Yuzuru Hanyu is a household name when it comes to the world of figure skating. He first rose to prominence on the world stage in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, when he took home the Gold medal for Japan with his long programme coupled with exquisite music from Romeo and Juliet by Nino Rota. He then clinched the Gold again in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, despite mostly being on painkillers to aid his injured ankle in the lead up to the Olympics. The two-time Olympic champion was the media favourite when it came to this year’s Olympic games in Beijing.
Dubbed the ‘Ice Prince’ by the media and his adoring fans, Hanyu had immense pressure on him since the beginning – will he win a consecutive Gold for Japan? His short programme at the Olympics shocked many when he singled his quad Salchow (four spins in the air) seconds into the programme. He later said in an interview that there was a hole on the ice, which prevented him from executing the spin. Evidently, Hanyu remained calm and collected throughout the rest of his programme, skating smoothly upon the ice. The media immediately slammed his mistake, taunting it a failure.
The positive media build-up for Hanyu immediately turned sour as articles about his short programme littered the internet. The once favourite for Olympic Gold was no more. Figure skating audiences around the world also had much to say about the incident. Although many continued supporting him ahead of his long programme coming up in a few days, others called him toxic for “blaming” his failure on the hole in the ice (which he never did, in the first place). Chinese social media users also gave him much pressure as they attributed his incident to ‘karma’. These malicious comments came after Hanyu’s interview with journalists at the Olympics, some twisting his words wholly away from the truth.
Even though he was faced with intense media scrutiny, Hanyu took his long programme head-on and moved up four places to place fourth overall in the Men’s programme at the Olympics. It doesn’t end here – he executed his programme on a sprained ankle. Wrapped in a huge green cast, the Japanese skater still retained his smiles and a positive attitude away from the ice rink.
Despite all these setbacks, Hanyu still fought on and achieved the best result he could. He gave his all amidst the surrounding pressure of achieving a next Gold, media scrutiny, and the eyes of the whole world weighing down on his final programme in the Olympics. Motivated by his love for skating, the medal isn’t everything for Hanyu. He still took to the ice because he felt that he would be letting his supporters down by not giving a performance where he wasn’t giving his all.
Figure skating has always been one of the more controversial sporting numbers at the Olympics. Its athletes have been through doping cases, coach strife, and overall bad juju. However, we should not forget that figure skating, above all, remains a sport where for many skaters, performing on the Olympic stage is fulfilling a lifelong dream or a stage to challenge themselves to the best of their ability. Hanyu has shown great resilience in the face of unfavourable circumstances, prompting us to take inspiration from this episode and apply that into how we tackle our own everyday setbacks.