27-year-old is Japan’s only back-to-back Olympic figure skating gold medalist.

With his youthful aura and slender build, it’s not hard to mistakenly think of Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu as still being in the prime of his youth, and at just 27 years of age, by a lot of metrics he is. However, during a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday, Hanyu announced that he’s retiring from professional skating.

The news didn’t come as a complete shock to fans. After becoming Japan’s first men’s figure skating gold medalist at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Hanyu repeated the feat four years later in Pyeongchang. Following recurring ankle injuries and a fourth-place finish at the Beijing Olympics in February of this year, though, there was speculation that Hanyu would be retiring from competition, making it a matter of not if, but when, in many people’s minds.

“In terms of on-ice results, I’ve believe I’ve made the achievements I should,” Hanyu said during the conference. “I suppose I’m no longer after that sort of recognition.”

▼ Following the press conference, the official Olympic Games Twitter account sent out a tweet in recognition of Hanyu’s accomplishments.

Discussing his future plans, Hanyu asserted “First of all, I have no intention of returning to competitive events,” closing the book on his Olympic ambitions, which he says became less intense after winning his second consecutive gold medal. However, the unique nature of figure skating means that even though he’s retiring from competition, he’s not retiring from skating.

Figure skating is unique in that it’s appreciated by fans not just as an athletic contest, but also its artistry. Hanyu intends to continue skating in a professional, non-competitive capacity, which would imply taking part in exhibitions and shows. Though he said he isn’t in a position to reveal specifics at the moment, he says he has an idea in his head for what he’d like to do. “I do not feel sad at all [about retiring from competition],” he explained, saying he is instead filled with determination and hope for his future endeavors. “I want to continue skating, in a way that’s a better fit for the current era, to present skating to people who have never seen it before, and in a place that will satisfy the fans who have supported me,” he declared, along with “This isn’t the end. It’s a new start.”

▼ ANA, one of Hanyu’s major sponsors, also released a video message in which he tells fans “Ouen shite hoshii desu” (“I hope you’ll [continue to] cheer for me.”)

Those are definitely reassuring words to the many people who have become fans of Hanyu and will be happy just to see him skate, even if he’s not winning medals while doing it anymore, instead of just fading away from the public spotlight entirely to play more retro games and eat gyoza.

Source: Nikkan Sports (1, 2)
Top image: Pakutaso
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