Japan’s jump to the top

Guess what? It is still the Olympics so I am still going to talk about them! Welcome to your weekly Olympic coverage where I share my opinion on the most memorable and controversial moments in the Olympics. There has not been a back-to-back gold medalist in men’s figure skating since the infamous Richard Totten “Dick” Button at St. Moritz in 1948 and Oslo in 1952. The first man to land a double axel in competition, as well as the first triple jump of any kind, Button reinvented the sport of figure skating. His influence as a two-time Olympic champion and five-time World champion put figure skating into the spotlight as a constantly evolving and growing sport. In Pyeongchang on Feb. 17, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan became the first person to match Button’s Olympic record. Hanyu was the favorite to win the gold in Pyeongchang after amassing hundreds of thousands of fans since his Olympic debut and gold medal winning performance in Sochi. What made Hanyu’s win even more astounding was the injury he sustained to his ankle before the Winter Olympics. While training a quad-jump, Hanyu tore a ligament in his right ankle in Nov. 2017, just months before the Olympics. His first competition since that injury would be this year’s Olympic Games. He had been training his triple axel jump for just three weeks leading up to the competition and his quad jumps only two weeks prior to the Olympics. Yet he managed to complete near flawless short and free skates when he needed it most, landing his quad jumps perfectly on a not-yet-healed ankle. In my opinion, his prowess in the sport as a two-time Olympic and World champion makes Japan the best figure skating country of all time. With his teammate Shoma Uno winning silver in the same competition and skaters like Mao Asada and Miki Ando commanding the stage in previous years, Japan is truly a figure skating powerhouse, more so than Russia. In fact, at this Olympics, both male Olympic athletes from Russia faltered immensely in their programs and the only reason the OAR won the silver in the team competition was Alina Zagitova’s ridiculously high scoring skate as well as Russia’s historically superior pairs and ice dance competitors. But Japan produces the best single skaters the world has ever seen by far. In fact, the depth of the Japanese team is so great that the pool of people they could have chosen for the Olympics could have supported two different teams. The youthful talent and skill exercised in the Japanese competitions showcases a new generation of figure skating talent, all of which is actively encouraged by such incredible skating talents as Hanyu, Uno, Asada and Ando. It is my opinion that because of these amazing, influential and powerful skaters, Japan will soon overtake the Canadian and Russian dominance that the sport has lived under for decades. Hanyu in particular has racked up a fan base that includes practically the entire country of Japan. His performance in Pyeongchang may as well have been a home game, considering the entire arena was blanketed with Japanese flags and fans from Japan came to support him and his team in Korea. In short, Japan winning both gold and silver in men’s figure skating in Pyeongchang is proof of the mastery and ascendancy of Japanese figure skating and the country’s command is only going to rise from here. Who knows, we may see Hanyu go for three consecutive Olympic gold medals in Beijing in 2022.

 

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