Yuzuru Hanyu: an exhaustive introduction (2017 ~ 2020)

Originally posted on Tumblr by Lae (@axelsandwich)


Okay, so I just watched like 20 clips you linked above but who tf is Yuzuru Hanyu??

  • Factual info you could probably Wikipedia but are too lazy to do so: Yuzuru Hanyu is a Japanese figure skater from Sendai, born 7 December 1994 who competes in the men’s singles discipline. He is the two time Olympic champion, holds 19 world records (and counting) and is the only male figure skater to achieve the Super Slam or Career Super Grand Slam, meaning he’s won both major junior-level international competitions (World Junior Championships, Junior Grand Prix Final) and all four major senior-level international competitions at any point during the course of a career. Among many other firsts, he is credited with being the first skater to land a quadruple loop in competition and the first to break the 100 (SP), 200 (FS) and 300 (total score) points barriers in the +/-3GOE and +/-5GOE scoring system. He was also the first Japanese person to win two consecutive winter Olympic singles championships and the first male figure skater in 66 years in the entire world to win two consecutive Olympic men’s singles championships in the designated games.
  • PSA: YUZURU HANYU IS NOT THE MODEL FOR YUURI KATSUKI FROM YURI ON ICE (yuuri katsuki is canonically based on tatsuki machida thank u)
  • He is also the youngest recipient of Japan’s People’s Honor Award, which is one of the most prestigious civilian honours in Japan. The People’s Honor Award established in 1977 has been given to 25 individuals and one group for their achievements in sports, entertainment and culture, whose distinguished achievements have brought the light of hope to society. And he did so wearing a beautiful (Interview after his award here)
  • As of 2020, he graduated from studying Human Informatics and Cognitive Sciences at Waseda University, which is one of the most prestigious universities in Japan (which also basically makes him a massive maths nerd). His graduation thesis was about Motion Capture Technology Applied to Figure Skating and Its Prospects on Scoring, in which he used himself as a test subject because…well, duh, he’s the best in the field (see here for some more details on his graduation and here for translations for some parts of his thesis). This is incidentally where the inside joke: Yuzuru Hanyu for Yuzuru Hanyu by Yuzuru Hanyu in collaboration with Yuzuru Hanyu came from (are we wrong?!)
  • Incidentally, he did his entrance exam while competing at the Grand Prix Final 2012 and documentaries reported that he was always top 5 in his class at academics during high school as well — in his own words: ‘first is first’ and his parents always stressed that he has to have more than just skating (this kid was away the day God handed out laziness and procrastination I s2g)
  • Japanese media (especially in sendai) basically filmed him growing up and called him a young prodigy so we’re lucky to have footage of chipmunk-cheeked yuzu with his (flying) mushroom hair from all the way back then 
    • Look at this tiny bean
    • He was interviewed in Ice Rink Sendai with Japan’s other figure skating gold medallist Shizuka Arakawa. to quote, when asked “Can you become a gold medallist too?”, he said “Probably”. and then he went and did exactly that.
    • He would get into fights with his rinkmates, used to ball up skate rink magazine flyers to hit like a baseball and basically had a 5min attention span after which he would get bored
  • Get you a man that loves you like the entire city of Sendai loves Yuzuru
    • Yuzuru held 2 victory parades after his two Olympic gold medals in which he stood on a bus and waved at a crowd of 80k in 2014 and 100k people in 2018. Honestly it was the most amazing thing, and then also the streets were CLEAN AS HELL after, we stan respectful fans!
    • The 2018 parade generated $1.86 BILLION YEN economic impact or $16M USD (!!!) and he donated the $22M yen profit to support the local skating federation
    • Their cheer video for sochi and pyeongchang for him is the sweetest thing you’ll ever see
    • There is an unspoken rule when he goes home to Sendai that people will treat him like an ordinary person and not a celebrity and though paparazzi etc. still happens, it is mostly respected and we should 10000% keep it that way.
    • He has no known social media channels and is proficient at disappearing completely like a ninja and subjecting his fans to radio silence for months on end (often because he’s injured but…more on that later). The ongoing joke is that you will usually only know Yuzuru is alive (and exists) through analysing blurs that look like him in the background of social media posts from skaters he trains with or photos with small children at places he trains with (only with small children though)
‘Pooh rain’ is the cutest damn thing you’ll ever see

single-handedly keeping the winnie the pooh soft toy industry alive.  

