Yuzuru Hanyu's various battles with injury and triumphant ascent back to his former place atop the world captivated figure skating aficionados in 2018, but the global megastar was far from Japan's only show in town.

Rika Kihira emerged from relative obscurity to separate herself from a pack of promising young female skaters, while the consistent Shoma Uno showed he will be a long-term presence and threat on the world stage.

Hanyu began the year rinkside, an ankle injury sustained during practice at the 2017 NHK Trophy meaning he only secured his place at the Pyeongchang Olympics thanks to his world No. 1 ranking.

On arriving at the games, the then 23-year-old Hanyu declared himself ready to go, if a little underdone.

"There have been many negative thoughts that passed through my mind but right now I am...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," he said ahead of the Olympics in South Korea.

"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."

And that he did, laying down a top-ranked short program score and then finishing off with a free program the judges rated the second-best, the only blemish his landing on the quad toe loop-single loop-triple salchow combination.

American Nathan Chen was near flawless in his top-scoring six-quad free, but a disastrous earlier short program meant he was never a threat to the Japanese who, as has become tradition, brought a crowd-generated Winnie the Pooh tsunami down onto the ice upon the completion of his routine.

"One thing I can say for sure is that I am back...I am truly proud of this achievement," said a tearful Hanyu on becoming the first skater to defend the men's Olympic title since American Dick Button achieved the feat 66 years ago.

The significance of Hanyu's effort only became apparent after the games when it was revealed he was far from healed in Pyeongchang, a fact that was only reinforced when he withdrew from the March world championships due to ankle pain.

Hanyu returned to the ice for his self-produced ice show in Tokyo in April and made his competitive return in September, preparing for the new Grand Prix season with a win at an ISU Challenger Series event in Oakville, near his coach Brian Orser's Canada training base.

In Finland in November, Hanyu announced he was back to his best with a dominant victory at the Helsinki GP, but he described the effort, in which he finished with then season-best scores in the short, free and total as a "battle."

However, unbeknownst to him, his battle was just about to begin.

Just over a week after his Helsinki win, Hanyu told reporters ahead of the Moscow GP that his focus was solely on emerging from the competition in Russia uninjured so as not to repeat last year's tribulations.

"First of all I want to get through official practice (in Moscow) without any trouble," said Hanyu. "I'll take care to avoid a repeat of what happened last year (at the NHK Trophy)."

It proved a jinx.

After blowing away the competition with a near-perfect short skate, Hanyu fell while attempting a quadruple loop in pre-free program training, again injuring his troublesome ankle.

Incredibly, he fought through the pain to top the scoreboard in the free, landing three quad jumps in the performance, however, when he required crutches to mount the podium to collect his gold medal, it was clear his immediate on-ice future was unclear.

And so it proved, with the ankle causing him to miss the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver and also his third straight national championships.

With all the Hanyu drama, Kihira's emergence into a world-class competitor seemed smooth sailing, in comparison.

The Hyogo Prefecture-native went from making her full international debut in November to winning the Grand Prix Final title in December, the first Japanese to do so in a debut season since Mao Asada in 2005.

The 16-year-old Kihira showed resilience that belied her youth in winning the NHK Trophy.

She overcame a fall on her opening jump of the short program that left her ranked fifth going into the free to romp home with the victory. She scored 154.72 points in the free, 11.33 clear of her countrywoman Satoko Miyahara -- the second-ranked skater after the short program -- to snatch the win by more than four points.

"I'll remember this moment. I want to focus on the next (Grand Prix round) without forgetting my performance today," said Kihira.

Kihira went on to win the Internationaux de France GP, ahead of another Japanese Mai Mihara, and then climbed to new heights with a win at the Grand Prix Final, top scoring in both the short and free portions to beat reigning Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova.

But all this success did not come overnight, Kihira said after her Vancouver victory.

She noted that the past two seasons had many testing moments and she vowed to remember the mistakes so as to not repeat them.

With Kihira ending the GP season on a high, the late-December Japanese national championships looked like they could be hers for the taking, but in a demonstration of the depth of Japanese female figure skating, it was not to be.

Kihira skated an incredible free program to set a 223.76 total, and short program leader Miyahara ran her close with a 223.34, but it was Kaori Sakamoto who stole the show, showing consistency is key by finishing both skates in second to snatch victory with 228.01.

"I was so nervous I could hear my pulse, but I was still able to execute the free program my coach planned out for me," said Sakamoto, the skater who finished the women's event sixth at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

In the men's competition at the nationals, Uno, the man who could be almost described as Japan's forgotten star, showed that he still has plenty to give.

With Hanyu again missing, the recently turned 21-year-old took the title and secured a berth at the world championships.

Skating on a busted ankle of his own, Uno won his third straight national crown, rounding out a year in which he won Olympic men's silver, the Skate Canada International and NHK Trophy titles and finished second at the Grand Prix Final.

His injury-affected performance at nationals showed the kind of resilience that has come to represent Japanese figure skating.

"There was little I could do but believe in myself," said Uno. "I learned that if I maintained that self-belief I could go far."