DYLAN RAMOS WRITES – Looks like all those prayers and shrine visits fans made for Yuzuru Hanyu’s victory sure paid off. Oh, and more than a bit of practice, I’m sure.

As for what happened on February 17, Jack Gallagher might have already put it best for The Japan Times, saying, “Yuzuru Hanyu etched his name into the pantheon of skating legends with a second straight Olympic gold medal in the free skate at the Pyeongchang Games on Saturday.”

But of course at Asia Media International, we must truly appreciate the scope of this win.

Hanyu joins a very short list of back-to-back gold medalists in Olympic men’s figure skating.  The last person to do so was American Dick Button, who won his second gold nearly seven decades ago at the 1952 Oslo Winter Games.  Prior to him there were only Austria’s Karl Schafer (1932, 1936) and Sweden’s Gillian Grafstrom (1920, 1924, 1928).

Before Hanyu’s performance, Kyodo News reported on Button’s praise for the 23-year-old Sendai native:

“Button took to Twitter to gush over Hanyu after his performance at Gangneung Ice Arena. ‘Hanyu — Great choice of music. Beautiful edging in and out,’ tweeted the 88-year-old Button. ‘Tremendous triple combo, fantastic edging. Music supports his skating, and skating supports music.'”

Cheering fans threw stuffed animals, including Hanyu’s favorite, Winnie the Pooh, onto the ice during one of his performances. The crowd went wild the following night when his free skate took the gold, Japan’s first for 2018.

And that wasn’t the only first of the night: Shoma Uno, born and raised in Nagoya, joined Hanyu on the podium with silver, his first Olympic medal (excluding his two from the 2012 Innsbruck Winter Youth Olympics). This is also the first time Japan won two medals in a single figure skating discipline at the Games. Finally, Spain’s Javier Fernández took bronze, bringing the country its first-ever Olympic medal in the sport.

While all three skated elegantly, Hanyu’s performance has been the most talked about, and not just because he won gold.

Just three months ago, he suffered a serious injury to the lateral ligament in his right ankle.  Yet despite being kept off his skates for two months, Hanyu managed to land jump after jump, spin after spin on Saturday, with just one, though clearly harmless, blip in an otherwise well-executed program.

“Since I was injured, I am very fortunate to skate here at the Olympics,” Hanyu said at a post-event news conference.

The Asahi writes, “Although [Hanyu] had not competed since November because of the ankle injury, he turned in the best score for the short program to place himself in prime position to repeat for the gold medal.”

The Mainichi Shimbun heaps on the praise, saying, “Not satisfied with simply reigning on the ice at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Hanyu has continued to push himself to further heights over the last four years. He has shaken the figure skating world by continuing to challenge himself with the sport’s most difficult techniques, planting himself firmly as the skater to beat in the men’s competition.”

Hanyu remained humble through the victory, claiming, “That I was able to win today is due to the support of many, many people. I am first of all very relieved that I was able to skate at all at this venue, and feel that I gave it my all on the ice.”

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