  • You’ve probably seen this exhaustively covered in the media, especially Western media during the Olympics because that’s all they ever seem curious about, which is partly why I wrote this intro post because there is so much more to yuzuru
  • However, the ‘Pooh rain’ is really amazing to witness live, an experience like no other
  • Why Pooh? This is because he’s had a pooh tissue box cover since he was young, given by his parents and he calls Pooh-san his friend and coach and comforting to him because his expression is always calm and never changes. You will see Pooh-san on the boards at every competition, loyally watching over Yuzu
  • Why do people throw Pooh bears at him? there’s a tradition to throw flowers and toys as a gesture of appreciation after a skater’s performance in figure skating and…well, lots of people appreciate yuzuru ; )
  • (But also consider throwing things like pokeballs, tokyo ghoul plushies, GOAT plushies and earphone plushies at him people, let’s get some creativity in this house!)
  • Disney-senpai finally noticed him in 2018
  • He donates all the toys he gets to local orphanages and charities
  • Here’s an account from a doctor who witnessed the donations coming in!
little flower collections smiling at all the Poohs is one of my favourite things

You thought your favourite TV show was dramatic? Welcome to Yuzuru Hanyu’s entire life

  • Yuzuru was a victim of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami and lived in an emergency shelter with his family for about four days after. he spent the summer afterwards skating 60 different ice shows to raise money for the victims. he lost his home rink because of the earthquake and so would go to the show rinks early to use the ice to practice as much as he could ): 
    • It’s heartbreaking that he’s still very affected by the memories. he’s said he doesn’t take anything for granted and is always grateful to have a rink to skate on, and the impact he had on the survivors had a profound effect on his skating
    • Consider Yuzuru being a 16yr old teenager suddenly thrust into the position of being this symbol of hope for the entire disaster and feeling the weight to carry that on his shoulders – it was not an easy journey, let alone for someone so young but he handled it with so much grace
  • It is REALLY IMPORTANT to know that the main reason for fan heart attacks and most of the non-3/11 skating-related drama in Yuzuru’s life is because he’s dealt with a distressing number of injuries, illnesses and misfortunes in his skating life but has somehow managed to come back and succeed in spite of them. In his own words, his skating life is “like a roller coaster” and… yeah, your shounen manga has nothing on him. I’m serious.
    • His home rink in Sendai (Ice Rink Sendai) actually shut twice, first during primary school because of financial difficulties – he commuted several hours to Wakayama every week to continue skating – and then, only a few years after the home rink reopened, 3/11 struck and closed the rink again due to repairs. It’s because of this that Yuzuru never takes for granted the fact he has a rink to skate in and always touches the ice when entering and exiting the rink partly to thank it.
    • After the 3/11 disaster, he relocated with his mother to Toronto to start training at the Toronto Cricket and Curling Club with new coaches, thereby being separated from his hometown and family long term. He suffered several untimely injuries in his junior days and also for example right before the 2013 World Championships, meaning he skated with a sprained ankle because he felt responsibility as the newly crowned Japanese National Champion to help Japan qualify for 3 spots at the Sochi Olympics. He did end up preserving 3 spots with Japan’s other representatives.
    • Right after his golden slam year of winning the Olympic Gold, World Championships and Grand Prix Final in 2013-14, in his first competition and season as the newly minted Olympic champion, a really scary accident happened at Cup of China in 2014 where Yuzuru collided with fellow competitor Han Yan in the 6min warmup before his Free Skate. He decided to skate anyway because he wanted to qualify for the Grand Prix Final and felt responsibility to do so as the Olympic champion. The debate rages on even now about whether he should have done so, that it was unacceptable that the ISU didn’t have any protocol in place about qualifying for GPF in the event of accidents (which is a figure skating-wide problem as many skaters have been pushed or elected to continue to skate after horrible accidents). But Yuzuru did indeed go out and do that, falling on almost all of his jumps but showing the sort of fighting spirit you will see in Yuzuru again and again.
