Beijing – Many Chinese fans of figure skating superstar Yuzuru Hanyu were upset that his eight-year reign as Olympic champion came to an end but still praised him for attempting a quadruple axel, which has never been landed in competition.
During Hanyu’s free skate performance at the Beijing Winter Olympics on Thursday, a Chinese citizen, one of the around 550 spectators allowed to enter the venue, cheered for him in Japanese repeatedly after he fell.
A Chinese woman in her 50s told Kyodo News, “It’s a pity that Hanyu missed a medal, but he took on a challenge that nobody has done before. The spirit is wonderful.”
On Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, a hashtag #4A, indicating quadruple axel, briefly soared to the top of the hottest search ranking, underscoring Hanyu’s popularity in the Olympic host country, with whom Japan has frayed relations over territorial and wartime issues.
In a bid to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further, tickets for the Beijing Olympics were not sold to the general public, while designated groups of people have been invited to watch the Games.
On Thursday, spectators were required to show their vaccine certification before stepping into the venue for the men’s singles figure skating. They were also prohibited from bringing plush toys.
“We were concerned about safety risks,” an Olympic official said.
But that meant no stuffed Winnie the Pooh bears for Hanyu, who has almost always been showered with the stuffed animals that his fans throw onto the ice after his routines.
China has effectively censored Winnie the Pooh on social media in the country, largely to keep users from drawing comparisons between the Disney cartoon character and President Xi Jinping.
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