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Top Five Moments Olympic Champion Yuzuru Hanyu Proved Why He Is God of Figure Skating

Published 08/18/2022, 9:00 PM EDT

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Figure skating GOAT Yuzuru Hanyu announced his retirement from the competitions on July 19, 2022. While he has decided to continue his career in the capacity of a professional skater, his absence from all the major international competitions will be resounding. He leaves behind an astonishing legacy since claiming the Junior World Championship title in 2010, the beginning of his rise to the very top. 

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Hanyu, the most well-rounded figure skater in the sport’s history, set 19 world records, won two Olympic titles, and completed the Super Slam. Here’s a list of the top 5 moments of his competitive career:


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1. Yuzuru Hanyu, the first skater to break 100 in the short program

In 2014, 19-year-old Yuzuru Hanyu took his first step on the Olympic ice in Sochi, Russia. He scored 97.98 in the team event short program, an Olympic record. But just a week later, not only did he outperform his own world record of 99.84, but also became the first person to break the 100-point barrier in the short program.

Keeping his program from the last season, Parisienne Walkways, Hanyu earned a total of 101.41 points. American figure skating legend Richard Button said of his performance, “Tremendous triple combo, fantastic edging. Music supports his skating, and skating supports music,” an accurate description of his style.


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2. Resetting all three world records twice in back-to-back events

The 2015-2016 season stands as one of the most remarkable seasons of Hanyu’s career. At the 2015 NHK Trophy, the Japanese skater became the first man to break 200 points in the free program and 300 points in the combined total score in one go. And he didn’t just break it, he smashed to pieces with 216.07 in the free and a whopping 322.40 points in total. Moreover, he broke the short program record he set in Sochi in 2014.

Few believed Hanyu could surpass the record-breaking success of the NHK Trophy this season. But just weeks later, at the Grand Prix Final, he outdid himself yet again. He reset all three world records with the same programs, crossing 330 points in the combined total score. At this point, Yuzuru Hanyu’s only competition was Yuzuru Hanyu. 

3. The Hope & Legacy free skate at the 2017 World Championships

As every member of the Yuzuru Hanyu fan base knows, no list of top figure skating moments can ever be complete without including his 2017 World Championships free skate. Lying in 5th place after the short program, he needed every point he could take to grasp the title. 

Naturally, Hanyu delivered a perfect program, scoring a mind-blowing 223.20 points. He broke his own world record in the free program, giving him a total of 321.58.

4. Becoming the first two-time Olympic champion in 66 years

As the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics drew closer, all the fans strapped in for a competition of a lifetime. For many top skaters in the men’s field, these Olympics served as the final event of their careers. In an unpleasant surprise, Hanyu injured an ankle ligament a few months prior in November while practicing the quadruple Lutz.

He didn’t return to practice until only weeks before the Games in January, and his quadruple jumps training resumed even later. Naturally, he sat out the team event at the Olympics to rest his injured ankle. However, his first performance on the ice to Chopin’s Ballade No.1 made it seem like he never left. Hanyu scored 111.68 points, just shy of his world best.

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In the free program, Hanyu performed a lower-difficulty version than his originally planned jump layout. It turned out he had been relying on approved painkillers to get him through the competition, as he was still struggling with the injury. But even with one turnout and a stumbled jump, he bagged his second gold medal, the first to do so since Richard Button in 1952.

5. The Yuzuru Hanyu Beijing Olympic quadruple axel


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The two-time defending champion entered his third Olympics with only one goal in mind, to land the ever-elusive quadruple Axel. What makes this jump different from all the other quads is that it needs an extra half rotation as the Axel takes off facing forward unlike the other five jumps. No skater has landed a clean quad Axel in competition, though some have tried.

While Hanyu, too, failed in his attempt to stick the landing on the jump in his free program. He under-rotated the opening jump of his program and fell. But his jump didn’t get downgraded by the technical panel, making it the first certified attempt in competitive history. 


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With a popped quad Salchow in the short program and two falls in the free skate, Hanyu ultimately placed fourth, the first time he left the Games empty-handed. “(Finishing fourth) It is what it is. This Olympics was a challenge, and I gave it everything I have,” he said after the free program. The 2022 Beijing Olympics marked the end of Hanyu’s competitive career.

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Written by:

Mansi Jain


One take at a time

Mansi Jain is a US Sports author for EssentiallySports. She has a Bachelor's degree in Multimedia and Mass Communication from the University of Delhi and has also previously interned for HT Media. She is always one mention of Yuzuru Hanyu away from delivering an hour-long speech about the athlete's legacy.
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Edited by:

Rupak Kumar Jha