      • Many Yuzuru fans consider the accident and his subsequent free skate a legitimately traumatic incident, especially those who witnessed it live, so we really don’t encourage footage of the Cup of China to be shared, at least without a warning or glorifying it as ‘something out of an anime’. Just please be sensitive ;;
    • He then came back a month later to win the Grand Prix Final 2014 for the 2nd year in a row, in a true feat of triumph and grit
    • It was annus horribilis for Yuzu that year because he then had abdominal pain and surgery right after winning Japanese Nationals in 2014 – he was literally rushed to hospital right after the Free Skate and didn’t even get to attend the ceremony where the Worlds representatives were announced
    • The chapter from his autobiography Aoi Honoo II reads literally like a body horror story
    • And after spending a month recuperating, he still managed to win a silver medal at Worlds 2014
  • This is why we don’t talk about Boston Worlds 2016. Yuzuru skated the World Championships while hiding a lisfranc injury that he thought – at the time – could end his career. That entire summer afterwards, no one knew whether he would ever return to competition…but he did. Debuting a new quad.
    • The chapter from his autobiography Aoi Honoo II talks about that experience. Uhh…yeah sorry about your heart clenching, you’ll get used to that
    • It’s important to note he skated his iconic Chopin/Seimei 2015 Grand Prix Final programs WITH THAT INJURY (more on those programs later)
  • He came back at the start of the 2016-2017 season after almost an entire summer of complete radio silence and became the first in the world to land the quadruple loop in his first competition back. He went on to win his 4th Grand Prix Final title in a row and the World Championships in Helsinki in 2017 after being 5th after a mistake in the Short Program (an unthinkable result), skating a perfect program with four quads and breaking the Free Skate world record along the way. It was sublime. Yeah. being his fan is always a roller coaster
  • At the start of the 2017-18 Olympic season, Yuzuru returned to debut the quadruple lutz at his first Grand Prix competition and then missed almost the entire 2017-2018 Olympic season after he severely injured his ankle while practising the 4Lz in practice at the NHK Trophy, while running a fever.
    • He then proceeded to disappear completely and utterly from the public eye for almost three months to recover from the injury, with the clock ticking down to the Pyeongchang Olympics in February 2018. He skipped the team Olympic event and made his COMEBACK SKATE FROM INJURY after 3 months of no competitions, 1 month of prep and while on legal painkillers at the individual mens event of the Pyeongchang Olympics…. AND FRIKKIN WON HIS SECOND OLYMPIC GOLD (more down the page)
    • His fans made him a banner after his Olympic season injury during those 3mths and delivered it to TCC. It’s a beautiful thing ;; _ ;;
  • He then…injured himself again for the 2018-19 season in the second Grand Prix of the season, made the conscious decision to go out and skate anyway, won the event and showed up to the victory ceremony on crutches. He made a comeback at the World Championships 2019 on painkillers yet again and still managed to get a silver medal, after months off the ice.
  • Just as he had a rare injury-free season for 2019-20 (though he also competed in a gruelling 3 competitions in 3 continents in 5 weeks and by the end wasn’t even sure what timezone he was in and also his coach had his passport stolen on his way through Germany for GPF so he was unexpectedly alone for the SP) and secured his Super Grand Slam, COVID-19 struck which meant the World Championships 2020 in Montreal and subsequent summer of ice shows was cancelled. Yuzuru withdrew from the Grand Prix series citing health risks and concern for the safety of his team and his fans and emphasised the need to do his role to reduce the risk of spreading the infection. 10 months later in December 2020, having trained in Japan alone without his coaches who were still in Canada, he made a comeback to secure his 5th National title and break all domestic records with two new programs.

