Figure skating: Injury-hit champ Hanyu faces race for fitness

Tokyo (AFP) –


Defending Olympic figure skating gold medallist Yuzuru Hanyu said Thursday that a slow recovery from his injuries is preventing him from resuming practice, with less than two months until the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Hanyu has been off the ice for nearly five weeks on doctors' orders to nurse his damaged right ankle ligaments, after injuring himself in practice on the eve of the NHK Trophy.

Before the injury, the 23-year-old two-time world champion was seen as favourite to defend his 2014 Sochi crown in South Korea.

"The original diagnosis was that I would be in full health in three to four weeks," Hanyu said in a statement.

"I am also experiencing inflammation in my tendon and bone so that the pace of recovery is not fast," he said.

Hanyu fell and twisted his right ankle while attempting the ultra-tough quadruple Lutz during practice on the eve of the NHK Trophy, the fourth leg in the six-event ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series.

Hanyu said he hoped to use his left leg to resume simple skating routines before applying more stress on his legs.

"It is unclear exactly when I will be able to resume practice," he added.

The injury may force Hanyu to miss the national championships next week, which will serve as the final trial to decide which skaters go to the Olympics.

But Japan's skating authority is all but certain to send him to Pyeongchang -- even if he skips the event -- because of his past achievements, local media said.