were six skaters on the world meet practice session, which took place at a facility near the competition venue, TD Garden.
“Skating with a lot of people is good for when you are at worlds practices,” said Gabrielle Daleman, the 2015 Canadian champion. “You are used to watching out for other people, especially in the summer, when our rink is really busy. It helps us use spatial awareness to get our job done.”
Hanyu’s coach, Brian Orser, told me the same thing during a recent interview in Toronto.
“They learn how to get out of the way, especially at competitions, where people are constantly in your way,” Orser said. “Our guys are so good at rink management.”
But Hanyu also spends two-to-three months each winter training alone on the rink in his hometown, Sendai.
News reports of Wednesday’s incident said Ten did not follow the practice protocol of yielding right of way to the skater doing a program run-through, which Hanyu was doing when it occurred. The Japanese skater screamed angrily at Ten.
"I honestly didn't notice it until someone was screaming at my back every time he was passing by," Ten told reporters later. "I don't think there was an issue; we didn't hit each other. I always train with a lot of people on the ice.
“Maybe he is not used to a lot of people. It's practice: There are six people on the ice, and sometimes we get too close to each other."
Hanyu, the reigning Olympic champion, had been in a bad collision with China’s Han Yan in a free skate warmup at the 2014 Cup of China. Hanyu was bloodied and shaken but went on to compete in that free skate, falling five times and finishing second.
After winning Wednesday’s short program with yet another brilliant performance that drew a score (110.56) just .39 from his world record, Hanyu said he had felt oddly unsettled before he skated.
Kyodo News quoted Hanyu saying he thought Ten got in his way intentionally.
"But I shouldn't have let him get to me,” Hanyu said. “I should know better."
Ten, the 2014 Olympic bronze medalist who has struggled all season with injuries, had a much worse time of it during the short program. He fell on the opening jump, made a hash of his combination and wound up 12th at 78.55, giving him no chance at winning a third world medal in the past four years.