So what is Yuzuru Hanyu’s brand, you ask?

This. This is his brand.
Also this.
  • But also for being the sweetest kid ever. And also galaxy-brained.
  • He is truly SUPER polite wherever he goes
  • Mr Worldwide (he thanked reporters at the Olympics in five languages)
  • JPN TV basically had entire TV segments where they were like ‘OBSERVE HIS GOD-LIKE BEHAVIOUR’. It continues to this day
  • He has a particular knack for remembering many people he’s met over his life and thanking them for their support or referencing stuff they’ve done; several JP TV hosts and media personalities have been visibly surprised (and delighted) by how much he knows about them. There was one time he randomly congratulated a reporter on her engagement or thanked journalists for writing articles about him completely unprompted. He sees all.
    • *elbows everyone out of the way* SPEAKING OF JAPANESE MEDIA WHO LOVE HIM, please see below on Nobunari Oda and Matsuoka Shuzo
  • Holding open doors for people
  • Helping people repair the rink after competitions (he regularly does this, even now)
  • My favourite in-depth and extended interviews with Yuzu are his press conferences with the foreign correspondents club in japan after his Olympic victories, he really lets his intelligence and thoughtfulness shine here in particular. They talk about a LOT of topics but it’s worth the full watch:
  • Yuzuru is known for a seemingly endless appetite for improvement, evolution and continually challenging himself
    • His favourite word: kuyashii (ie. frustrated). To the point where – when he said he was not feeling kuyashii at all after his Olympic victory and wants to just skate for his own pleasure, everyone was like did he get replaced by an imposter (one somewhat struggle-street Autumn Classic International competition later…he was like ‘there’s no point if I don’t win’ LOL)
    • One of my favourite interviews of him ever was right after his broke all 3 world records and went over 200 and 300 for the FS and total competition score for the first time at NHK 2015. 

      “[On losing to Patrick Chan at Skate Canada & the fact he was practising during gala rehearsal where everyone else was chilling] I thought I want to improve, even here right now.  Patrick was nearby and it was a really good motivation.   It’s like, ‘Watch me.’  I will definitely practise all kinds of jumps and I will grow for sure.  I will win the next time for sure, I have been practising with that in mind.”  

      Then 3 weeks later, at NHK Trophy, he had a different layout.

      Yuzu:  This is not related to Patrick anymore.  I was really fired up this time. Boyang Jin got 95 points in SP, right?  When I saw that score, I thought, wow NO MISTAKES!!  He gave the best of his abilities!  OH YES!!!!

      Shuzo: You didn’t think OH NO!!!  You thought OH YES????

      Yuzu:  I thought “It’s here!!!“  Since I was a child, I have never liked winning a competition when others made mistakes.  Everyone skates to their best, but I still come first, above all.  That is what I like. I like pushing myself to the edge—.”

      (translation cr: yuzusorbet)

      It says volumes about his competitive mentality.
    • This is also iconic AF. ‘In your mind, what do you mean by wanting to win with a commanding lead?’

      (Matsuoka Shuzo’s face is a MOOD)
  • He actually has a published quote book of cool things he’s said in interviews since he was a newly minted senior. Here’s a partial translation series I started doing in Olympic season and here’s the newest version.
    • There’s a chance some of these are inspired by anime protagonists. This season he’s been talking about overcoming a ‘tall wall’ and there being ‘walls and doors’. ((Yuzuru, do you watch Haikyuu?!))
How does the skating world regard him?

Did I mention he happens to be pretty good at figure skating? 

