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The figure skating legend has ended months of speculation over whether he would contest the upcoming ISU Grand Prix season and begin a quest for a potential fourth Winter Games berth.
Yuzuru Hanyu confirms end to 12-year senior career
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu announced his retirement on Tuesday, bringing to an end a 12-year senior career that saw him gain worldwide acclaim as the greatest male figure skater in history.
With programs that paired gravity-defying jumps with graceful athleticism, intricate costuming and emotional interpretations of Japanese culture, Hanyu was a driving force behind the sport’s boom in popularity as he inspired his peers and juniors to push the envelope in their own performances.
At a news conference in Tokyo, the 27-year-old revealed his decision to no longer compete, but continue to skate in exhibitions, ending months of speculation over whether he would contest the upcoming ISU Grand Prix season and begin a quest for a potential fourth Winter Games berth, despite a series of injuries that have hampered his results in recent years.
“I’m blessed to have had so many people support and recognize me,” Hanyu said. “Now instead of only at competitions, I hope there will be more opportunities to show off my skating, and I’m looking forward to creating those opportunities.”
In all, Hanyu set or broke a total of 19 world records, including seven after the current scoring system debuted in the 2018-19 season, and achieved a career “Super Slam” by winning at the 2020 Four Continents Championships in Seoul. Though he has since lost his world records under the new system to Chen, Hanyu remains Japan’s top skater, under current and historical scoring systems, in all three competition segments.
“He’s one of those figures in sports that just transcends being an athlete; there’s a combination of athleticism, drive and charisma to him that made people fall in love with not just his skating but also him as a person,” figure skating writer Jackie Wong told The Japan Times. “And for me, his whole persona grew exponentially every single time he put down another feat and another record in the sport."
Hanyu’s departure from competitive figure skating will create a power vacuum the likes of which the sport has never before experienced, at a time when Chen — the current world No. 1 — is taking time away from the rink to focus on his studies at Yale University, where he is expected to graduate in 2024.
Meanwhile, 19-year-old Kagiyama is beginning to emerge as the leader of a new generation of Japanese talent that will be expected to contend for a gold medal at the 2026 Winter Games in Milan-Cortina as Hanyu continues to skate down his own path.
“The figure skating I’ve enjoyed most was the kind I watched when I aspired to be a skater,” Hanyu said. “Whether or not I’ve achieved that, I can’t make that evaluation. But that’s the kind of performance I want to create.
“The rules have been changing a little every year, and they may continue to change, but I want to continue chasing my ideal.”
While Hanyu will no longer pursue a successful quad axel in competition, it may not be long before someone manages the feat, which was once thought impossible. Footage of 17-year-old Ilia Malinin landing the jump in practice went viral in May, and the American — whose Instagram handle is “quadg0d” — landed the jump while warming up in front of Japanese fans before a July 1 ice show in Yokohama.
“(Hanyu’s) retirement really turns the page and opens up a new chapter in men’s skating, especially in Japan,” Wong said. “But his retirement will also amplify his influence on the current and next generation of skaters; a lot of them grew up idolizing Hanyu.
“His style and presence will be felt for decades to come.”
tangerine dreams 🍊
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My first time seeing him skate was during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and I was awestruck! It's probably going to feel like a breath of fresh air to not participate in the sport on a competitive level after so many years... I wish him all the best!