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Throwback: Japan’s Hanyu dedicates skating gold to devastated hometown

OSAKA, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 29:  Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan competes in the Men Free Skating during day two of ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating 2014/2015 NHK Trophy at the Namihaya Dome on November 29, 2014 in Osaka, Japan.  (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

 

Becoming a beacon

 

February 14, 2014

In many ways it was a miracle that Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu was even competing at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

Three years earlier, he had been training at his local ice rink in Sendai when a devastating earthquake struck.

“When I close my eyes I remember a lot of things,” he later said. “The feeling of the ice shaking, the ground being pushed up, my legs shaking.”

Hanyu had to rush out still wearing his skates as the rink collapsed behind him. More than 15,000 people were killed by the quake and 6,000 seriously injured.

“I am here because of all the people in Japan who helped me, all the people around the world who supported me. Hopefully I am able to give something good back, to return the favour if you will.”

Little wonder that the 19-year-old dedicated his very presence at the Olympic Games to the people of his hometown.

“I am here because of all the people in Japan who helped me, all the people around the world who supported me,” he said. “Hopefully I am able to give something good back, to return the favour if you will.”

 

The routine

Hanyu started the competition well, leading by four points following the short programme. There were brilliant moments in his free programme, too, which he performed to the music of Romeo and Juliet. But there were some calamitous ones as well.

He fell on his opening quadruple salchow and twice touched the ice with both hands, even though he made amends by landing a fantastic quadruple toe loop.

At the end he stayed crouched with his head bowed, seemingly thinking his chances of glory had disappeared. Next up was Canada’s Patrick Chan, the triple world champion. All he had to do was put in a solid performance and gold would be his, surely.

However, he twice touched the ice and had shaky landings, falling even further behind Hanyu.

In the end, Hanyu won the competition by five points, becoming the first male Japanese figure skater to claim Olympic gold and the second youngest male winner of all time.


Perhaps it was fate.

 

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