Sunday, January 23, 2022

Russian women in Japan in pursuit of a Winter Olympic berth, Hanyu | AP News

The focus of the figure skating world is on the Eastern Hemisphere this week.

The Russian National Championships should reveal Olympic favorites for the women’s competition, and two-time and current gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu will begin her season at the Japanese nationals.

Russian athletes won only three out of 15 medals in figure skating at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, including gold for Alina Zagitova and silver for Evgenia Medvedeva in the marquee women’s competition.

With four of the top five skaters in the current world rankings, led by record-setting Kamila Valiyava, there is a chance Russian women could win a medal if the Beijing Games start less than six weeks away.

“I mean, it’s absolutely incredible what they’re doing, especially their technical element,” said Karen Chen, who will try to make her second Olympic team when she holds her national championships in early January.

“There’s no question how amazing it is to do multiple quad and triple axles and things like that,” Chen said.

Valiyava, who turned just 11 during the Pyeongchang Games when the Russian Championships begin on Thursday night and run through the weekend, will be a favorite. She made her senior debut in October, winning Grand Prix assignments at Skate Canada and the Rostelecom Cup, while also setting records for the short event, free skate and total score.

Valiyava has an overall score of 272.71, 36 points ahead of the women’s next highest score this season.

And to think: She’s not even the highest ranked Russian skater.

The title belongs to Anna Shcherbakova, who, like Valyaeva, is trained by the famous Eteri Tutberidze. The first woman to land a Quad Lutz in the competition competed in her Grand Prix assignments in Italy and France.

Valiyava and Shcherbakova will be pushed by world silver medalist Elizaveta Tukhtamsheva; world bronze medalist Alexandra Trusova; Maya Khromykh, who won medals in both her Grand Prix assignments; and Sofia Samodurova, former European champion, who finished third in the Budapest Trophy.

Missing from the field is Alina Kostornaya, who had dominated international competition over the years but was forced to withdraw from the nationals in what Russian television reported had a broken arm.

“The Olympics is, for most, a once in a lifetime dream come true,” said Johnny Weir, a three-time US champion and now figure skating analyst for NBC. “So as an athlete, you do everything possible to make that dream come true. Russian women are so influential and so strong that it would be difficult for any non-Russian to take the stage in Beijing.

Meanwhile, the men will be getting the most attention when Japan’s national championships take place later this week.

Hanyu, 27, has suffered a series of injuries since his back-to-back victories at the Sochi and Pyeongchang Games, and has yet to feature in an international event this season due to an ankle injury. But Hanyu said he intends to go for a three-peat in Beijing and the pursuit begins with a strong showing from Japanese nationals.

Hanyu’s biggest competition at the national level will be his 2018 Olympic teammates, Shoma Uno and Yuma Kagiyama.

“Beijing is an extension of what I’m doing and I know I may have to do everything right now,” Hanyu said after Thursday’s practice in Saitama. Skate.

“I’ve been honing it for two years and there’s a part of me that says I should let it go. But then I worked on it for an hour and a half, pushing myself and pushing,” Hanyu said. “I thought, ‘I’ve come this far.’ I’m gonna jump, but this jump, I’m indebted to everyone. A lot of people have told me that I’m the only one capable of doing it.”

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More Associated Press Winter Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/ Associated Press_Sports

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