Hanyu set to test Olympic preparations at NHK Trophy

OSAKA, Japan (AP) Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu wants to get a good measure of how his preparations are going for next year’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang, so he’s aiming high at the NHK Trophy.

”As this year’s NHK is in an Olympic season, I need to take extra care of my condition and to execute all of my elements carefully while aiming for the title,” the Japanese star said as he fine-tuned for the fourth event on the International Skating Union’s Grand Prix series.

Hanyu, a two-time world champion, last month placed second at the Rostelecom Cup in Russia, where he skated well but wasn’t his dominant self.

The 22-year-old Hanyu nailed the quad lutz he has been working hard on, but said after the competition in Moscow that he needs to improve on the rest of his program.

American Nathan Chen won in Russia, pulling off four quad jumps in a clear indication that he is ready to challenge Hanyu this weekend. Other contenders in Osaka include Americans Jason Brown and Adam Rippon and Russian skater Sergei Voronov.

Patrick Chan was scheduled to compete at the NHK but withdrew to focus on the Canadian national championships and the Olympics. Another absentee will be Daisuke Murakami, who has withdrawn because of pneumonia and will be replaced by 2016 junior national champion Kazuki Tomono.

The ice dance competition will be headlined by three-time and reigning world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who won their seventh Skate Canada title last month with a record score and will be the clear favorites in Osaka.

In the women’s event, world champion Evgenia Medvedeva won in Russia and will be bidding to book her trip to a fifth consecutive Grand Prix Final with another victory here in Osaka. Her main competition is likely to come from five-time European Champion and Rostelecom Cup silver medalist Carolina Kostner and 2015 world silver medalist Satoko Miyahara, who is competing in her first Grand Prix this season.

World Champions Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China are favored in the pairs competition.

The Grand Prix series consists of six events and culminates in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Nagoya, Japan, in December – the last competition featuring the world’s top skaters before the Feb. 9-25 Olympics.

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