Greatest of all time 'Hanyu Yuzuru'

Dec. 28, 2022

5 min read

Personal life and education 

Since Hanyu began carrying a Winnie-the-Pooh tissue box to competitions in 2010, his supporters and fans eventually made it a custom to acknowledge the end of his performances by throwing Pooh bears onto the ice instead of other kinds of stuffed toys or gifts, which has been a tradition in figure skating. Hanyu donates the bears to disadvantaged children at local hospitals and charities surrounding the arena that hosted the event.

Hanyu studied at Nanakita Elementary and Junior High School. In 2013, Hanyu graduated from Tohoku High School [ja] then entered an e-school program on Human Information Science at Waseda University. He attended the school from his training base in Canada. In August 2020, it was revealed that his graduation thesis summarizes how 3D motion capture technology could be used in figure skating, and in particular its potential for use in figure skating judging. One area of research he did is recording and analyzing his movement while doing the triple Axel jump off-ice which he hopes can be used to improve the skills of athletes and AI judging. He officially graduated from the university in September 2020, but was unable to attend the ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan. In March 2021, a bulletin paper summarizing his graduation thesis was published in the Waseda Journal of Human Sciences.

His early life

Hanyu was born on December 7, 1994, in Izumi-ku, Sendai, Japan, the second and younger child to his father, Hidetoshi Hanyu, who is a junior high school teacher, and Yumi Hanyu, a former clerk at a department store. Hanyu's father was also an adviser to the baseball school club and recommended the sport to him before he eventually chose figure skating. His mother used to make all of Hanyu's costumes in his early career, including costumes for his 2010–2011 season free skate which was designed by American figure skater Johnny Weir. She accompanied him during his training in Toronto, Canada, while his father and older sister, Saya, stayed in Japan. Hanyu's given name came from the desire of his father so he would "live a dignified way like a tightly drawn bowstring", and also symbolizes confidence, strength, and straightness.

At the age of two, Hanyu was diagnosed with asthma, a condition that slowly improved with time. The condition remained an issue for Hanyu well into his career in junior competition, and Canadian choreographer David Wilson has stated that it was not until Hanyu's transition into adult competition that he succeeded in learning to cope with his endurance issues caused by his asthma and experienced in the later parts of his performed programs as a junior.

Hanyu began skating at the age of four after his sister's coach Mami Yamada had suggested he try the sport instead of being a nuisance during his sister's training. Yamada noted Hanyu's impatience when he first got onto the ice. He came running and jumped on the ice, then fell hard, hitting his helmet onto the ice, quickly got up and running again. However, Yamada praised Hanyu for his ability to express his sincerity. After coaching him until the end of his 2nd grade in elementary school, Yamada had to move to another prefecture and asked Shōichirō Tsuzuki [ja], former coach of Japan's first World Figure Skating Championships medalist Minoru Sano, to coach Hanyu and "not put his talent to waste".

His professional career 

At a press conference on July 19, 2022, Hanyu announced his decision to "step away" from competitive figure skating and turn professional, stating that "he had achieved everything he could achieve, and stopped wanting to be evaluated". He also stated his intention to continue pursuing his "ideal skating" and dream of completing the quadruple Axel as a professional athlete. Nikkei Asia noted that Hanyu's exit from the competitive circuit "marks the end of an era". Juliet Macur of The New York Times remarked that "we may never see another skater like Yuzuru Hanyu". Numerous sports figures from and outside figure skating reacted to Hanyu's announcement with gratitude and praise, including Japanese gymnast Kōhei Uchimura, baseballer Shohei Ohtani, and tennis player Naomi Osaka.

Hanyu later opened accounts on social media, having long eschewed it for years, that are mainly managed by staff. He stated his intention to show his skating through his YouTube channel and increase opportunities for everyone to watch it, including those who are unable to attend ice shows and live overseas, but that he did not have plans to make videos about his daily life. On August 10, Hanyu live-streamed an open practice session on his channel, where he performed his past free skate programs, including a flawless performance of Seimei with the same elements as he had performed at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

In November to December 2022, Hanyu held his first ice show tour as a professional figure skater, titled Prologue, in Yokohama and Hachinohe. The solo show of 90 minutes runtime was produced and directed by Hanyu himself, featuring a selection of his past competition and exhibition programs. The final shows at each venue were aired live on national television and livestreamed in select movie theaters nationwide. On December 5, 2022, Hanyu announced his second solo ice show with the title Gift, which will be held at Tokyo Dome, one of Japan's largest entertainment venues, on February 26, 2023.

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