Yuzuru Hanyu - Biography

Yuzuru Hanyu is a figure skater from Japan. He is a two-time Olympic champion (2014, 2018), a two-time World champion (2014, 2017), a four-time Grand Prix Final champion (2013–2016), a Four Continents champion (2020), a 2010 World Junior champion, and a five-time Japanese national champion (2012–2015, 2020). He has also competed in five more World Championships, winning bronze in 2012 and 2021 and silver in 2015, 2016 and 2019, making him the first male single skater to win seven world championship medals in the postwar era, alongside Jan Hoffmann.

Hanyu became the first male singles skater to achieve a Super Slam when he won all major events in both his senior and junior careers after winning the 2020 Four Continents Championships. Hanyu is regarded as one of the best male figure skaters of all time, having broken world records nineteen times, the most among singles skaters since the ISU Judging System was introduced in 2004. He is the first guy to win the men's short programme with over 100 points, the men's free skate with over 200 points, and the overall competition with over 300 points.

Hanyu is the first Asian man to win an Olympic gold medal in men's singles skating. He was the youngest male skater to win the Olympic championship since Dick Button in 1948, at the age of nineteen. He also became the first guy since Button's back-to-back gold medals in 1948 and 1952 to win two straight Olympic gold medals. Hanyu became the first skater in history to land a quadruple loop in a competition at the 2016 CS Autumn Classic International. He is the first Asian man to win several World Championships in men's singles skating.

Childhood

Hanyu was born in Izumi-ku, Sendai, Japan, on December 7, 1994, as the second and youngest child of his father, a junior high school teacher, and Yumi Hanyu, a former department store employee. Hanyu's father was a baseball coach at Hanyu's high school and promoted the sport to him before he chose figure skating. Hanyu's mother used to sew all of his costumes in his early career, including the free skate outfits designed by American figure skater Johnny Weir for the 2010–2011 and 2013–14 seasons.

She joined him in Toronto, Canada, for his training, but his father and elder sister, Saya, remained in Japan. Hanyu's given name was inspired by his father's desire for him to 'life a dignified way like a tightly pulled bowstring,' and it also represents confidence, power, and straightness. Hanyu was diagnosed with asthma when he was two years old, and his condition gradually improved over time.

Hanyu's asthma continued to be an issue for him throughout his junior career, and Canadian choreographer David Wilson has stated that it was not until he transitioned to adult competition that he was able to overcome his endurance issues, which he had experienced in the later parts of his performed programmes as a junior. Hanyu began skating when he was four years old, when his sister's coach, Mami Yamada, recommended he try the sport instead of being a bother during his sister's training.

Early career

In the 2004–05 season, Hanyu made his national debut as a novice skater. He competed at the 2004 Japan Novice Championships and won gold in the Novice B category, the lesser of the two novice levels. Due to financial difficulties, his home rink closed, limiting his training time. Shichir Tsuzuki, his coach at the time, had to transfer to another rink and was replaced by Nanami Abe, who coached Hanyu until he switched to Brian Orser in 2012. Hanyu earned the bronze medal in the Novice A category at the 2006 Japan Novice Championships in the 2006–07 season.

Hanyu was invited to compete in the 2006–07 Japan Junior Championships after earning bronze at the Japan Novice Championships. He finished seventh. Hanyu's home rink resurfaced in 2007 after a two-year hiatus. He then took first place in the Novice A category at the 2007 Japan Novice Championships and bronze in the 2007–08 Japan Junior Championships.

Junior international debut in the 2008–10 season

Hanyu stepped up to the junior level in 2008 and made his debut at the ISU Junior Grand Prix. He finished 5th overall at Merano, Italy, after placing 6th in the short programme and 4th in the free skate. Hanyu earned the gold medal in the 2008–09 Japan Junior Championships after winning the Junior Grand Prix event. He was the youngest male skater to win the Japan Junior Championships at the age of thirteen. He was also qualified for the 2009 World Junior Championships as a consequence of this performance.

His excellent performance rating earned him a medal and an invitation to compete at the senior level at the 2008–09 Japan Championships, where he finished eighth. Hanyu placed 11th in the short programme and 13th in the free skate at the 2009 World Junior Championships in February, finishing 12th overall with a total of 161.77 points.

