GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Japanese Yuzuru Hanyu, the first man in 66 years to win back-to-back figure skating gold medals, hinted on Thursday that he may not defend his world title to give his injured ankle time to heal.
After hurting his right ankle in training last November, Hanyu was unable to practise properly before the Olympics and won his second gold - in his first competition since October - while on painkillers.
The ankle is still in far from good shape, Hanyu told reporters after a practice session for the exhibition gala that is a tradition after big skating tournaments and will take place on Sunday.
Asked about taking part in the world championships starting on March 19 in Milan, Hanyu said he was still undecided.
“With the state of my ankle at the front of my mind, I want to decide various things....The injured part is something that can’t be fixed by surgery, so while I still don’t know anything for sure I want to make healing it a priority,” he said.
Hanyu’s fall during practice while doing a quad Lutz initially damaged ligaments and there were also reports of complications such as bone and muscle infections.
He said the day after winning his second Olympic gold that the damage has been hard to determine, making treatment difficult.
Although Hanyu appeared fine during practice on Thursday, landing several Axel jumps and at one point zooming around the rink with other skaters in imitation of short track races - with Hanyu far ahead - he said that without painkillers jumps are still hard.
“I’ll keep taking them up until the exhibition, but after that I want to start decreasing the dosage and gradually get a sense of how I really feel,” he said.
Retirement from skating is still a long way off, but with the sense of relief and achievement that have come from winning a second gold, his skating priorities may be altered.
“I want to have fun, do things that I want to do. If people like it, that’s great,” he said with a laugh. “Call it enlightenment if you want - I am what I am. That’s the frame of mind I’m in.” (Reporting by Elaine Lies, editing by Ed Osmond)