TOKYO (AP) — Yuzuru Hanyu's decision to shift his training base to Canada was just what the Japanese teenager needed to become a contender for the gold medal in men's figure skating at the Sochi Olympics.
Moving to Toronto to train under renowned coach Brian Orser has already paid off for the 19-year-old Hanyu, who beat three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada at the International Skating Union's Grand Prix final in December.
Following a win at Japan's nationals last month, its clear Hanyu is peaking at the right time as he attempts to become the first Japanese male to win gold at the Olympics.
Leaving home at such a young age was difficult but Hanyu is convinced the move in April of 2012 was the right one.
Hanyu scored a record 99.84 points in the short program at the Grand Prix final, surpassing the previous high of 98.52 set by Chan at the Trophee Bompard a week earlier. He then widened his lead in the free skate to claim the confidence-boosting win over Chan, considered by many to be the favorite at Sochi.
"I have put in a lot of effort in the past year," Hanyu said. "It was a big change with a new coach and a new location and dealing with the language barrier. But it has been good for me. My coach has helped me with both my skating skills and physical strength."
Orser, who won the silver medal at the Sarajevo and Calgary Olympics, was Kim Yu-na's coach when the Korean won the gold medal in Vancouver.
Like Hanyu, Kim also moved to Toronto before the Vancouver Olympics to train with Orser at the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club so the blueprint for success is in place.