On Friday, Feb. 16, Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu performed a mesmerizing short program that launched him into the lead of the men's individual competition at the Winter Olympics. The showing featured literal twists and turns, and there were even more theatrics to come after the performance, though. The video of Yuzuru Hanyu‘s short program includes a unique surprise at the end.
As the defending Olympic champion soaked in applause while standing in the center of the ice, members of the raucous audience at Gangneung Ice Arena in PyeongChang began throwing Winnie the Pooh dolls onto the ice.
The moment created as novel of an image you can find at the Olympics: an athlete inviting praise with his arms open wide, a screaming audience showing that praise by making it rain teddy bears.
If you're wondering what on earth Winnie the Pooh has to do with figure skating, don't worry, it's a perfectly good question. The answer? It's all about Hanyu's love for the famous Disney character.
At competitions outside of the Olympics, Hanyu is known to have a Winnie the Pooh bear at his side before performing his routines on the ice. Because of branding and sponsorship rules at the Olympics, however, the Japanese competitor can't do the same in PyeongChang.
No such rules apply to the fans however, some of whom came to the Gangneung Ice Arena dressed in Winnie the Pooh costumes, before others threw Pooh dolls at Hanyu's feet after the conclusion of his leading performance on Friday.
Check out Hanyu's short program routine — which earned a score of 111.68 — in the videos below.
Who is Yuzuru Hanyu?
Yuzuru Hanyu is a 23-year-old competitor who is aiming to repeat the gold medal he earned from the men's individual figure skating contest at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Hanyu is also a reigning world champion, having won gold at the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki.
Hanyu's love for Winnie the Pooh, and his audience's reaction to that love, is so well known that even his competitors know what to expect when he performs.
“I’ve skated after Yuzu actually a handful of times,” American figure skater Nathan Chen said before the short program, according to The Washington Post. “The only thing I can take away from it is, be prepared for the Pooh bears to rain down. Good thing about that is that it takes a while for them to clear it off, and then they give me as much time as I need to get ready."
Hanyu's short program on Friday marked a return from an ankle injury that kept him out of competition for four months. Coming into the 2018 Winter Games, the injury gave reason to doubt the 23-year-old's chances of defending his gold medal.
“I had a little bit of uncertainty,” said during a press conference ahead of Friday's competition, per The Washington Post. “But I am here. I feel like I’m ready for the Olympics, and that’s what matters. This is my dream stage. And I want to give my dream performance.”
With Hanyu now leading his rivals heading into Saturday's free skate program (the second half of the competition), the Japanese icon is on the verge of becoming the first Olympian to win back-to-back gold medals in men's individual figure skating in over six decades at the Winter Olympics.
Hanyu's performance puts him over four points ahead of Spanish skater Javier Fernandez, whose short program routine earned a 107.58 score, good for second place.
Team USA's Adam Rippon earned the seventh highest score with 87.95 points. Rippon's fellow American, 19-year-old Chen, who was seen as a contender for the gold medal coming into the PyeongChang Olympics, only had the 17th highest score in the short program.
Yuzuru Hanyu, meanwhile, has over 110 points to his name. Oh, and countless Winnie the Pooh bears.