Yuzuru Hanyu is bidding to become only the second man to win three consecutive Olympic singles titles in ice skating ©Getty Images

Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu believes an unprecedented quadruple Axel could help him to become the first man in almost a century to win three Olympic singles golds in a row.

The hat-trick has only previously been achieved by Sweden’s Gillis Grafström, who won gold in 1920,1924 and 1928.

Hanyu has been attempting to perfect the move since the last Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang four years ago.

The 27-year-old came close at the Saitama Super Arena during Japan's National Championships after returning from an ankle injury.

"At this moment in time, I can take the positives from managing that much," Hanyu told Kyodo News.

Tomonobu Sakurai, a professor of exercise physiology at Toin University of Yokohama, analysed that jump and believes that Hanyu is close to achieving it. 

"His axis is firmly in place," Sakurai said. 

"I believe we can say that he has almost made the jump."

COVID-19 restrictions have meant that Hanyu has been unable to travel to Canada to join coach Brian Orser, a double Olympic silver medallist, in the lead-up to Beijing 2022.

Hanyu did some strength training last season but found that the extra muscle added made landings unstable.

Yuzuru Hanyu came close to achieving the quad Axel at the Japanese National Championships in November © Getty Images
Yuzuru Hanyu came close to achieving the quad Axel at the Japanese National Championships in November © Getty Images

This season, he reportedly dropped three kilograms in weight to stabilise his rotational axis.

"I had confidence in my Axels, I hadn’t realised the quad Axel would be that tough," Hanyu admitted.

Takeshi Honda, who finished fourth at Salt Lake City 2002, was one of the earliest to attempt the quad.

"If he can transfer his weight just a little bit better, he'll get more rotation," Honda told Kyodo News.

"The timing of the rotation has to be precise down to a tiny fraction of a second." 

Triple world Champion Nathan Chen from the United States is expected to be Hanyu's main obstacle for gold.

Both men won their National Championship, but Chen's scores as he won a sixth straight US title were slightly higher.

"My desire to nail the quad Axel underlines my aspiration for the Beijing Olympics," Hanyu insisted.

Figure skating competition at the Winter Olympics starts on Friday (February 4) with the team event, while the men's singles begins next Tuesday (February 8).