After Yuzuru Hanyu announced on Tuesday that he will no longer compete in figure skating, the sport’s landscape will forever be altered.
Fans who seen him participate at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics can provide a sense of how much he has contributed to his sport over the last 12 years.
It was a family affair in one area of the stadium, with three generations of Hanyu supporters sitting on the edge of their seats, hoping to get a sight of him. Pooh Bears were attached to their heads with fluffy Winnie the Pony caps, and they all had bears in their hands to toss on the ice following his performance.
Dotting the stands were hordes of admirers dressed in Pooh garb, intent on following Hanyu about like a swarm of photographers. The bears they toss on the ice are called Yuzu-Poohs, which are charming and snappy proof that the cult of Yuzuru Hanyu elevated figure skating fandom to a new level.
When they first saw Hanyu, 27, with a Pooh-themed tissue box at the rink in 2010, the year he won the junior world championship and began his rise to the top of the sport, fans got enamoured with him and began wearing Pooh-themed stuff.
Hanyu skated with a remarkable blend of elegance and force as he slid across the ice like a river before launching into technically challenging leaps that had the rest of the field gasping in adoration.
He reminded me of a cross between Evgeni Plushenko and Johnny Weir (a master of artistry). Hanyu was undoubtedly the most well-rounded skater in the history of the sport since he emulated two of his idols. He aimed to appeal to a wide audience, not simply those who were devoted to skating or those from his own Japan, and he did it.
Challenges to the status quo by Hanyu pushed the sport ahead. As the first Asian man to win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating and the youngest champion since the American Dick Button won gold in 1948, he made history with his 2014 Sochi Olympic gold medal. During his time in Japan, he rose to prominence as one of the country’s most well-known athletes and has remained so ever since.
For the first time in 66 years, Hanyu became the first male skater to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals as he won his second gold medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It was expected that Nathan Chen would be Hanyu’s biggest competition in those Olympics, but Chen faltered in the short programme, ending their head-to-head duel. Chen acknowledges that Hanyu was the obvious victor.
In a post on social media on Tuesday, Chen said, “It’s been an honour of a lifetime to step on the ice with Yuzuru Hanyu.” “Thank you for all you’ve done for the sport, and for what you’re sure to accomplish in the future.”
Hanyu has a tremendous resume, which includes setting world records for points, earning seven gold at the world championships, and being the first man to perform a quadruple loop in competition. Intangibles were also a big draw for his admirers. Instead of effortlessly skating to victory, he put in the work to get there. The fact that he skated for the sheer joy of it was evident, as was his dedication to the sport.
“I don’t need to seek such types of assessments,” Hanyu said on Tuesday at a press conference, appearing calm and claiming that he was not depressed at all. At the Beijing Olympics in 2022, he proved it.
Hanyu finished seventh in the short programme at the 2008 Olympics after barely spinning once on his first quadruple leap. To earn a medal in free skating, he might have played it safe and attempted to become the first person to do a quadruple axel. Fans gasped in unison as he missed nailing the axel after coming so near. He came in fourth place overall and went home without a medal for the first time in three Olympics.
Don’t assume that Hanyu has given up on the sport just because he’s stopped competing. On Tuesday, he avoided the term “retirement” during a press conference, citing the fact that he doesn’t like the sound of it. He vowed to keep skating and working to improve his abilities, and he did just that.
He said, “I want to keep challenging.” For me, landing the quadruple axel in front of everyone is my goal.
In addition, there’s a considerable probability that an enthusiastic crowd will be on hand to witness his successful landing of the rare leap.
They always shower Pooh bears on the ice to commemorate the occasion. Once again the bears will convert the rink into a gold Yuzu-Pooh field to celebrate one of skating’s greatest legends like they did in the Sochi Olympics.