Yuzuru Hanyu flew across the ice like an anime hero — leaping, whirling, capturing gold, then bowing so deeply his boyish bangs almost brushed the top of his skates.
He was a dashing Romeo, winning the hearts of screaming, flag-waving, teddy bear-tossing groupies in the Iceberg Skating Palace stands, not to mention supporters back in his hometown of Sendai and throughout Japan, where he will create another surge of figure-skating mania.
Hanyu became the biggest star of the week-old Sochi Olympics by winning one of its glamour events with a glam long program Friday night […]
“I’m here by myself, only one gold medalist, but spiritually I am not by myself,” he said.
“I’m here thanks to the people of Japan who supported me. This is a return of the favor, if you will. I was able to give something back.”
Something memorable, something original. As Plushenko bid farewell, the sport bowed to a worthy successor.
Unrealistic optimism is what keeps me alive.
"What Hanyu’s victory lacked in artistry was made up for in symbolism.
The 19-year-old is a highly intelligent and thoughtful young man, who is popular among fans, the media and other skaters.
The story of the Sendai native running out of his home rink with his skates still on when the March 11 disaster hit in 2011 is well-known, but what may not be is the sensitive nature of the new gold medalist.
“It’s a very difficult subject for me to talk about,” Hanyu said, when asked about the devastating earthquake and tsunami at the press conference after his victory. “I think my service to all those who were affected by the earthquake starts today, now that I’m an Olympic champion.”
At the pinnacle of his young career, Hanyu then revealed how deeply the tragedy had affected him.
“I lost my skating rink because of the earthquake and I was literally struggling to live at that time, let alone try to keep skating,” he stated. “I really thought about quitting skating then.”
Though the media is always quick to grab onto a story line, whether it is real or imagined, Hanyu recognized that he is and will continue to be an inspiration to many in Tohoku and throughout Japan.
“I had the support of so many people to get here, and I want to pay them back somehow,” he commented. “I was on top of the podium carrying the hopes of thousands, millions, and I feel great about that.”
While skaters in other countries often quickly retire and cash in after winning the Olympic gold, Hanyu knows that he has a much deeper obligation going forward […] Hanyu is a throwback to a different era. A time when being honest, wholesome and ambitious were admirable qualities.”