PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- Japanese figure skating star Yuzuru Hanyu is "confident" he can defend his Olympic championship, he told a Feb. 13 news conference at Gangneung Ice Arena.
The Pyeongchang 2018 Games will be Hanyu's first competition since he injured his leg last autumn.
"I'm confident that I can absolutely win as long as I can skate cleanly," Hanyu said after an official morning practice session. "I've practiced enough to participate in the Olympics. There are no worries."
Looking back on the past few months, 23-year-old Hanyu said, "I had no choice but to watch competitions for three months after my injury. It was a tough time as I was away from the rink for so long. But I'm happy to be able to skate at this Olympic venue without a hitch."
The men's singles competition will begin on Feb. 16 with the short program, and Hanyu commented, "I would like to deliver a performance through which I can return a favor to people who were waiting for my return to the ice." The 2014 Sochi gold medalist, however, would not reveal the details of his program.
Hanyu skated to the tune of his free program during the morning practice session. While he missed a jump or ended up landing a mere double jump during the first half of the session, he pulled off a series of jumps in the latter half, landing a quad Salchow followed by a triple toe loop; a quad toe loop followed by a single loop and a triple Salchow, as well as a triple axel ahead of a double toe loop. All told, his performance was a reassuring sign that he was back on the right track.
After his practice to the free program tune, Hanyu was seen giving a thumbs-up to his coach Brian Orser.