Japanese figure skating superstar Yuzuru Hanyu on Tuesday revealed he feared he may never recover from an ankle injury that has threatened to derail his bid to defend his men's singles title at the ongoing Winter Olympics.
But the two-time world champion, fit and healthy again, has promised to make his much-anticipated comeback worth the wait as he takes aim at a 66-year-old record in Pyeongchang.
Speaking to a packed press conference after a morning training session at Gangneung Ice Arena, a beaming Hanyu said, "It's been three months since I was injured and there were times when I was only able to watch skating and not skate myself."
"It was very difficult, so I am very grateful that I am finally here at the Olympic venue and able to practice here at the main rink."
Hanyu injured his right ankle during practice at the NHK Trophy in November and has not competed since. His Canadian coach Brian Orser said last week that the 23-year-old Sendai native has been "sweating blood and tears" at his base in Toronto in a bid to be in top shape for the men's singles starting on Friday.
"At the NHK after the injury, I wanted to take painkillers and skate but the ankle was just not moving. After two months, I still felt some difficulties skating and there were times when I wondered whether I would ever completely recover."
"But I can skate now and that is what is most important. There have been many negative thoughts that passed through my mind but right now I am sitting here in front of the media and giving you good news, not bad news, and that is very important for me. I want to show this is my dream stage and give a dream performance."
Asked about the pressure of trying to become the first back-to-back men's champion since Dick Button of the United States in 1948 and 1952, he replied: "It can be described as pressure but at the same time I am really happy that for the first time in a long time I will be able to skate."
"I can feel these expectations and I want to accept it and turn it into my own energy. I know many people have been waiting for me to skate and I want to show them a performance that will make them feel it was worth the wait."
Hanyu, who said he only began practicing quads on the ice two weeks ago, also offered thanks for the countless messages of support he has received while working his way back to fitness.
"While I was struggling, even after the New Year I got countless messages of support and I just wanted to say thank you for all of them," said Hanyu.
"I know the Olympics are not over yet, so it sounds strange to say it now but I want people to know that each message was taken with appreciation and it gave me the power to go on."
Hanyu, who practiced for the first time at the rink on Monday after arriving in South Korea the previous day, will have to overcome a tough field including compatriot Shoma Uno, high-flying American Nathan Chen and three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada in his bid for more Olympic glory.
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