Hanyu idolized in China

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Copies of a book about Yuzuru Hanyu are seen at a bookstore in Beijing on Monday.

BEIJING — Figure skating star Yuzuru Hanyu hit the ice for the first time at the Beijing Winter Olympic Games on Tuesday.

Hanyu’s popularity in China is on par with that of local athletes. Copies of a book about the two-time Olympic champion’s illustrious career were displayed prominently at a Beijing bookstore, while Chinese media have been reporting his every move as breaking news since before the Games started.

On Monday, the state-run international broadcaster China Global TV Network posted on social media that Hanyu had appeared at a skating rink, which prompted a host of supportive comments.

Hanyu arrived in Beijing on Sunday, after other athletes, so many Chinese fans wondered and asked online when he would get to China. At one point, Hanyu’s name topped social media searches in that country.

Hanyu is popular in China for his good looks and skating talent — one Chinese newspaper has called him “the prince of figure skating.”

However, fans also seem attracted to his caring personality. During the medal ceremony at the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki, which Hanyu won, he noticed that the Chinese flag held by third-place finisher Boyang Jin of China was reversed, and helped him hold it correctly.

Videos of that moment went viral in China and are said to have cemented Hanyu’s immense popularity there.