Japan's figure skating king Yuzuru Hanyu kept it short Monday as he returned to the ice to prepare for the defence of his Olympic title in Pyeongchang after a three-month injury layoff

Pyeongchang (South Korea) (AFP) - Blink and you would’ve missed him.

Japan’s figure skating king Yuzuru Hanyu kept it short Monday as he returned to the ice to prepare for the defence of his Olympic title in Pyeongchang after a three-month injury layoff.

The 23-year-old kept around 200 reporters waiting before entering the ice in all black, nailing a triple axel and then deciding he’d had enough.

Less than 15 minutes later, he left the building, bowing as he said to journalists: “Thank you, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Hanyu, who damaged ankle ligaments during practice last November and has been working his way back to fitness in secrecy, looked relaxed as he limbered up for the men’s competition later this week.

However, he took an embarrassing spill as he passed the media mixed zone without taking questions, slipping to the floor in a scary moment before climbing to his feet with a wry smile.

Before exiting the ice, Hanyu could be seen nodding and pumping his fists in apparent satisfaction at the reaction from his troubled right ankle in a positive sign for his legion of fans.

As Hanyu left the world’s media dangling, Twitter went into meltdown at the skater’s return, while Japanese television featured his return in the top news items.

Many Twitter users noticed Hanyu was missing his favourite Winnie the Pooh tissue-box cover because of Olympic branding restrictions and instead carried one with strawberry shortcake design, such is the attention to detail of his hardcore fans.

Thousands of those supporters travel the world to support their beloved “Yuzu”, wearing Winnie the Pooh ears and showering the ice with flowers and stuffed animals.

Hanyu is expected to train for longer early on Tuesday, after which he is scheduled to hold a news conference.

Hanyu, who arrived in South Korea on Sunday sporting a new-look floppy fringe, is bidding to become the first man to win back-to-back Olympic figure skating titles since American Dick Button in 1948 and 1952.

However, his double hopes suffered a major blow when he crash-landed a quadruple lutz in training last November.

Widely regarded as the best skater of all-time, a fit Hanyu would likely be a hot favourite to win gold.

Among those looking to take advantage of any weakness from the Japanese will be American Nathan Chen, Spain’s Javier Fernandez and fellow Japanese Shoma Uno – runner-up to Hanyu at the 2017 world championships.

China’s Jin Boyang could also prove a threat once the competition gets under way Friday.