Japanese figure skating icon Yuzuru Hanyu announced he is retiring from competition Tuesday but will continue his bid to land the elusive quadruple axel as a professional exhibition skater.
After missing out on his third straight Olympic gold at the Beijing Games in February, the 27-year-old world champion from 2014 and 2017 left it unclear whether he would ever again compete on the ice.
"I'll no longer be able to be compared with other competitors," he said during a press conference in Tokyo, where some 150 media personnel flocked to report on the global star's words. "But I'll keep fighting my weaknesses and my past self."
"In terms of results, I've achieved everything I could achieve. I stopped wanting to be evaluated."
He narrowly missed becoming the first athlete to land his childhood-dream quad axel in competition during his free skate in Beijing, falling on his attempt at the four-and-a-half-rotation jump.
Hanyu, also the winner of four straight Grand Prix Finals from 2013 and a six-time national champion, withdrew from the world championships in March as he had not recovered from the ankle sprain he sustained in Beijing.
"I carried on until Beijing in pursuit of the quad axel, but I feel I can do it not necessarily in competitions," Hanyu said. "I actually feel it gives a chance for more people to witness it (in person)."
"I made the decision (to stop competing) after Beijing...I've thought through many things and felt I no longer need to be on the same stage, while also feeling more determined to get better and stronger."
A native of Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan's Tohoku region, Hanyu began the sport aged 4 and inspired victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the area with his victory at the 2014 Sochi Games.
He was the first male figure skater not from Europe or the United States to win the Olympic competition.
Uncompromising with his jumps and not afraid to mince words with his coaching staff if necessary, Hanyu also had a unique choreographic talent that saw him skate to classic, Japanese or even rock music among other themes during his career.
He made a historic defense of his Olympic gold at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, becoming the first to achieve the feat in the sport in 66 years, since American Dick Button.
Hanyu became the youngest recipient of the Japanese government's People's Honor Award at age 23 that year.
"They are the proof of my life," he said on his two Olympic gold medals before stating that he is skating even better now.
"It was almost like a regular thing for those at 23, 24 to hit a brick wall. I was 23 at the Pyeongchang Games and managed to develop significantly up until this moment, including my jumping skills. I think I'm at my best now."
Hanyu revealed he could have quit competing after the Olympic win in February 2018, when he triumphed on his return from right ankle ligament damage suffered just three months earlier.
Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu performs his free skate at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, on Feb. 17, 2018. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo
But he kept on fighting as he had not yet won the Four Continents Championships, which he won in 2020 to sweep all the major titles in the sport.
Fellow sporting figures from Japan praised Hanyu's career and character following the latest announcement with speed skating star Nao Kodaira, Hiroyasu Shimizu as well as figure skaters Miki Ando and Kanako Murakami just a few on the list.
Shoma Uno, the 24-year-old who won silver in the 2018 and bronze in the 2022 Olympics, said his rival was "a big milestone" in his career.
"I'm filled with a sense of resolve and hope," Hanyu said on his new chapter, although he admitted he is finding it "very hard" to draw a line mentally between a competitor and an exhibition skater.
"There are plans in progress but I'm holding back from giving you details...I think there are more ways to exhibit figure skating befitting this time and age," he said. "I hope to make the fans who never came to watch want to come."
"I'll treasure the sporting value of figure skating as a professional athlete while pursuing my ideals. I have no sense of loneliness."
"I can categorically say so (that I won't miss competitions). I'll try to offer that sense of tension with my future activities."
Hanyu finished fourth at the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.
After an unsuccessful three-peat bid in Beijing, Hanyu said he had "nothing more to give" and that he needed time to think about his future.
"It doesn't matter what field it will be in," he said of his next step after the Olympic gala. "It could be an ice show or a competition."
Hanyu returned to the ice for the four-stop "Fantasy on Ice" show which took place in May and June in Japan.