Japanese skater Hanyu not done after Olympic double
PYEONGCHANG – Agence France-Presse
Japan’s “Ice Prince” Yuzuru Hanyu has promised there’s plenty more to come after he became the first man to capture back-to-back Olympic figure skating gold medals in 66 years.
The 23-year-old broke the pain barrier to strike gold in Pyeongchang after a brave free skate on Feb. 17 that Hanyu revealed had required painkilling shots to help him land jumps on his crocked ankle.
“I’ve achieved my dream but I’ve got no plans to quit skating,” Hanyu told a news conference on Feb. 18.
“Honestly, I feel refreshed, I feel satisfied - I feel like I’ve done what I came here to do. It was a tough assignment but if it had all been plain sailing maybe I wouldn’t have been able to win gold.”
Despite his slender frame and child-like fixation with Winnie the Pooh, Hanyu is a tough cookie, and one who is perhaps lucky to be alive.
As a teenager he watched in horror as a massive 2011 earthquake caused the ice to crack beneath his skates as he practiced in his hometown of Sendai in northern Japan.
Hanyu has already set his sights on his next goal - the quadruple axel, a jump so technically difficult, as it require four and a half mid-air rotations, that no skater has yet managed to execute it.
“I couldn’t nail my jumps without painkillers and there were moments I thought about quitting,” he said of his sore ankle.
“The injury was my biggest enemy. But I love skating and once I get my ankle right again I have just one thing left to motivate me - the quadruple axel.”
Hanyu’s gutsy free skate, which followed a flawless short programme a day earlier, sparked “Yuzu-mania” in the crowd as a shower of stuffed Pooh bears rained onto the ice. Even Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe got a little carried away as Hanyu swept to gold.
The prime minister called Hanyu to congratulate him and in a phone call made public by the Japanese government admitted he had got so excited watching on television that he “almost squashed the tangerine I was holding to a pulp.”
Meanwhile, Hanyu’s successful defense of the title he won in Sochi four years ago broke the internet with millions of tweets posted within just an hour of his emotional victory.
An expectant Japan, not to mention Hanyu’s legions of fans around the world, will now wonder whether their hero will dare to go for an Olympic hat-trick at the 2022 Beijing Games.
Hanyu did raise eyebrows after playfully pinching the cheek of countryman and silver medalist Shoma Uno while on the medals podium.
“Rather than a little brother he’s more like a puppy,” he said of his 20-year-old team mate.
“He’s not my pet, but he is really cute.”