Yuzuru Hanyu, the two-time Olympic champion, stated on Tuesday that he would not take part in competitions, and the panorama of the sport of determine skating won’t ever be the similar.
To get an concept of how a lot he has meant to his sport for the previous dozen years, contemplate a few of the followers who watched him compete at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
In one nook of the enviornment, three generations of Hanyu followers — a teenage boy, his middle-aged mom and his gray-haired grandmother — sat on the fringe of their seats, straining for a glimpse of him. They wore fuzzy Winnie the Pooh hats that made them look as if they’d strapped large stuffed Pooh bears to their heads, and all of them clutched Pooh bears they deliberate to throw on the ice after his efficiency.
Dotting the stands have been a whole bunch of followers identical to these three, all sporting Pooh gear and on a paparazzi-like mission to comply with Hanyu’s each transfer. In skating circles, these followers are known as Fan-yus, and the bears they throw onto the ice are Yuzu-Poohs, cute and snappy proof that the cult of Yuzuru Hanyu took figure-skating fandom to a degree by no means seen earlier than.
There’s a motive followers have been obsessive about Hanyu, 27, and started sporting Pooh-themed gear after they first noticed him with a Pooh-themed tissue field at the rink in 2010, the 12 months he grew to become junior world champion and began his march to the high of the sport.
With his fortunate Pooh bear perched someplace in the rink, Hanyu carried out with a uncommon mixture of grace and energy, skating throughout the ice as easily as a gently flowing river earlier than rocketing into technically tough jumps that made his rivals gasp in admiration.
He was equal elements Evgeni Plushenko (recognized for his leaping) and Johnny Weir (a grasp of artistry). Emulating two of his skating heroes made Hanyu arguably the most well-rounded skater in the sport’s historical past. His purpose was to enchantment to all folks, not simply die-hard skating followers or followers from his house nation of Japan, and he succeeded.
Hanyu pushed the sport ahead with strikes and accomplishments that challenged conference. When he received the gold medal in 2014 at the Sochi Olympics, he grew to become the first Asian man to win an Olympic gold medal in determine skating and, at 19, was the youngest winner since the American Dick Button received gold in 1948. In Japan, he grew to become certainly one of the most well-known athletes and has remained a famous person and cultural icon there.
Four years later, at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, when Hanyu received his second Olympic gold medal, he grew to become the first male skater to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 66 years, after Button’s second Olympic win in 1952. Though the American Nathan Chen was speculated to be Hanyu’s hardest rival at these Olympics, that head-to-head battle disappeared after Chen stumbled in the quick program. Hanyu was the clear winner, and Chen continues to acknowledge that.
“It’s been the honor of a lifetime to have been able to stand on the same ice as Yuzuru Hanyu,” Chen stated Tuesday on social media. “Thank you for everything you have done for the sport, and everything you will undoubtedly continue to do for it.”
Hanyu’s résumé is stellar, together with breaking world report after world report for factors, successful seven medals at the world championships and turning into the first man to land a quadruple loop in competitors. But his followers gravitated to him for his intangibles, too. He didn’t simply skate to win. He skated as a result of he cherished it, and his ardour for the sport got here by means of.
On Tuesday, wanting calm and professing that he was not unhappy in any respect, Hanyu introduced at a information convention that he would not compete as a result of he doesn’t have to “seek those kinds of evaluations.” He proved that at the 2022 Beijing Games.
After rotating solely as soon as in his first quadruple soar in his quick program at that Olympics, Hanyu was in eighth place. While he might have performed it secure in the free skate to attempt to win a medal, he did the reverse by trying to turn into the first individual to land a quadruple axel in competitors. He got here near touchdown that axel however didn’t — and the followers gasped in unison when he fell. He completed fourth total and, for the first time in three Olympics, left empty-handed.
Hanyu’s aggressive profession is over, however don’t assume that he’s retiring from the sport. In his information convention on Tuesday, he was cautious to not use the phrase retirement, explaining that he merely doesn’t like the sound of it. He promised to maintain skating and striving to good new expertise.
“I want to keep challenging,” he stated. “I want to land the quadruple axel in front of everybody.”
And if he does land that elusive soar, lastly, there’s an excellent probability that a military of followers might be poised to witness it.
To have a good time, they are going to rain Pooh bears onto the ice, as they all the time have. And simply as they did when he received his Olympic medals, these bears will flip the rink’s glassy white floor right into a area of fuzzy gold Yuzu-Poohs to honor certainly one of the finest skaters ever.