Hanyu won both of his Junior Grand Prix events in 2009–10, in Croatia and Poland, and finished as the top qualifier for the Junior Grand Prix Final, which he won with a new personal best score of 206.77 points. Hanyu also won the 2009–10 Japan Junior Championships and was invited to compete at the senior level in the 2009–10 Japan Championships in the same season. In the event, he finished first in the junior division and sixth in the senior division.

Hanyu was selected to compete in the 2010 World Junior Championships based on his performance. He won the competition with a new personal best of 216.10 points after finishing third in the short programme and first in the free skate. He is the fourth and youngest Japanese guy to win the junior world championship.

Hanyu while skating in 2008 season
Senior international debut in the 2010–11 season

Hanyu, who was 15 at the time, was promoted to the senior team for the 2010–11 season. The 2010 NHK Trophy and the 2010 Cup of Russia were his duties for the 2010–11 Grand Prix season. Hanyu finished 5th in the short programme with 69.31 points in his senior debut at the 2010 NHK Trophy. He completed his first quadruple toe loop jump in an ISU competition in his free skate and finished fourth with 138.41 points, giving him a total of 207.72 points to place fourth overall. Hanyu came in eighth place at the Russian Cup.

Hanyu placed second after the short programme at the 2010–11 Japan Championships, but he failed in the free skate and ended fourth overall. As a consequence, he was chosen to compete in the 2011 Four Continents Championships, where he won silver and set a new personal best. When the 2011 Thoku earthquake and tsunami rocked his hometown and the area, Hanyu was skating at his home rink in Sendai. The Miyagi earthquake in April 2011 caused the water pipes at his rink to explode.

Until his home rink reopened on July 24, 2011, he trained in Yokohama and Hachinohe, Aomori. He also participated in 60 ice performances, utilising them as a training opportunity. He took part in an ice performance to raise money for the victims in April.

Hanyu's  international debut in the 2010–11 season
2011–13 season: First World Championships Medal

Hanyu won the Nebelhorn Trophy to start the 2011–12 season. He took first place in both the short programme and the free skate, earning a total of 226.26 points. He was allocated to the 2011 Cup of China and the 2011 Rostelecom Cup for the 2011–12 Grand Prix series. He finished fourth in the Cup of China before winning the Rostelecom Cup with a new personal best score to qualify for his first senior Grand Prix Final, where he ended fourth in.

Hanyu then earned a berth on the Japanese squad for the 2012 World Championships by winning bronze in the 2011–12 Japan Championships.

Hanyu began his season with a gold medal in the 2012 Finlandia Trophy. In his free skate, he performed two quadruple jumps, a quad toe loop, and a quad salchow. He had never nailed the latter jump in competition before. Hanyu took silver in the 2012 Skate America, his first Grand Prix event of the season. At the Skate America, his short programme score of 95.07 points set a new world record.

He set a world record of 95.32 in the short programme at his second competition, the 2012 NHK Trophy, and went on to win the gold medal in his hometown. Hanyu competed in the 2012–13 Grand Prix Final in Sochi, finishing second. Hanyu won his first national championship at the 2012–13 Japan Championships in December 2012, after finishing first in the short programme and second in the free skate.

He finished second in the short programme and third in the free skate at the 2013 Four Continents Championships. He placed tenth in the short programme and third in the free skate at the 2013 World Championships, finishing fourth overall.

Hanyu skating in his First World Championships Medal match
Olympic and world titles in the 2013–14 season

Hanyu won the 2013 Finlandia Trophy to start his season. He qualified for the 2013–14 Grand Prix Final by winning silver in both of his 2013–14 Grand Prix competitions, the 2013 Skate Canada International and the 2013 Trophée Éric Bompard. Hanyu won the competition after setting a new world record in the short programme with 99.84 points. He then competed in the 2013–14 Japan Championships, winning a second Japanese national championship and being chosen to Japan's Olympic and World Championship squads.

