OSAKA, Japan - Olympic and world figure skating champion Yuzuru Hanyu ignored pleas not to compete after suffering head injuries in a sickening collision during warm-up for a competition in China, his coach told AFP.
Hanyu suffered cranial bruising and needed stitches in his jaw as well as staples in his head after smashing into China's Yan Han in Shanghai three weeks ago. He arrived back in Japan in a wheelchair, triggering a backlash from media and former athletes for letting the 19-year-old heartthrob skate on after such a brutal wipe-out.
But coach Brian Orser said the Japanese superstar had insisted on continuing in the Cup of China competition despite his injuries after medical staff had ruled out concussion. Orser also said he tried in vain to persuade Hanyu to skip the NHK Trophy in Osaka at the weekend.
"It was his own decision," the Canadian said after Hanyu finished fourth in Osaka to qualify for the Grand Prix Final. "I don't think the option of not doing it was even part of his vocabulary. Once he makes that decision, I go with it and we have to go full steam ahead." "I would never have let him go out and skate if I thought there was any major risk to his health," said Orser, who guided South Korean ice queen Kim Yuna to Olympic gold in 2010 before seeing Hanyu sweep to victory in Sochi earlier this year.
"We analysed whether he had concussion or not and it turned out he did not. It was just a bad crash. He was very determined and to not skate was not an option.
"I told him 'you're Olympic champion, you don't need to be a hero, you have to think about your health' and he said: 'I'm fine, I want to skate, let's go.'"
After being diagnosed with cranial bruising, Hanyu's participation in Osaka had been plunged into doubt, but again the skater defied his coach's wishes.
"I suggested a Plan A and a Plan B for this competition," said Orser, himself a former world champion and two-times Olympic silver medallist. "My Plan A was to just not do it. Plan B was if you are going to do it, then we have to scale the programmes down a bit to make them a little easier.
"There was no fear of him hurting himself anymore. Perhaps he just needed to have the little carrot of the NHK Trophy to get him going, to get him back into the picture." Hanyu, who admitted it was a "near miracle" he had survived his accident in China, fell twice during his short programme and once again in Saturday's free skate, crash-landing on an attempted quadruple jump.
"You need to have the training behind you," said Orser. "We missed 10 days because of the accident in Shanghai - but even prior to that, other issues kept him off the ice. It's funny, in an Olympic season some the small ailments don't hold you back but this year they did.
"It's all part of the learning curve. It's incredible, his rocket to stardom in Japan and being Olympic champion. It's a big responsibility and he takes it seriously. It's a lot for a young man. He's only 19."