Back in March, Yuzuru Hanyu left the 2015 World Figure Skating Championship in Shanghai disappointed. After skating one of the strongest short programs of the season, Hanyu was unable to execute in his free program, and watched as Javier Fernandez of Spain passed him to pick up the gold medal. For the 2014 World and Olympic gold medalist, silver felt like a loss. Hanyu has dedicated his off season to improving, in hopes to avenge his loss.
He got off to a great start.
Skating in the Skate Canada Autumn Classic in Ontario, Hanyu dominated the event, posting a 93.14 in the short program and a 184.05 in the free program. He walked away with a dominating 36 point victory over Canadian Nam Nguyen.
A few points of caution. Most of the skaters that took part in the event were unknown, and were not near the level of competition Hanyu will face on the Grand Prix circuit or at the World Championship. Also, Hanyu was far from perfect, and while there were no major faults, he did have a few bobbled and tough landings. Still, Hanyu skated with the elegance and grace that we expect from the reigning Olympic champion.
Hanyu also impressed some people who know a thing or two about the sport. Three time world champion Elvis Stojko was in attendance, and he said Hanyu is looking stronger than he did last season.
"[Hanyu's free skate is] not overly dramatic," he said in an interview with icenetwork.com. "There is a certain humble quality to it that I like. The style of the program and the music builds. It's not in your face. I hate it when it's overly done. It's just nice and clean skating. It speaks for itself. And he's filled out, so his body is a little stronger. There is a maturity to his skating. He's not as flingy as he was before. Now he's more controlled with his movements."
Hanyu signed up for the event, which is not part of the Grand Prix schedule, in order to work out a new Free Skate routine. He also wanted to get back on the ice after injuries and a bladder surgery forced Hanyu to skate injured for most of the 2014-2015 season.
Hanyu's appearance at the Autumn Classic wasn't just beneficial to him. It also saw a big boost for the small event in Barrie, Ontario. Japanese fans flew into Ontario to watch their skate hero perform. The event had to add extra seating to accommodate the influx of fans and media.
Hanyu will begin his Grand Prix season next week in Toronto. Meanwhile, countrywoman Mao Asada made her return to the ice earlier this month at the Japan Open, and lead her team to victory in front of her home crowd. Asada will make her Grand Prix season debut at the Cup Of China, which takes place November 6-8.