(Reuters) - A reunion with his coach Brian Orser will provide a welcome distraction for Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu when he returns to the Shanghai Oriental Sports Centre for this week’s figure skating world championships.
Four months ago the Japanese left the arena battered and bruised following a sickening collision with Chinese rival Yan Han in the build-up to the Cup of China, an accident that left him requiring staples in his head and stitches in his jaw.
But such is his indomitable spirit, he picked himself up, dusted himself down and ended up with the silver medal in a competition many thought he should have withdrawn from .
However, triumphing in the face of adversity is nothing new for an athlete who watched the ice crack beneath his blades after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake in March 2011 destroyed his training rink in Sendai.
It is Sendai where Hanyu has spent the last three months as he recuperated from those injuries and subsequent surgery for a bladder problem -- which meant he was more than 10,000 km away from the Toronto base of Orser.
Whether Orser’s long-distance training tips will pay off will become clear later this week when Hanyu, the only 2014 Olympic champion in the Shanghai field, attempts to become the first Japanese skater to win back-to-back world titles.
While Javier Fernandez would like nothing better than to usurp a man he calls his skating ‘wife’, the Spaniard has missed training beside his great Japanese rival.
“Sometimes we learn just by watching,” the triple European champion, who is also coached by Orser, told Reuters.
”It (watching Yuzuru) changes the way you approach your practice. On the days I am not feeling my best, or I’m just tired, I think of Yuzu, and that he was so tired but he was able pull out great run throughs in training which helped him to skate better and better...
“Those memories help to motivate me on.”
With Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten also in Shanghai, the men’s competition is likely to steal the spotlight from the other three events.
A year after Julia Lipnitskya and Adelina Sotnikova were the toast of Sochi, a new generation of Russian women are waiting to make their mark in China.
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Elena Radionova and Anna Pogorilaya swept the board at the Europeans and they will be eager to hold off the challenge of the likes of American trio Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold and Four Continents winner Polina Edmunds.
Editing by Justin Palmer