Yuzuru Hanyu, who won gold in 2014 at the Sochi Olympics, is looking likely to take home gold again after he won Friday’s short program. If you saw his routine, you might have seen a handful of Winnie the Pooh toys being thrown his way onto the ice afterward.
Yuzuru Hanyu, take a bow. The Japanese skater turns in the night's top score in the men's short program. #WinterOlympics https://t.co/fmMl0BMYXF pic.twitter.com/RMqnIulyaW— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 16, 2018
Aside from the gesture just being plain adorable, there’s a significance behind his fans throwing Pooh bears. According to The New York Times, Hanyu is a huge fan of Winnie the Pooh to the point of it being a good luck charm:
Pooh gave smiling, uncritical approval of Hanyu, 23, in late October at an important pre-Olympic competition in Moscow called the Rostelecom Cup. Hanyu prefaced each routine with a quirky ritual, squeezing Pooh for good luck before he stepped onto the ice. He chose the Disney character as his personal mascot, according to a fan blog, because he found comfort in Pooh’s unchanging gaze.
Ever since Hanyu started bringing a Winnie the Pooh tissue box to competitions in 2010, fans took his love to heart and joined him, wearing Pooh merch and bringing Pooh toys as a way to show support. It’s their meme — there’s even a Twitter account dedicated to Hanyu’s Pooh.
Here’s Hanyu and the Pooh box in 2015:
he just puts it back !!! pic.twitter.com/wSuj2qst08— ハブユユミ (@thehabuyuyumi) October 31, 2015
In an interview with the Boston Globe, his coach, Brian Orser, described the typical post-Pooh scene backstage:
“You go backstage and there are bags and bags and bags,” said Orser. “Yuzu’s parents and sister and agent go through every single bag and separate all the flowers and gifts and cards and they send something back.”
Basically, every time Hanyu finishes a routine at a major event, you should expect to see Pooh bears flying onto the ice. It’s all a wonderful mess that event staff has to clean. There are going to be so many Pooh bears after Hanyu’s routine at the free skate competition — like a truckload amount of them flying everywhere.
DID YOU KNOW? Yuzuru Hanyu donates all those Winnie the Pooh bears that get thrown on the ice to local charities wherever he's skating. #WinterOlympics pic.twitter.com/GJjkrND3fp— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 17, 2018
So many Winnie the Pooh things are getting prepped and ready for their Olympic moment— Ashley Wagner (@AshWagner2010) February 16, 2018
LOOK AT THE POOH BEAR MOUNTAIN HAHA #yuzuruhanyu #羽生結弦 #olympics pic.twitter.com/kZoQfaZdGg— (@elevenzsz) February 16, 2018
(h/t NBC Olympics; Deadspin)