Japanese icon Yuzuru Hanyu stops competition

Japanese figure skating icon Yuzuru Hanyu announced on Tuesday that he will retire from competition, but he will continue his bid to land the elusive quadruple axis as a professional exhibition skater.

After missing out on Olympic gold for the third time in a row at the Beijing Games in February, the 27-year-old world champion from 2014 and 2017 left it unclear whether he would ever compete on the ice again.

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu smiles during a press conference in Tokyo on July 19, 2022. The 27-year-old announced that he will retire from competition. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

“I will no longer be comparable to other competitors,” he said at a press conference in Tokyo. “But I will continue to fight against my weaknesses and my former self.”

“In terms of results, I achieved everything I could achieve. I didn’t want to be evaluated anymore.”

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He narrowly missed becoming the first athlete to land the quad axis in competition during his free skate in Beijing, falling while attempting the four-and-a-half rotation jump.

Composite photo taken on February 10, 2022, shows Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan attempting a quadruple axis during the men’s figure skating at the Beijing Winter Olympics at the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Hanyu, also the winner of four consecutive 2013 Grand Prix finals and a six-time national champion, withdrew from the world championships in March after failing to recover from the ankle sprain he sustained in Beijing.

“I’ve continued chasing the quad-axel all the way to Beijing, but I feel like I can’t necessarily do it in competitions,” said Hanyu. “I really feel like it gives more people a chance to see it (in person).”

“I made the decision (to stop competing) after Beijing… I thought about a lot of things and felt that I no longer had to be on the same podium, while also feeling more determined to get better and stronger. “

Born in Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture in the Tohoku region of northeastern Japan, Hanyu started the sport at the age of 4 and inspired victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the area with his win at the 2014 Sochi Games.

He was the first male figure skater not from Europe or the United States to win the Olympic competition.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan smiles at the award ceremony after winning the gold medal in men’s figure skating at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on February 15, 2014. Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic figure skating gold. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

He made a historic defense of his Olympic gold at the 2018 Pyeongchang Gamesbecoming the first to achieve the feat in the sport in 66 years, since American Dick Button.

Hanyu became the youngest recipient of the People’s Honor Award from the Japanese government at the age of 23 that year.

Hanyu revealed he could have stopped competing after the Olympic victory in February 2018, when he triumphed on his return from a right ankle ligament injury sustained just three months earlier.

Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu practices his free skate during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, on Feb. 17, 2018. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

But he kept fighting, as he had not yet won the Four Continents Championships, which he won in 2020 to capture all the major titles in the sport.

“I have a sense of determination and hope,” Hanyu said in his new chapter, although he admitted that he finds it “very difficult” to mentally draw a line between a competitor and a skater.

“Plans are in the works, but I don’t like to give you details… I think there are more ways to display figure skating that are appropriate for the times,” he said. “I hope the fans who never came will want to come.”

“I will cherish the sporting value of figure skating as a professional athlete while pursuing my ideals. I don’t feel lonely.”

Defending World and Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu falls for the NHK Trophy during practice in Osaka on Nov. 9, 2017, with the spill so bad that he requires treatment. Seeking his third straight NHK title over the weekend, Hanyu appeared to have injured his right ankle when he fell while attempting a quadruple lutz. (kyodo)

He finished fourth at the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.

After an unsuccessful bid for three turf in Beijing, Hanyu said he had “nothing left to give” and needed time to think about his future.

“It doesn’t matter which field it will be on,” he said of his next step after the Olympic gala. “It could be an ice show or a competition.”

Hanyu returned to the ice for the four-stop “Fantasy on Ice” show that took place in Japan in May and June.

Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu performs in the Fantasy on Ice show at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, near Tokyo, on May 27, 2022. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Hanyu, who started skating at the age of 4, survived the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the area and became a local hero when he won his first Olympic gold in Sochi in 2014 as a teenager.

Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu is pictured on an ice rink in November 2000 at the age of five. (Photo courtesy of Hanyu’s family) (Kyodo)

Two-time Olympic gold medalist figure skating Yuzuru Hanyu (L) laughs with former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he receives the People’s Honor Award at a ceremony held at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo on July 2, 2018. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Photo taken in Sendai on July 19, 2022, shows a copy of an extra edition of a local newspaper reporting that Yuzuru Hanyu, 27-year-old Winter Olympic gold medalist, has decided to retire from the competitive figure of speed skating. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

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