Hanyu, double Olympic champion, spectacular at the Japanese championships

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Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu performs in the men’s short program competition of the Japan Figure Skating Championships at Saitama Super Arena, in Saitama, north of Tokyo, on Friday, December 24, 2021. (AP Photo / Eugene Hoshiko)

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Reigning two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu returned from a long injury absence to land two quadruple jumps to score a world record 111.31 points in his short program at the Japanese championships on Friday.

Hanyu, 27, out for eight months with an ankle injury, punched the air with his fist after completing his clean program in Saitama, Japan. He landed a quad salchow, quad toe-triple toe and triple axis combination to post a score of almost five points ahead of American Nathan Chen at Skate Canada.

Hanyu and Chen are expected to fight for Olympic gold at the Beijing Games in February.

“Everything went exactly as I planned over six days of training,” Hanyu told Kyodo News.

The Japanese and Russian Championships run throughout the weekend, and along with the US nationals in early January, they should give figure skating fans a taste of who to watch at the Winter Games.

Hanyu, who intends to clinch the first quad axel in competition in his free skate on Sunday, edges reigning Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno by nearly 10 points. NHK Trophy winner Umo achieved a quad flip and quad toe-double toe combo as well as a triple axel in his short program on Friday.

Yuma Kagiyama is expected to join Hanyu and Uno in the Japanese squad for Beijing. He was third after his short program.

While the Japanese championships feature Olympic favorites for the men, the championships in Russia do the same for the women, who could become the first nation to sweep the podium.

Kamila Valieva, the overwhelming favorite to win gold, had four triple jumps during her busy short program to score 90.38 points. In addition to a triple axel and a triple flip, Valieva pulled off a triple lutz-triple toe combination to surpass her own score of 87.42 in the short program, set in her record-breaking Rostelecom Cup victory.

Sofia Muravieva scored 81.87 points and was second before the free skate. Anna Shcherbakova was right behind her with 81.46 points. Podium favorite Elizaveta Tuktamysheva fell on a triple axis during her program and never got back on track, giving her some ground to catch up after scoring 71.28 points.

Russian skaters are also expected to win a pairs medal in Beijing. The team of Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov lead their national championships with 83.74 points after the short program. They are followed by Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii with 82.84 points and Olympic favorites Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov with 78.68.

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