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Yuzuru Hanyu to skip Grand Prix Series due to coronavirus risks

Yuzuru Hanyu

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09: Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan performs in the Men Free Skating during day 4 of the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships at Mokdong Ice Rink on February 09, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Annice Lyn/Getty Images)

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Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu will not compete in this autumn’s Grand Prix Series, citing asthma, plus travel concerns for himself and his Canadian-based coaches.

“There is no conclusive evidence about the relationship between bronchial asthma and COVID-19 so it’s difficult to make a judgment,” Hanyu said in comments posted on Japan’s figure skating federation’s website, according to an Olympic Channel translation. “But there is information that those with asthma contracting COVID-19 will make the condition worse so I need to be as cautious as possible.

“I believe we should not create opportunities to spread the infection. If my withdrawal can help protect against the spread of infection, it may become one action which will contribute to stopping the spread of infection.”

The International Skating Union said earlier this month that this season’s six Grand Prix stops are restricted to skaters from the host country or who regularly train in the area. That limited Hanyu’s options to Skate Canada in late October, if he returns to Canada from Japan, or NHK Trophy in Osaka in late November, though those have been his most frequent Grand Prix stops anyway in recent years.

Hanyu normally trains in Toronto, but he has been in Japan during the pandemic. Hanyu said it would be difficult for anyone from his coaching team to travel from Canada to Japan and difficult for him to travel to Canada to compete given quarantine rules that would significantly keep him off the ice.

Hanyu last competed in February, winning the Four Continents Championships. That event lacked Nathan Chen, his top rival who won both of their head-to-heads in this Olympic cycle.

Chen expressed interest in competing at Skate America, the first Grand Prix stop, in late October.

After the Grand Prix Series, the next top-level competition available to Hanyu is Japan’s national championships, typically in late December.

MORE: Nathan Chen has questions about figure skating’s restart

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