Japan’s two-time Olympic figure skating champion Yuzuru Hanyu retired from competition aged 27 on Tuesday, after struggling with injuries at this year’s Beijing Games. The “Ice Prince” was dethroned as Olympic champion in February by US star Nathan Chen, finishing a disappointing fourth place in Beijing.
Wearing a dark suit and bowing deeply as he took to the stage, the skating sensation told a packed press conference in Tokyo that he was finished as a competitive athlete. “I’ll no longer be compared with other skaters as a competitor,” Hanyu said, saying he will concentrate on skating in exhibition shows for his adoring fans. “I have no sadness. I want to continue to do my best.” With his elegant skating style and delicate, boyish looks, Hanyu is an icon for his worldwide legion of “Fanyu” supporters, who shower the ice with Winnie the Pooh toys after his routines.
He won his first Olympic singles title at the 2014 Sochi Games and then became the first man in 66 years to defend his crown four years later in Pyeongchang.
He also won the world championships in 2014 and 2017 but he has been dogged by injury in recent years, including an ankle ligament problem that he had to overcome to win his second Olympic gold. The same ankle forced him to miss the 2021 Grand Prix season, but he made a successful return at last year’s Japanese national championships.
It was there that he attempted to become the first skater to land a quadruple axel jump, which was expected to be his secret weapon at the Beijing Games.
But instead, he tumbled twice and said: “It feels like everything has gone wrong this time around.”
Hanyu is a national hero in Japan, where he became the youngest recipient of his country’s prestigious People’s Honour Award in 2018, and his every move is headline news.But he still remains something of an enigma despite the huge attention, rarely granting interviews and having no social media presence.His fans spend fortunes watching him compete and even carve sculptures of the rake-thin star, who is known as “Yuzu” to his devotees.
Hanyu began skating as a child in his native Sendai, in Japan’s northeast. When the massive earthquake and tsunami hit the region in 2011, he was practising on the ice and was forced to flee the rink on his skates.