"Ice Prince" Hanyu ends legendary career and starts new journey

(Xinhua) 10:00, July 20, 2022

BEIJING, July 19 (Xinhua) -- With a hydro blade move, Yuzuru Hanyu swung around in circles, getting lower and lower to the ice. He leaned forward and was so close to the ice, at last he kissed it.

It was a breathtaking moment at the Exhibition Gala of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics on February. About five months later, the legendary figure skater announced on Tuesday afternoon that he is about to step away from competitive skating but will continue pursuing his dream as a professional in ice shows.

"Thank you all for supporting me. Because of your support, figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu can make his achievements. I will no longer compete with other skaters in competitive figure skating, but will continue to work hard as a professional figure skater," said the 27-year-old at a news conference in Tokyo.

The two-time Olympic champion was wearing a dark suit, and his eyes dimmed with tears after he announced the decision.

"After the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, I always thought it was time to turn to professional skating," said Hanyu who made the decision after the Beijing Olympics.

"I thought about it a lot when my right foot hurt so much that I couldn't skate, and I thought maybe competing in the arena wasn't necessary anymore. But I'm still determined to skate better and get stronger," said the figure skating sensation, who battled injury to finish fourth at Beijing 2022.

"I don't like the word 'retire'. For me it is not an ending, but a beginning," said Hanyu, also a two-time world champion. "As a pro skater I want to keep on fighting and go to an even higher stage."

Hanyu said he will continue his bid to land the elusive quadruple axel.

"I will keep challenging the quad axel," he said. "I made an attempt at the Beijing Olympics and I did my best. I realized something I can improve in the recent ice show, and I am very excited. I think I can be better."

The figure skating icon completed a four-stop ice show tour through Japan last month - Fantasy on Ice - his first public appearance since Beijing 2022.

Hanyu's decision was not surprising as he said that he had "nothing more to give" and that he needed time to think about his future after the Gala in Beijing Olympics.

But it still made media and Hanyu's fans wait so hard as Hanyu's management company announced the press conference on Monday without telling any details.

China's Twitter-like social platform Weibo was buzzing with speculations and comments on Hanyu, as topics with the hashtag #YuzuruHanyuretirement once ranked first of the page and generated millions views by Tuesday morning.

The Japanese super star, probably the greatest male skater of all time, has little left to prove at competitive figure skating. He has broken world figure skating records a record 19 times and has been the world's most famous skater for almost a decade and the earned name of "Ice Prince" with a perfect combination of skill, strength and elegance.

Born in 1994, Hanyu is a figure skater from Sendai, Japan. He started to skate at the age of four after watching his older sister does so. He idolised legendary Russian Evgeni Plushenko and American Jonny Weir, taking inspiration after watching the former perform at the 2002 Winter Games on television.

He started national competition in 2004 as a novice skater and won gold in group B, a lower-ranking group. At the age of 13, he won a bronze at the Japan Junior Figure Skating Championship.

Hanyu made his international debut in 2008 as he took part in the ISU Junior Grand Prix and finished fifth. He won two stops of the Junior GP in the following year and won the Junior GP Final of the season. In 2010, Hanyu claimed the title of the World Junior Championships. He later entered senior competitions, landing his first quadruple toe loop in his debut program and winning a sliver at the 2011 Four Continents Championship, which was his first year as a senior skater.

Also in 2011, Hanyu's home and ice rink were damaged during the earthquake and tsunami catastrophe on March 11 and he trained in Yokohama before the ice rink re-opened four months later. He moved to Canada for training in spring 2012.

The 2014 Sochi Games was Hanyu's first Olympic Games. The 19-year-old not only broke a world record as the first skater to score over 100 points at the men's short program but also won his first Olympic gold medal. He is the first Japanese male skater to win an Olympic gold.

He made a historic defense of his Olympic title at Pyeongchang 2018, becoming the first man since 1948 and 1952 Olympic champion Dick Button of United States won back-to-back Winter Olympic gold medals.

Hanyu's pursuit to excellence has never stopped. He is also a four-time Grand Prix Final winner, the 2020 Four Continents champion and a six-time national champion. He became the first skater to achieve a "Grand Slam," which can only be achieved after a competitor has won every major junior and senior competition at least once.

After winning all possible titles and awards, Hanyu's goal was no longer only winning the competition. He wanted to successfully land a quadruple axel in competition, especially at the Olympic Games. No skater had ever landed the jump in competitions, which requires him to spin four-and-a-half times in mid-air before landing on one foot.

At Beijing 2022, Hanyu under-rotated his short program-opening quad salchow due to a hole on the rink and only ranked eighth. As a man always prioritizes ambition over success, instead of playing a safe card to secure a medal, Hanyu performed the quad axel in the opening jump in the free skate but fell on the ice, which cost him a podium finish. The under-rotated jump came a day after he sprained his ankle during practice. His attempt, however, was the first recorded quad axel at a major international tournament.

Hanyu was rather proud of his quad axel attempt as "it was the best quad axel I have done so far."

"I kept saying that I wanted to land the quad axel. The reason for that is because the nine-year-old me that still lives inside me kept telling me 'you have to jump the quad axel' so that was the reason why I kept practising," said Hanyu.

He could have withdrawn from the Gala for his injury but insisted on giving all he had despite taking six doses of painkillers ahead of his emotional exhibition. His persistence won him people's heart in China but the injury kept him out of March's world championships in Montpellier, France.

The emotional kiss at the Exhibition Gala became a goodbye kiss for the ice at the Olympic Games, or at any competition.

"To be Yuzuru Hanyu sometimes is a burden," Hanyu said at the end of the press conference. "I always want everything to be perfect, and I always want to be better. It gives me a lot of pressure. I am very grateful for all the support, and I will do my best in the future." 

(Web editor: Wu Chaolan, Hongyu)


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