Yuzuru Hanyu Has a Massive Fan Base That Changed the Face of Figure Skating Appreciation

Published 07/01/2022, 11:15 AM EDT

Athletes growing bigger than the sport itself is a common phenomenon. We saw it with Usain Bolt, we saw it with Michael Jordan, and we’re seeing it again with Yuzuru Hanyu. The popularity of the two-time Olympic champion has sky-rocketed way beyond anything the sport has ever seen.

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Perhaps the last time figure skating gained this much traction because of a single skater was with Korea’s Yuna Kim. She had amassed a huge native fan base and has been dubbed Queen Yuna by the media. But even that doesn’t quite compare with Hanyu’s popularity all over the world.

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“Fanyus”: the massive fan base of Yuzuru Hanyu

The vast global fandom that the figure skating G.O.A.T. has accumulated is nothing short of a cult. It’s not just Yuzuru Hanyu’s skating abilities that set him apart from the rest, but also how his fervent supporters have forever changed the way figure skating is appreciated in the internet era. 

2022 Beijing Olympics – Figure Skating – Exhibition Gala – Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing, China – February 20, 2022. Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan in action. REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

With Hanyu consistently staying at the top of the world rankings, the Japanese media has done countless features on the athlete. Thus, providing the fan base mountains of content even if the two-time World Champion refrains from social media. Naturally, a passing fancy turns into a full-blown obsession.

“Seeing him on TV shows and commercials and also all the magazines, that kind of introduced me into this figure skating fandom,” Tokyo-based writer and translator Maria-Laura Mitsuoka said. In the same way we see massive Kpop fandoms dole out masterpieces in the name of fan art and literature, Fanyus have embodied a similar culture to show appreciation for the skater. 

“No other figure skater before had so many people who painted them or who produced other kinds of art,” she continued. “I think that Yuzuru’s managed not just to rule the sports world inside his fandom, but also other parts of the fandom, like art and literature.” 

What fuels his dominance in the online figure skating community?

The four-time Grand Prix Series champion, Yuzuru Hanyu, has trended on Twitter multiple times even in the off-season. Hashtags of his name in English and Japanese feature photos or videos of the skater, and gain interactions from intersecting fandoms, from anime to Kpop.

2022 Beijing Olympics – Figure Skating – Men Single Skating – Free Skating – Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing, China – February 10, 2022. Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan in action. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

The best example would be during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, where fans expected Hanyu would bring home a third consecutive Olympic title. But when Nathan Chen won gold instead, the public practically rewrote history through the internet. Like collecting Pokemon, fans from all different Twitter spheres banded together to express their discontent with the result.

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Better believe, once you enter skating Twitter, you never really get out. Fanyus will never let you forget the champion’s 19 world records. Furthermore, they’ll highlight his costumes, his skills, and every clip of every ice show he has ever taken part in. 

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He has communities dedicated to translating his Japanese interviews for international audiences. Similarly, we can not overlook the sheer volume of fan mail the 27-year-old Sendai-born skater received at the 2022 Games? Hanyu’s fan base is truly a force to be reckoned with.

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Mansi Jain

347 articles

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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