Hanyu competed in the men's short programme at the Figure Skating Team Event for Team Japan at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. He took first place in that segment, earning Team Japan ten points. With 101.45 points in the men's short programme solo event, Hanyu surpassed his world record and became the first skater to achieve over 100 points in the short programme.

Hanyu won the overall event, earning Japan's first Olympic gold medal in men's figure skating and just the country's second overall gold medal, following Shizuka Arakawa's triumph in the women's event in Turin in 2006. Hanyu won the 2014 World Championships in Saitama, Japan, to round up his season. Hanyu is the first skater since Alexei Yagudin (in 2002) to win the Olympic Games, World Championships, and Grand Prix Final all in the same season.

Due to a back ailment, Hanyu withdrew from the 2014 Finlandia Trophy. He was chosen to compete in the 2014 Cup of China and the 2014 NHK Trophy for the 2014–15 Grand Prix season. Hanyu finished second in the short programme at the Cup of China. Hanyu competed in the 2014–15 Japan Championships in December 2014. Hanyu participated in the 2015 World Championships, where he won the short programme with a season-best score.

He was the first to skate in the free skate, scoring 175.88 for a total of 271.08. He was only a few points behind Spain's Javier Fernández for second place. Hanyu competed in the 2015 World Team Trophy for the first time in Tokyo, Japan. He received 24 points for winning both the short programme (with a new season's best) and the free skate, helping Team Japan earn bronze behind Team USA and Team Russia. He was the only skater to win both competition phases.

Hanyu after completion of skating
2015–16 season

Hanyu skated his free programme in the 2015–16 season to the music from the movie Onmyji and Onmyji 2, playing natural philosopher and astrologer Abe no Seimei. He also visited with Mansai Nomura, who played Seimei in the movie, for tips on how to portray the character. Hanyu began his season with a gold medal at the 2015 Skate Canada Autumn Classic, finishing 36 points ahead of Nam Nguyen, the silver medalist.

Hanyu was chosen to compete in the 2015–16 Grand Prix series at Skate Canada and the NHK Trophy. Hanyu declared after the tournament that he will not compete in the 2016 Four Continents Championships because he wanted to focus on his preparations for the 2016 World Championships. At the 2016 World Championships, Hanyu skated another flawless short programme, earning 110.56 points.

He won that portion of the tournament by 12.04 points over second-place finisher Javier Fernández. Hanyu placed a hand down on a quadruple Salchow, fell on the second try without turning it into a combination, stepped out of a triple Axel, chose to perform a double instead of a triple Salchow, and had another hand down on the triple Lutz in the free skate.

Hanyu while skating in 2016 season
2016–17 season: Second world title

Hanyu's assignments for the 2016–17 Grand Prix were the Skate Canada International and the NHK Trophy. His short programme music was Prince's 'Let's Go Crazy,' and his free skate music was Joe Hisaishi's 'Asian Dream Song' and 'View of Silence,' with Hanyu titling the show 'Hope and Legacy.'

Due to a mistake in his combination, Hanyu finished third in the short programme at the 2017 Four Continents Championships with a score of 97.04 points. Despite a good start in the free skate, he made another blunder in what was intended to be a quadruple-triple combination.

Hanyu then modified his second-half layout, effectively converting three of his leaping passes into more difficult components to enhance his score following the error. He won the free skate with a score of 206.67, but ended second overall, almost four points behind Nathan Chen.

Hanyu while skating
2017–18 season: 2nd Olympic gold medal

Hanyu's short programme for the 2017–18 season was Ballade No. 1 (Chopin), the same music he utilised two seasons earlier for his world record-breaking short programme. He also opted to do his free skate to the soundtrack from the film Onmyji again, this time with a better layout than the one he did in the 2015–16 season.

Hanyu surpassed the world record he established in the 2015–16 Grand Prix Final with 112.72 points in his first competition of the season, Skate Canada Autumn Classic International. However, he finished 5th in the free skate and took silver behind Javier Fernández in the overall standings.

Hanyu got 111.68 points for his faultless short programme on February 16, placing him first in that part of the competition. With a strong programme, he got 206.17 points in the free skate. He finished with 317.85 points total, claiming his second straight Olympic gold medal, the first since Dick Button's back-to-back victories in 1948 and 1952.

