Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu – considered to be one of the greatest male figure skaters of all time – has announced his retirement. Hanyu, 27, became the first man in 66 years to win back-to-back singles titles at the Olympics – at Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018. Struggling with injuries, he missed out on making it three in a row in Beijing, finishing fourth at the 2022 Games.
“I’ll no longer be compared with other skaters as a competitor,” said Hanyu. The skater, known as the “Ice Prince”, is determined to carry on in his quest to land the quadruple axel in front of an audience, though. In Beijing, he promised to be the first to complete it in competition – but after failing to do so, has now promised to pursue his goal in exhibitions instead.
An emotional Hanyu told a packed news conference: “What I want is to remain someone who continues to work hard toward dreams and goals. “Ice shows tend to be considered something elegant and fun, but I want to remain more of an athlete… I want people to see me as I continue to fight.” Hanyu’s elegant skating style won over the fans as well as the judges.
Despite rarely giving interviews and having no presence on social media, he amassed an army of dedicated followers, known as “Fanyu”, who showered the ice with Winnie the Pooh toys after his routines. As his fame grew, so did Hanyu’s haul of medals, as he also won men’s singles titles at the world championships in 2014 and 2017. His status as a national icon in Japan was underlined when, in 2018, he became the youngest recipient of his country’s prestigious People’s Honour Award. In recent years, Hanyu has been dogged by ankle ligament problems, which have curtailed his ability to compete on the world’s biggest stage. He tumbled twice attempting the quadruple axel in Beijing and said afterwards “it feels like everything has gone wrong this time around”.