He surely is the greatest men’s figure skater in history. Yuzuru Hanyu did the impossible and won back-to-back gold medals at the Winter Olympics, a feat last achieved by American Dick Button in the ‘black and white’ era of 1952.
Skating in front of a crowd of euphoric Japanese fans at the Gangneung Ice Arena in South Korea, the 23-year-old was far from perfect, taking steps out of his quadruple toe loop and triple Lutz.
But those slight errors failed to tarnish an otherwise mesmerizing program, which brought the house down in an avalanche of applause.
“This is the best day of my skating life,” Yuzuru told the media. “My tears were from my heart. I can find one word and that is happy.”
It was a remarkable comeback for the Japanese idol, who was competing in his first competition in four months after suffering an ankle injury which prompted questions about his fitness.
But those doubts proved unfounded as he landed two quadruple jumps.
“Getting to this place was really tough,” Yuzuru said. “Because I had time off from skating, I was able to do a lot of planning and thinking about strategy.”
It certainly paid off. At the end of his long program performance, he got down on one knee and embraced the ice as stuffed Winnie the Pooh bears rained down from the crowd above.
The cuddly character from A. A. Milne’s classic series of children’s books is a lucky mascot for Yuzuru.
“I’m relieved to be able to skate here as a lot of people supported me,” he said about his coach and fans.
After a near perfect display in the short program on Friday, the double world champion came out determined to strut his stuff.
In the end, the golden boy of the Sochi Olympics did not disappoint his legions of supporters, finishing nearly 11 points clear of compatriot Shoma Uno, who had a combined total of 306.90.
The bronze medal went to Javier Fernandez, a six-time European champion, who had a combined score of 305.24 points.
But, of course, this was all about Yuzuru and his amazing return.
“I worried a lot of people as I could not practice because of my injury. So, there was stronger support than before,” he told the media. “I was so fortunate. I’m feeling gratitude. I was able to make a jump that I wanted to do with concentration.
“Anyway, it was good,” he added.
“Good”? Yuzuru was simply sensational.