  • He’s broken the world record 18 times and counting, most of them his own records (the video is his reaction to the first 11)
  • He’s the first man in 66yrs since Dick Button to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in mens figure skating (Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018)
  • Completed his Super Slam in February 2020. Hilariously, while most skaters complete their slam with an Olympic gold medal, he already had TWO before he won Four Continents, which was the competition missing from the Slam list (he missed out on several due to injury and had silvers for the other two). Just Yuzu things.
  • Holds all 3 historical figure skating world records for Short Program, Free Program and Total Score under the +/-3GOE system (the rule system was changed in 2018 and records reset). He was the first to break 100, 200, 300 points barrier in the new +/-5GOE system as well
  • Remained at number one in the world standings for the entire Olympic cycle since 2013 despite aforementioned heart-attack-inducing injuries and illnesses


So Yuzuru has been wanting this medal literally for ENTIRE LIFE, which he has planned since he was a novice skater and had seriously begun planning since right after he won the gold in Sochi. this plan had to be adjusted along the way due to the truly distressing number of injuries, illnesses and misfortunes he sustained during the last quad from 2014 – 2017 (his Olympic athlete profile has PARAGRAPHS dedicated to all his injuries – and note these are only the post-2014 ones).

But Yuzuru started the 2017-18 Olympic season with a plan to basically break all 3 of his WRs at the Olympics by recycling his iconic Chopin and Seimei programs but upgrading the layout and introducing a new quad – the 4Lz – which he had been preparing for years. he trained so hard during summer that his coach Brian Orser remarked he would have been ready to go to the Olympics right then and there. he landed his 4Lz for the first time in competition at Rostelecom Cup and seemed poised to fight for momentum during the 2017-18 Grand Prix season.

And then this plan was, once again, thrown out the window when he sustained an ankle injury in practice right before the NHK Trophy in early November, which was much more severe than he first thought. he sat out of competition for 3mths, literally disappearing from all news and the public eye, despite hoping to return first at Japanese Nationals and then to the Pyeongchang team event, but pulled out of both as well. (honestly, Olympic season was a Pretty Big Disaster For So Many Bizarre Reasons…)

Yuzuru made his comeback from injury debut at the individual men’s event, aka. the BIG DEAL, after marching into the airport like a BOSS. we were told he had only recovered his triple axel 3 weeks ago and his quads 2 weeks ago, but post-Olympics, he slowly revealed that it was even more dire than that. he skated the entire Olympics on painkillers that were not working 100% which meant every jump landing hurt, accepting the risk he may permanently damage his ankle or worsen his injury because they didn’t actually know the extent of his injury at that point. 

And he. frikkin. WON. by doing thisand this

(It was also the 1000th medal in Winter Olympics history because destiny rewards those who are Most Extra)

But WAIT, you say, what is it about his skating that you love so much?

