TOKYO: Japan’s “Ice Prince” and two-time Olympic figure skating gold medallist Yuzuru Hanyu accepted one of his country’s highest honours on Monday, pledging to be more than an “ordinary skater”.
The 23-year-old, wearing a sombre, traditional male kimono emblazoned with his family crest – a far cry from his flamboyant competition wear – said the award was a tribute to his team and would propel him to new heights.
“An award like this is not something that I could achieve all alone. I received this award representing so many people who have helped me and created the environment for me,” he said.
“I cannot be just an ordinary skater or individual, having received this wonderful award.”
The clean-cut skater, who has legions of adoring fans, also pledged to maintain his squeaky-clean image.
“I will pay attention to my private life and other things, so that I will live a life where no one can talk behind my back.”
Japan’s People’s Honour Award is one of the country’s highest honours, awarded to the likes of film director Akira Kurosawa. Hanyu is the youngest-ever individual recipient.
Hanyu grabbed Olympic gold in Sochi in 2014 and again in Pyeongchang in February, becoming the first man to capture back-to-back Olympic figure skating gold medals in 66 years.
But the feat was far from assured, with Japan distraught when Hanyu injured his ankle several months before the Olympics while attempting the ultra-tough quadruple.
He overcame the injury and prompted national euphoria with his gold medal-winning performance in South Korea.
He skipped the World Championships held in Italy after the Games, but said on Monday he was preparing for his return to competition.
“My injuries are improving gradually, so I can do more jumps and techniques than before,” he said.