After surviving a huge earthquake in Japan in 2011, Yuzuru Hanyu became much more than just a sporting star. He was a beacon of hope for his ravaged homeland. Here are five facts about the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 figure skating champion.
In March 2011, Hanyu endured the defining experience of his life and career. The 2010 junior champion was training at his home rink in Sendai when the building began to shake and the ice started to shatter. The 16-year-old fled with his skates in his hands. More than 15,000 were killed in the disaster. Hanyu said: “I often feel that things you take for granted are not always guaranteed. You are here, you still have a home, and your family is there for you; you can’t take them for granted. Because I almost lost a lot of things, I came to feel this way. The disaster totally changed my values.”
Not many athletes write an autobiography at the age of 17, but then Hanyu is not an ordinary athlete. The Japanese had just claimed bronze at the World Championships in Nice (his great rival Patrick Chan took gold) and donated all the proceeds from ‘Blue Flame’ to his home city following the earthquake.
A Japanese first
At Sochi 2014 Hanyu became the first male Japanese figure skater to claim Olympic gold. He set a world record score of 101.45 in the short programme and, despite falling twice in the free, held on to beat Chan. Only one other Japanese skater, Skizuka Arakawa in 2006, had ever won Olympic figure skating gold. Hanyu was his country’s only gold medallist of Sochi 2014.He said: “This is history, it is a gift for my country.” When he returned home, 96,000 turned out for a victory parade in Sendai.
Age is no barrier
At 19, the Japanese was the second youngest male figure skating champion in the history of the Winter Games. The youngest remains American Dick Button, who was 18 when he won the title in St Moritz in 1948.
— Dick Button (@PushDicksButton) March 31, 2014
Hanyu became the first skater ever to land a clean quadruple loop in an ISU competition at the Autumn Classic International in Montreal in October 2016. After setting the mark in his short programme, Hanyu was modest about what he had achieved. “You might be surprised, but it doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “I can execute the loop better.”
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) October 31, 2017