Hanyu stated on March 7, 2018, that he has decided to withdraw from the forthcoming World Championships in Milan, Italy, in order to enable his damaged foot to heal. Following his Olympic victory, a medical test indicated that the torn ligaments in his right ankle, as well as other unidentified ailments, required at least two weeks of rest and three months of therapy.

Hanyu while skating in 2018 season
2018–19 season

Hanyu stated in August 2018 that his forthcoming short programme would be choreographed by Jeffrey Buttle and performed to Ral di Blasio's 'Otoal.' His free skate, named 'Origin' by Hanyu, would be choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne and skated to Edvin Marton's 'Art on Ice' and 'Magic Stradivarius.'

The former was a tribute to Johnny Weir's free skate from the 2004–05 season, while the latter was a tribute to Evgeni Plushenko's 'Tribute to Nijinsky' free skate from the 2003–04 season. Hanyu said on the music he chose because it was previously used by his skating idols 'I'm happy that (as a consequence of my Olympic triumph), I've been relieved of the pressure to provide results. I believe and believe that I will be able to skate for myself from now on. I'd like to return to my skating roots '..

Hanyu set a new world record with 110.53 points in the short programme at the 2018 Rostelecom Cup. He re-injured his right ankle the next day in practise after falling on a quad loop jump. He pondered pulling out of the competition, but decided to continue nonetheless, assisted by painkillers, and altered his programme plan to avoid aggravating his injuries. With a total score of 278.42, he won both the free skate and the overall competition.

Hanyu won gold in both of his Grand Prix assignments for the first time. He then went on to say: 'I considered withdrawing due to the injury, but it is my decision. I was really looking forward to skating this programme in Russia.' Despite skipping nationals, Hanyu has been selected to represent Japan at the 2019 World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama, Japan, based on his previous seasons' performance.

He indicated before to the tournament that his damaged ankle had not entirely recovered, but that he was '100% ready' for the competition. He used medications before and throughout the contest, just like he did for the Olympics, to make leaping possible. His recuperation was likely to take longer than planned. Due to his injury, the Japanese federation stated that he will not compete in the season's final event, the World Team Trophy.

Hanyu while skating
Super Slam in the 2019–20 season

For the upcoming season, Hanyu has decided to keep both of his programmes. Despite a fall on his quad Salchow in the short programme and a few turnouts on landings in the free skate at the 2019 CS Autumn Classic International, Hanyu placed first in both performances to win the gold medal. Coach Orser commended Hanyu, adding, 'I have never seen him so concentrated at this time of year.'

Hanyu began the Grand Prix by competing at his fourth Skate Canada International, where he had previously won silver in each of his three previous appearances. With a flawless skate, Hanyu took first place in the short programme, twenty points ahead of American Camden Pulkinen.

Hanyu chose to return to his Ballade No. 1 (Chopin) and 'Seimei' programmes from previous seasons at the Four Continents Championships in Seoul. 'The most flawless performance I've ever done,' Hanyu said. Despite mistakes on two of his quad attempts in the free skate, he won the event and the gold medal with 299.42 points overall.

Hanyu's triumph made him the first and only male singles skater to win all of the main ISU championship competitions at the junior and senior levels, a feat only five other skaters in the other three skating disciplines had previously accomplished. He was supposed to compete in the World Championships in Montreal, but the coronavirus epidemic forced them to be cancelled. Hanyu was nominated for Best Costume and Most Valuable Skater for the 2019–2020 season at the ISU Skating Awards in 2020, and won the latter.

Hanyu performing at Super Slam
2020–21 season

Hanyu declared on August 28 that he will not compete in the Grand Prix series, citing the dangers of COVID-19 to himself, the competition personnel, and the people that would assemble to cheer him on.

Despite feeling 'conflicted' about whether or not he should have participated while COVID-19 continued to train and practise without his coaching staff, Hanyu chose to compete in the Japanese championships, which also served as the last qualifier for the forthcoming World Championships in Stockholm. The next day, Hanyu verified the international media's storey of his asthma attack.

