Hanyu plays down asthma fears after losing to Chen

Osaka (Japan) (AFP) –


Olympic figure skating champion Yuzuru Hanyu insisted his asthma will not hamper his title defence at next year's Beijing Games, despite losing again to rival Nathan Chen on Friday.

Japanese star Hanyu was outshone by American Chen in the men's competition at the World Team Trophy in Osaka, just as he was at the world championships in Stockholm last month.

Hanyu admitted after the worlds that he felt asthmatic after his free programme, fuelling fears that his Olympic title defence could be in jeopardy next February.

But he said he had not suffered another flare-up this week in Osaka, chalking his loss down to simple technical errors.

"Honestly, I don't have any problems with my asthma," said Hanyu, who finished second behind Chen with a free programme score of 193.76.

"I didn't feel it. I felt really fine at this competition. I had some little mistakes in the short programme and I'm disappointed with my free programme because I had a big mistake. I need to train more."

Hanyu skipped this season's Grand Prix series over concerns that his asthma would put him at higher risk if he caught the coronavirus.

This week's event is being held in Osaka, which is currently battling a surge in infections.

The city banned the Olympic torch relay from passing along its public roads earlier this week, but around 3,000 fans -- half the venue's capacity -- have been allowed into the World Team Trophy.

Hanyu admitted he had "regrets" over his performance after spending two weeks in quarantine since returning from Sweden.

"It hasn't been a normal life, with your emotions and not being able to eat the food you usually eat," he said.

"So, given the conditions, I think I did well."

Chen won the free programme with a score of 203.24, one day after finishing on top in the short programme.

The American ends the season in red-hot form having also claimed his third straight world title, but he insisted it was "too early to say" what will happen at the Olympics.

"I don't know what other guys will look like by then, I don't know what the season will look like, and I don't know how many competitions I'll have," he said.

"So, right now, I'll just enjoy the season that I had, go home, rest, recover and get myself refreshed for the following season."

Chen's win was not enough to put the US on top of the overall table with one day remaining.

Russia leads the six-nation competition on 91 points, followed by the US on 83, Japan on 78, and France, Italy and Canada bringing up the rear.

In ice dancing, Russia's Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov won the free skate with a score of 130.15.

The Russians won the world title last month after enduring what Katsalapov called a "very tough and challenging" year of illness and injury.

Sinitsina suffered a knee injury and was also hospitalised with coronavirus -- forcing the pair to miss six months of training -- but they are now targeting Olympic gold in Beijing.

"The hope is that next year is going to be less problematic and complicated than this one," said Katsalapov.