The man widely considered the greatest figure skater of all time is hanging up his competitive skates. Yuzuru Hanyu announced his retirement from competition on Tuesday. In this week’s news roundup, we look back at his distinguished career and get the reaction to his announcement from the skating world. We also have the latest on the record-breaking coronavirus cases, Shinzo Abe’s killing and the Akutagawa and Naoki prizes. In athletics, meanwhile, there’s an opening day gold for Japan at the World Championships.
Hanyu Hangs Up His Competitive Skates
On Tuesday evening, Yuzuru Hanyu announced his retirement from competitive figure skating. The first Japanese man to win a Winter Olympic gold in the discipline, he was also the first skater to defend an Olympic title in the event since America’s Dick Button in 1952. In addition to his Olympic triumphs, Hanyu won two world titles and broke 19 world records. The first skater to land a quadruple loop, he will continue his attempts to land the elusive quadruple Axel as a professional exhibition skater.
“I carried on until Beijing in pursuit of the quad Axel, but I feel I can do it not necessarily in competitions,” said Hanyu during Tuesday’s press conference. “I actually feel it gives a chance for more people to witness it (in person). The decision (to stop competing) was made 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,” added the man affectionally known as the Ice Prince.
Skating World Responds to Hanyu’s Announcement
Several skaters responded to the news on social media, including the men’s reigning Olympic champion Nathan Chen. “It’s been the honor of a lifetime to have been able to stand on the same ice as you, Yuzuru Hanyu. Thank you for everything you have done for the sport and everything you will undoubtedly continue to do for it,” he posted on Instagram. Current women’s Olympic champion Anna Shcherbakova simply wrote the word “legend,” while the Russian King of Ice, Evgeni Plushenko described Hanyu as “the biggest star in figure skating history.”
A heartfelt message from three-time Olympic medalist Shoma Uno was read on the news. “I’ve been chasing after Yuzu-kun’s back for as long as I can remember. It still hasn’t sunk in that I won’t be able to meet him as a fellow competitor in future competitions. But I firmly believe he has been the one to lead the figure skating world to what it is today and will continue to do so, even as a professional skater,” he wrote. Reigning women’s world champion Kaori Sakamoto said she was always moved by Hanyu’s “immeasurable efforts.”
Record-Breaking Covid Cases
Japan reported 186,229 new Covid cases on Thursday, a new record after exceeding 150,000 for the first time on Wednesday. As for Tokyo, 31,878 new cases were recorded yesterday, more than 10,000 higher than the previous record set in February. The number of patients with severe symptoms nationwide increased from 176 to 189. Speaking at a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said there were currently no plans to impose movement restrictions. Japan’s capital did, however, raise its alert level to ‘red,’ the highest of the four levels.
With the infection numbers rising, the possibility of Japan reopening its borders for individual tourists looks bleak, in the short term at least. In June, 120,400 foreign visitors arrived in Japan, the third successive month the total exceeded 100,000. Of those visitors, though, just 252 were tourists. During the same month, 171,500 Japanese citizens went abroad, a figure 5.6 times higher than 12 months earlier. A recent poll by FNN and Sankei found that 67 percent support the government’s program to encourage domestic tourism
Suspect Hints at Abe Killing in Letter
On Sunday, the police seized a letter in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, reportedly written by Tetsuya Yamagami. In the note, the man charged with killing Shinzo Abe wrote that he’d “spent (time) trying to obtain guns” and that his “connection with the Unification Church dates back about 30 years.” Yamagami, who blames the religious organization for his mother’s bankruptcy, allegedly referred to Abe towards the end of the letter. He described him as “just one of the Unification Church’s sympathizers who wields the most influence in the real world.”
The murder suspect concluded the letter with the words: “I can no longer afford to think about the political implications and consequences that Abe’s death would bring.” It was sent from Okayama Prefecture. The recipient was a male freelance writer who has been critical of the Unification Church. The man’s identity has been withheld, though Yamagami is believed to have been an avid reader of his blogs. He noticed the letter had been sent to his home on July 13.
Yamanishi Defends World Title
On the opening day of the 2022 Athletics World Championships, Toshikazu Yamanishi took gold in the 20-kilometer race walk. The 26-year-old Kyoto-native defended the title he won in Qatar in 2019 with a time of 1:19:07. He led the pack from the start before breaking free in the final lap to claim victory. Seven seconds behind him was compatriot Koki Ikeda who picked up the silver. Ikeda also finished second at last year’s Tokyo Olympics with Yamanishi in third.
Abdul Hakim Sani Brown, meanwhile, became the first Japanese sprinter to qualify for the 100 meters final at the Worlds. The 23-year-old, born to a Japanese mother and a Ghanaian father, ran a season’s best 9.98 in the heats. He followed that up with times of 10.05 and 10.06 in the semi-final and final, finishing seventh overall. In the end it was a one-two-three for hosts America with favorite Fred Kerley taking the gold. He clocked 9.88, 0.02 seconds ahead of countrymen Marvin Bracy and Trayvon Bromell.
Takase and Kubo Win Prestigious Literature Prizes
The 167th Akutagawa and Naoki prizes were won by Junko Takase and Misumi Kubo. Takase received the Akutagawa Prize for her short novel Oishii Gohan ga Taberaremasuyoni (To become able to eat delicious food). The story centers around the difficulties three colleagues face in developing personal connections. “It’s a vivid realization of human relationships in a small group. It brilliantly portrays the complexity of people who aren’t simply good or bad,” said committee member Hiromi Kawakami. For the first time, all five writers on the Akutagawa shortlist were women.
As for the Naoki Prize, four women and one man were nominated. Kubo secured the award for her short stories collection, Yoru ni Hoshi wo Hanatsu” (Releasing Stars into the Night Sky). Focusing on loss, it features a tale about a woman who starts dating the ex-boyfriend of her deceased twin sister. Selection committee member Mariko Hayashi described the book as “pure and beautiful.” The awards, named after esteemed writers Ryunosuke Akutagawa and Sanjugo Naoki, will be officially handed out in August along with the ¥1 million prize money.