Two-time Olympic figure skating gold medallist Yuzuru Hanyu skipped practice Wednesday ahead of Japan’s national championships, casting fresh doubt on whether he will be fit to defend his title in Beijing in six weeks time.
Hanyu has been out of action since last month after injuring his right ankle ligaments in a fall during practice, forcing him to miss the entire Grand Prix season.
The 27-year-old superstar is scheduled to make his much-anticipated comeback this week at the Japanese nationals — the men’s short programme takes place on Friday with the free skate on Sunday.
But he pulled out of a scheduled practice and cancelled a media appearance on Wednesday, fuelling fears that he is not fit.
Later in the day, he attended the competition draw at the venue in Saitama, north of Tokyo.
He also appeared in a short message released by the Japan Skating Federation, vowing to “give everything” in the event.
Hanyu hurt the same ankle just months before the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
He withdrew from that season’s Japanese nationals and did not compete again until the Games.
But he made a triumphant comeback in Pyeongchang — becoming the first man to clinch back-to-back Olympic figure skating titles in more than six decades.
Hanyu said after winning gold that his ankle had never fully healed.
He said last month that he had not “even reached the starting line”, weeks after hurting himself in practice for the NHK Trophy.
The Beijing Olympics start on February 4.