yuzuru hanyu

‘Ice Prince’ Yuzuru Hanyu’s Retirement Mourned by Chinese Fans

A beloved athlete in China, the Japanese figure skater’s retirement announcement topped the trending list on Weibo

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Beatrice Tamagno Headshot
1:25 PM HKT, Wed July 20, 2022 1 mins read

On Tuesday, Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu announced his retirement from professional competition in a press conference, putting an end to his 12-year-long career. The news made a splash on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo, with many users mourning the athlete’s retirement.

During the press conference, ‘Ice Prince’ Hanyu apologized profusely to his fans (nicknamed — for obvious reasons — Fanyu), explaining that his current physical condition prevents him from attaining the technical and artistic goals he sets for himself during his performances.

The two-time world champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist suffered various injuries in the past few years that have impacted his performances. During the 2022 Beijing Olympics, Hanyu attempted (but failed to land) a quadruple axel move despite a recent injury during practice.

When rumors of Hanyu’s retirement started circulating on Tuesday morning, a related hashtag went viral on Weibo, gaining more than 200 million views. The press conference was livestreamed on Weibo with a real-time interpreter and was watched by 5.6 million Chinese fans.

The buzz on Chinese social media is not surprising: The Japanese figure skater’s graceful performances stole the spotlight during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, even challenging Eileen Gu’s popularity with local fans.

“Yuzuru is already a living legend. He isn’t abandoning the ice ring; he is just stepping back from competitions. I respect his decision and look forward to his future endeavors,” reads a popular comment on Weibo.

Thousands of other netizens expressed unconditional support for the athlete’s decision to retire, referring to him with the affectionate nickname ‘Pomelo’ and calling him “Asia’s pride.”

Considered by many people as one of the best male figure skaters in history, Hanyu’s popularity in China is due to his unrivaled technical ability, sweet demeanor, impeccable outfits, and emotional performances.

According to Japan Times, Hanyu’s retirement leaves a gap to fill in the world of male figure skating, while his legacy and influence will live on and inspire future generations of young athletes.

Cover image: screengrab from NHK’s YouTube Channel

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