At the end of Yuzuru Hanyu’s free skate, the now customary Pooh Bears rained down upon the ice. He had done it.
An incredible comeback was complete. Hanyu had retained his men’s single Olympic title.
Just two months ago, the Japanese superstar was on crutches and seemingly out of contention.
But after a remarkable recovery, Hanyu had “the best day of my skating life” at PyeongChang 2018.
It was in practice for the NHK Trophy last November that Hanyu’s preparations were suddenly thrown into disarray.
The 23-year old fell while attempting a quad Lutz. Ligament damage in his right ankle was diagnosed.
Defending the Olympic title he won at Sochi 2014 looked a long way off.
Hanyu went back to twice silver medallist Brian Orser’s training base in Toronto, but his recuperation was painful and slow.
Whilst his competitors were perfecting their routines, Hanyu could not even get on the ice.
Weeks went by without skating. Initially, all he could do was visualisation exercises.
“I had a little bit of uncertainly” confessed Hanyu prior to his competition in PyeongChang.
It was only mere days before arriving in South Korea that he returned to full training.
A place in history
A near-flawless skate in Friday’s short program, just shy of his world record score, put Hanyu within sight of becoming the first man since Dick Button in 1952 to retain the title.
The Sendai native fell during the free skate, but he did enough to stay in front with Button quick to congratulate him.
Bravo Hanyu, Records are made to be tie
— Dick Button (@PushDicksButton) February 17, 2018
When asked whether he had been worried about his return from injury, Hanru said, “I just thought, ‘Skate’. Just think about skating all day, all week, every day. And I trusted.”
His faith in his own ability was more than justified.
Hanyu now stands as one of the greatest figure skaters of all time. He also achieved another note in the Olympic record books along the way.
His gold in PyeongChang makes him the 1,000th medal event winner in the history of the Winter Games.
Hanyu’s team-mate Shoma Uno took silver with double world champion Javier Fernandez securing bronze for Spain’s first ever figure skating medal.
Chen misses medals despite six quads
American Nathan Chen became the first skater to land six quad jumps as he went for broke lying in 17th after his disappointing short program.
Despite putting his hands down on one of them, the 18-year-old ‘Quad King’ achieved the best score in the free skate which lifted him up to fifth overall.