Belonging to Ice: Yuzuru Hanyu

Yuzuru Hanyu, one of the most special figure skating athletes in history, announced his retirement with a great career. And now, he is putting brand new goals in front of him…

Turkey does not have a figure skating tradition. Do not be misunderstood, we have been represented in great champions over the years, but we could not find a place for ourselves among the schools chasing the athletes to the podium. The situation has changed when it comes to the white screen. Because if we are going to talk about an ice-skating spectator tradition, we are at that table. We locked ourselves in TRT screens to watch the fascinating performances of Katarina Witt, applauded Evgeny Plushenko’s fluency that is difficult to imitate, and showed interest in this competitive spectacle even with the “Dance on Ice” program when appropriate. In recent years, the presence of people like Evgenia Medvedeva, Alina Zagitova, Yuzuru Hanyu and Nathan Chen has kept the attention alive. Of course, times have changed. The increasingly difficult jumps, the prominence of athletic capacity, and the frequently changing records are the signs of another era. But it is ironic; Yuzuru Hanyu, the most favored star of today both in the world and in Turkey, is a champion who preserves the nostalgic values ​​of his sport to the end. And now, figure skating is saying goodbye to this legend…

Born in 1994 in Sendai, Japan, Hanyu was introduced to ice at the age of four, while attending her older sister’s training. Although his father tried to steer him into baseball at some point, his mind would not change, he would decide to stay on the ice rink, where he felt so natural. The period when his fate literally changed was the age of 19, the 2013/14 season. Hanyu, who is both a world champion and a gold medalist at the Olympic Games in Sochi, made his debut in The New York Times‘ headline, where he would one day be described as “Michael Jackson on ice”. This was no doubt an apt analogy. Hanyu had a quiet but naturally natural charisma that blended with shyness. Just like the “king of pop” who takes on another character on stage, he had a radiance that broke through his silence when he got on the ice. For this reason, he was always positioned in a different status despite his many talented rivals. Others had their own supporters, and the Japanese star had an almost private audience. This was one of the reasons why he was often compared to his idol and mentor, Evgeni Plushenko.

Photo by  David W. Carmichael

Hanyu spent the last years of his career with injury-related doubts. It was unclear whether he would make it to the ice at the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games, but he tried his luck for the third Olympic gold. He wasn’t one hundred percent, moreover, with Nathan Chen’s presence, he was no longer considered the best in the world. The American athlete was a perfect athlete and a scoring machine within the framework determined by the conditions of the competition. The short program, free program and total score world records belonging to Hanyu, whom he himself called “the best in history”, were now in his hands. But when it came to aesthetics, theatrical skill and emotion transfer, it was very difficult to compare Hanyu to anyone else. So did his private audience, who showered his beloved Winnie the Pooh plushies on the ice rink after each performance. As a matter of fact, despite the fourth place in 2022 Beijing, he was in demand more than many champion athletes. Even though he failed, he became a serious curiosity with his quad-axel attempt. Hanyu managed to remain radiant even when he was not at the top.

Two worlds, two Olympics, four Grand Prix Finals and one Four Continents championship… We don’t need trophies and medals so much to describe Yuzuru Hanyu, who has achieved the most prestigious awards countless times. You can also access their past performances by opening YouTube immediately and be enchanted in a few minutes. Then another video, maybe another later… If you enjoyed it, I’d like good news. Hanyu’s retirement just means he will no longer compete in competitive competitions. So, he actually announced that he would continue to skate and even try to become the first figure skating athlete to successfully apply the quad axel. Briefly, he will continue to shine where he belongs, and her countless fans in Turkey and around the world will continue to be inspired by him. This is not goodbye…

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