TOKYO (UPDATE) - Former mentors, peers and others close to Yuzuru Hanyu had nothing but praise and gratitude for the 27-year-old Japanese figure skating icon after he announced Tuesday he was retiring from competitive skating.
Shoichiro Tsuzuki, 84, who coached the two-time Olympic and two-time world champion during his elementary school days, said he had "never met such a great athlete" and that Hanyu "raised the level of Japanese figure skating and set a great example for children."
"He loves skating and is determined to continue to improve his skating. I hope he will build on his past experiences to express himself in a new world," Tsuzuki added.
Mami Yamada, 48, who coached Hanyu from the age of 4 until his second year of elementary school, congratulated her former mentee on his skating career, saying, "There are times you win and times you don't, but I believe you have done all you can."
Hanyu narrowly missed becoming the first athlete to land the quad axel in competition during his free skate at the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. He said Tuesday he would continue his bid to land the elusive jump as a professional exhibition skater.
"He will be involved in skating differently in the future. Today is not the end, but a new start," Yamada said.
Locals from Hanyu's hometown of Sendai, and other areas in northeastern Japan, devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, also praised his achievements.
Toshikatsu Sato, a 39-year-old teacher at Naraha junior high school, said Hanyu had "encouraged the children with his powerful words" during his visit to the town, which was once designated a hazardous zone after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In Kobe, western Japan, a shrine has become a magnet for Hanyu's fans due to its name's similarity to the four-time Grand Prix Final winner, and six-time national champion's given name, Yuzuru.
Takumi Asari, a 35-year-old junior priest at Yuzuruha Shrine who has met Hanyu twice, expressed hopes that Hanyu would "climb to a different peak" and "work hard to satisfy himself."
Asari also said Hanyu "made men's figure skating known more widely to the world."
Media and fans worldwide reacted to the news even before Hanyu's official announcement, with media in countries such as Russia, China and South Korea covering the developments. Eurosport reported the news in multiple languages, and ESPN carried it in the United States.
From figure skating powerhouse Russia, Evgeni Plushenko, who won medals in four consecutive Winter Olympic Games and is Hanyu's inspiration, showed appreciation for his "good friend."
"I appreciate everything what he has done for figure skating. I would like to wish him all the best in his professional career," Plushenko wrote on Instagram.
Evgenia Medvedeva, the bronze medalist at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, also said on her Instagram account, "Congratulations on your retirement legend."
In China, where Hanyu has a widespread, passionate fan base who call him "Yuzu," news of the announcement was trending on Weibo, the country's equivalent to Twitter.
Fans gathered in front of the figure skating venue of the Beijing games in February and watched the news conference live on tablets.
Si Qiannan, who rushed to support Hanyu from outside the venue when he competed in the games, said, "In China too, it's because of Yuzu that so many people got interested in figure skating."
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