Three months after he sent the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games into a frenzy, Hanyu Yuzuru will lace up his skates again at the Fantasy on Ice show starting on Friday (27 May).
Hanyu’s reappearing act in Makuhari, Chiba Prefecture, this weekend will come under a cloud of questions and speculation about his future.
The two-time Olympic gold medallist from Japan has gone off the grid and maintained strict radio silence missing out on a medal in Beijing and returning home on 21 February.
Hanyu finished fourth at the Games as defending champion while unsuccessfully attempting to become the first man to land the quadruple Axel in competition.
The 27-year-old skipped last month’s world championships in Montpellier, France, because of a lingering sprained right ankle stemming from his defiant quest to nail the quad Axel.
Presumably, the ankle has largely healed since Hanyu has committed to skating at all four stops on the Fantasy on Ice tour – Makuhari (27-29 May); Nagoya (3-5 June); Kobe (17-19 June); and Shizuoka (24-26 June).
His plans beyond that, nevertheless, remain unknown.
In Beijing, while Hanyu said he was uncertain about his future, he also did not rule out returning for a fourth Olympic appearance at Milano Cortina 2026.
Indeed, Hanyu has accomplished just about everything there is to accomplish in figure skating and it would not be the least bit surprising if he were to walk away.
Equally, however, the two-time world champion and four-time Grand Prix Final winner remains just as competitive as ever.
Had he not popped the opening jump of his short program – which almost never happens – and did not attempt the quad Axel in the free, Hanyu could have comfortably reached the podium in Beijing.
Despite the resurgence of Uno Shoma and emergence of Kagiyama Yuma, one could convincingly make the case that Hanyu is still one of the top two skaters in the world alongside the new Olympic champion Nathan Chen of America.
One thing is certain though: the world will be all eyes and ears for Hanyu this weekend. Again.