  • Some of his iconic moves ; _ ; His flexibility has been a key asset since he was young as very few male figure skaters could do the biellmann position in spins and a one handed hydroblade. He said I respect the no core strength community but that’s not me
  • He’s never taken formal ballet classes but here’s a ballet teacher and fan analysing some of his positions and a professional ballerino analysing his Chopin program
  • Edges. Have you seen anything more ridiculous??
  • He has the ability to engage in multidirectional and varied skating with huge amounts of speed, his Step Sequences are monsters, as are his choreo sequences and his transitions going in and out of jumps are the most complex in the field – eg. doing a triple axel in and out of twizzles or from a back counter entry
  • His spins are also amazing. He’s the full package. You wanna watch my personal favourite example of his completely ridiculous skating skills, speed and performance ability? I gotchu
  • Iconic program alert: romeo and juliet 1.0 at worlds, less than 1yr after the tsunami disaster, after he spent all summer training sporadically at ice shows. after flying under the radar for his senior debut, this really launched him onto the international stage
  • Iconic program alert: Sochi olympic short program (the thing that won him the gold lbr)
  • VERY iconic program alert: Chopin and Seimei at Grand Prix Finals 2015/16 
    • His skates for the two programs at NHK Trophy only a fortnight prior smashed the World Record.
    • Under enormous pressure and expectation going into the Grand Prix Final, he skated last, skated perfectly and achieved the WR for highest short program and total program score, beating the silver medallist Javier Fernandez by almost 40 points
    • he’s brought them both back and try to surpass them for the Olympic season because he wasn’t already under enough pressure
  • Seimei is arguably one of the greatest masterpieces of skating programs and Yuzuru was involved in every step of putting it together
  • More iconic program alert: hope and legacy FS at Worlds 2016/17 where he came back from 5th place in the Short Program to win the free and break his own world record yet again (annotated version so you can appreciate just how difficult and insane the layout was)
  • Broke his 12th WR in the first event of the 2017-2018 Olympic season at the ACI Challenger event with a sore knee and downgraded jump layout
    • Hilariously, his coach brian orser was – uncharacteristically – warning everyone that his first skates of the season are like ‘first pancakes’ and to not expect too much from him before the SP
    • His fans, needless to say, were amused
    • He did go ahead and die in the free skate the following day though, and finished with his obligatory Canadian silver
  • Jumped and landed his first 4Lz in competition at the Rostelecom Cup 2017 (watch it clean – it’s a THING OF BEAUTY) and now has landed 4 types of quads in competition (4T, 4S, 4Lo and 4Lz). Has now said that being the first person ever to land the 4A – his childhood dream – is one of his key motivations.
    • Note from 2019: he uh….tried it. on the last day of being 24 (please remember MOST SKATERS HIS AGE HAVE RETIRED BY NOW AND THE QUAD AXEL HAS NEVER EVEN BEEN ATTEMPTED COMPETITIVELY EVER)
  • Just go watch all his programs lol
  • Wanna see an on-ice POV of his Parisienne Walkways? You’re welcome for the food
  • Has a majestic jump face. It’s art. literally. 

But also what else?

  • Oh you wanna know more, huh? I GOT U BB, WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE
  • He may be a god? idk? He has multiple shrines in Japan that his fans make pilgrimmages to, because of their unintentional connections with him. Some include yuzuruha shrine in kobe because it shares 2 characters with his name (almost 3), the seimei jinja in kyoto, and abe no seimei shrine in osaka.
  • Oda visited one and basically all the ema wishes were for him (Yuzuru himself also visited the shrine to pray as well)
  • A kind fan even put together a list of places to visit for Yuzuru fans wanting to make a pilgrimmage

gif cr: balladestorm

In conclusion, thank you for reading and I hope you know more about this special, brilliant boy ( :

Published by


We are the Axel with Wings translation team, made up of fans of Yuzuru Hanyu. We hope to share videos of him and Japanese figure skating content with more people around the world. We aim to do our best to accurately capture the spirit of what's said. Hope you enjoy our videos and other contents.

3 thoughts on “Yuzuru Hanyu: an exhaustive introduction (2017 ~ 2020)”

  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful summary & compilation! I already had a blast reading them and I haven’t even clicked on some links yet! Just discovered Yuzu in June this year during quarantine – I know, I was living under a rock possibly the magima of the earth smh…. so this really helps to put puzzles in places for me hehe


  2. Brilliant composition on all that is Yuzuru Hanyu. It really puts it into perspective how utterly legendary he is. ❤️


  3. Thank you for a very happy evening reading this, opening all the links and learning more about Yuzu! I’m just sad I didn’t find this sooner—- I had to learn about him, and about skating, the hard way, starting after the 2018 Olympics. Video after video. Reading the comments. Trying to find anything written about him in english. Skating has opened a new perspective of beauty for me, and I can’t believe Americans are not more into it. Even though we have a champion of our own, and many skaters are fun to watch, nobody compares to Yuzu — he is just beyond. And his life and comments are both relevant and inspiring.
    You have done a fantastic job of pulling it all together. Just as you said, I laughed and I cried as your work of love unfolded. Again, thank you, thank you!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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