Figure skating-Double Olympic champion Hanyu may announce retirement Tuesday

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

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, a two-times Olympic champion whose attempt to pull off a third gold ended in a fourth place result at the Beijing Games in February, is expected to announce his retirement from competition on Tuesday, Japanese media said.

Hanyu, 27, is set to make a “statement of determination” at a 5:00 p.m. (0800 GMT) news conference, his management agency said on Monday.

A skating phenomenon whose determination has been legendary – he became the first man in over half-a-century to win back-to-back Olympic golds at PyeongChang in 2018, while skating on an injured ankle he was taking painkillers to endure – his future has been unsure since his fourth place showing at Beijing.

Hanyu had built up anticipation for the Beijing competition by promising to attempt the quadruple Axel – a 4-1/2-rotation jump never before landed by anyone in competition – but fell short of that goal.

He later told a news conference that an ankle injury gained in practice had been worse than originally thought and was non-committal about his future, hinting that while he still wanted to try the quadruple Axel, he also felt that his Axel was “complete.”

Hanyu is likely to announce his retirement from major competition and may announce an intention to turn pro, Japanese media said.

The slender, photogenic Hanyu has been popular throughout his career with fans around the world, many of whom would follow him from competition to competition, shouting “Yuzu!” and throwing “Winnie the Pooh” stuffed animals onto the ice after a performance.

A native of Sendai in northern Japan, Hanyu was practicing when the March 11, 2011, earthquake struck and fled the rink in his skates as the ice cracked around him. He and his family subsequently spent time in an evacuation centre because of damage to their home.