After concluding the free skate, he claimed that he felt a bit sore, and explained: 'There were a few minor issues that kept piling up. However, if you ask me if that was the cause of the major error (in the free skate), I don't think it was as big of a miss as the score miss.' Hanyu's performance, along with Kagiyama's, earned the Japanese men three spots in the 2022 Winter Olympics. Hanyu was a member of Team Japan in the 2021 World Team Trophy competition.

Hanyu after performing
Skating etiquette

Analysts consider Hanyu to be a talented and flexible skater who possesses the ability to combine excellent technique with mature and diverse artistry. Stephane Lambiel, a 2006 Olympic silver medallist, called him 'the greatest complete athlete in figure skating, maybe ever.' Hanyu has been dubbed the best skater in history by several media sources and pundits, notably after his second Olympic triumph, for his consistency in performance in a highly competitive field and ability to produce under pressure.

Hanyu can compete in four different quadruple jumps – the toe loop, Salchow, loop, and Lutz – and has expressed interest in training for a quad axel before the 2022 Olympics, stating: 'I had been working a lot on my quad axel leading up to this competition (the Stockholm World Championships), and I had overworked my body... I want to be the first person in an official tournament to land it cleanly.'

Hanyu's Skating etiquette
Choreographers and coaches

Nanami Abe coached Hanyu in Sendai for the most of his career prior to the 2011–12 season. Hanyu moved coaches to Brian Orser after earning bronze at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships. Orser is best known for leading Kim Yuna to gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Hanyu continued to attend high school in Sendai after transferring, but he made regular excursions to the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club, where Orser is a skating coach.

The modification was essential, according to Hidehito Ito, figure skating director of the Japanese Skating Federation, to 'challenge' Hanyu and 'improve the level [of his skating] further.' Nanami Abe choreographed all of Hanyu's programmes during his junior career. His shows were choreographed by others, including as Shae-Lynn Bourne and Jeffrey Buttle, beginning with his 2012–2013 season. Hanyu is known for becoming personally involved in every aspect of his shows.

Endorsements and ambassadorships

Over the years, Hanyu has been in a number of commercials and advertising campaigns. Hanyu was named the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics marketing ambassador for P&G's worldwide 'Proud Sponsor of Moms' campaign in 2013, with fellow Japanese figure skater Daisuke Takahashi. Hanyu sponsored All Nippon Airways' new range of flight attendant uniforms, created by Prabal Gurung, from February 8 to 23, 2014.

Hanyu, together with Mao Asada, singer Airi Matsui, and actresses Suzu Hirose and Tao Tsuchiya, promoted Lotte's Ghana milk chocolate on September 2, 2014, as well as Xylitol Whites. He appeared in a TV ad for Capcom's new video game Monster Hunter 4G later that month. Hanyu was chosen as the model for the Miyagi Prefecture Police's traffic safety poster in 2013 and 2021, with the goal of encouraging adherence to traffic regulations and raising awareness of safe driving.

Hanyu was picked because 'he epitomises sportsmanship,' according to an official in March 2021. Hanyu was named the ambassador of The Pegasus Dream Tour, the world's first official Paralympics game, in June 2021, marking his video game debut with his avatar featured in the game. Hanyu was picked because 'he is an athlete as well as a guy who has artistry in his way of life,' according to a spokesman from the game's developer firm.

Hanyu has served as Sendai's tourism ambassador since April 2014, and his image has appeared on city tourism posters and visitor guidebooks.

Hanyu in milk chocolate Ad
Philanthropy

Hanyu donated his 2014 Olympic gold medal prize money of 6 million yen ($55,000) and his 2018 Olympic gold medal prize money of 10 million yen ($92,000) received from the Japan Skating Federation and Japanese Olympic Committee to Sendai and Miyagi Prefecture to aid in disaster recovery.

He has also been contributing all royalties and a portion of the revenues from his memoirs Blue Flames and Blue Flames II, which were released in 2012 and 2016, respectively, to his original home rink, Ice Rink Sendai, which was rendered useless following the tragedy. In 2021, it was reported that the rink had received a total of $31,442,143 ($286,000) in donations. Hanyu was designated as the Tsunami Disaster Prevention Ambassador for a year in September 2014, and will participate in initiatives to raise tsunami disaster prevention public awareness.

Hanyu was named the spokesman for the Japanese Red Cross Society's rehabilitation operations in February 2015. He also contributed his image as the spokesman for the Red Cross' 'Hatachi no Kenketsu' fundraising drive, in which he appeared alongside patients in a promotional film. He contributed a pair of figure skates to an online charity auction in March 2019 that earned 7.12 million yen ($64,000) for disaster relief.

Hanyu organised the 'Together, Forward' exhibition in 2021 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The show chronicles Hanyu's footsteps during that tough era, revisiting the impacted individuals and locations. The exhibition is being exhibited in a number of Japanese locations to remind everyone of the significance of disaster prevention and preparedness.

Since 2014, Hanyu has been a frequent participant in Nippon TV's annual charity programme 24-Hour Television, putting on special ice performances and visiting catastrophe victims. He staged a one-night ice show in 2014 to raise funds.

He and Hey! Say! JUMP member Yuri Chinen collaborated on 'Chari-T-shirts' for the show in 2015, with the motto 'To connect: a grin beyond time.' The shirts were supposed to be auctioned and the proceeds donated to charity. Hanyu also visited earthquake-affected communities in Fukushima and Ishinomaki as part of his efforts, interviewing victims for a programme segment.

Hanyu performing for charity
Television and film

Hanyu was a judge on Japan's popular New Year's Eve music event Khaku Uta Gassen on December 31, 2015. In the 2016 film The Magnificent Nine, he made his on-screen debut as Date Shigemura, a samurai lord. Hanyu's debut DVD/Blu-ray album, Time of Awakening, was published on May 21, 2014, and sold 21,000 copies. It chronicled his career before to the 2014 Winter Olympics. It was the first time an athlete's DVD has topped Oricon's DVD rankings since the company's inception in 1999.

The album also reached number three on the Blu-ray list. NHK Enterprises published The Flowers Bloom on Ice on DVD on December 18, 2015, containing behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Shizuka Arakawa and Yuzuru Hanyu as they skate at the ice show together to assist reconstruction following the 2011 Japan earthquake. Hanyu's first self-produced programme, Continues with Wings, aired live on TV Asahi CS and was streamed in 66 movie theatres around Japan in 2018.

Education and personal life

Hanyu attended Nanakita Elementary School and Nanakita Junior High School. Hanyu graduated from Tohoku High School in 2013 and enrolled in Waseda University's e-school programme in Human Information Science. From his training base in Canada, he went to the school. His graduation thesis, which was released in August 2020, explains how 3D motion capture technology may be utilised in figure skating, with a focus on its potential for usage in judging.

He recorded and analysed his movement while performing the triple Axel leap off-ice as part of his study, which he believes will be utilised to enhance athlete skills and AI judgement. He received his diploma in September 2020, but because to the COVID-19 epidemic in Japan, he was unable to attend the event. In March 2021, the Waseda Journal of Human Sciences issued a bulletin piece detailing his graduation thesis.

Honors and awards

Hanyu has received several awards in honour of his achievements, including the People's Honour Award in 2018, making him the first figure skater and youngest recipient of the award. In 2014 and 2018, he won the Medal of Honour with Purple Ribbon, as well as two monuments representing his signature postures from the 2014 and 2018 Olympics in his birthplace of Sendai.

In 2019, he was nominated for the Laureus World Sports Honor for Comeback of the Year, becoming the first figure skater to be nominated for the award, and at the first ISU Skating Awards in 2020, he was named Most Valuable Skater of the 2019–20 season. He received the Azusa Ono Memorial Honor from Waseda University in 2021, which is the most highest award granted to students and given to people who are acknowledged as role models.

Hanyu is regarded as one of the best male figure skaters in the sport's history, and his remarkable abilities and effect on the sport have been recognised by specialists, the media, and the general public. He was named to Forbes Magazine's renowned 30 Under 30 Asia 2018 list, and he has won several accolades and rated high in a variety of media publications' lists and popularity surveys.