Yuzuru Hanyu’s “sponsors were thrilled” when he announced his decision to turn pro. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Yuzuru Hanyu’s “sponsors were thrilled” when he announced his decision to turn pro.

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Figure skating men’s skater Yuzuru Hanyu held a press conference on January 19. Yuzuru Hanyu announced that he will no longer compete in competitions and will turn to professional skating. He will continue to try quad axel (quadruple half jump). (Beijing=Xinhua Reporter/Hua Yi)

Pro figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu, 27, was born on January 19.

The press conference, which was urgently announced the day before, was attended by more than 20 TV cameras from home and abroad, although there was a limit of two people per company due to the COVID-19 crisis. The press conference, which began at 5:00 p.m., was broadcast live by three commercial broadcasters. NHK, which was unable to leave its live sumo coverage, broadcast the conference on a sub-channel, taking up an unprecedented 30-minute slot.

I’m not retiring, I’m going to get even better.

Hanyu began his speech by saying, “I’m just a humble person, so please forgive me if I use bad language or bite my words. During the Q&A session, which lasted for an hour, he turned his body and bowed politely to each questioner. He declared, “I have decided to continue skating as a professional athlete,” with the same “divine response” as before sprinkled here and there.

While Hanyu was speaking, the video in the background showed his strong bond with the major airline ANA, which was once again highlighted at the press conference. Neither party has yet made a clear statement about future contracts, but a sponsor who will continue to support Hanyu as he becomes a professional will be indispensable.

The exclusive contract that Hanyu signed in July 2013 has been renewed every year, and this year marks the ninth year. The exclusive contract includes a clause that states, “Even if the results do not come in, we have prepared a place for you to work after you finish competing,” according to the company. When Hanyu first signed the contract, he was capable of aiming for a gold medal at the Sochi Olympics, his first competition in 2002, and expectations were high because of his potential. However, at that point in time, he had not yet achieved the world’s number one ranking.

For this reason, Hanyu, then 18 years old, made the following comment.

I was told that this was an exclusive contract and not a normal sponsorship. I would like to accept the support I have received. I am truly happy.

The ANA executives and employees at the time were very moved by this comment from Hanyu, who was less than 20 years old.

Ai Fukuhara, Daiya Seto…

Ai Fukuhara was a typical example of an athlete other than Hanyu, who also signed an exclusive contract with Ai Fukuhara in 2007, but it was the sponsorship contract two years before that that triggered it. The sponsorship included covering travel expenses for overseas competitions and a commercial contract to enhance the company’s image. In the background of the sponsorship contract with Fukuhara, there was a major aim on the part of ANA to “expand sales channels for China routes,” where Fukuhara was based at the time.

In addition, ANA has also signed a contract with swimmer Daiya Seto in the past. Seto was under the same exclusive contract as Hanyu.

In 2008, Mr. Seto was involved in a scandal and his contract was terminated. The business performance of Corona deteriorated significantly, and we reviewed the contracts with many athletes, but many employees want the exclusive contract with Mr. Hanyu to continue,” said a person related to ANA.

(According to an ANA official, “Most contracts of this type are brokered by major advertising agencies, but negotiations for Hanyu’s exclusive contract began when ANA sent a direct love call to Hanyu.

ANA’s desire to genuinely support Hanyu may have reached Hanyu, as Hanyu actively participates in ANA’s company business. Every year, Hanyu appears in a VTR to address new employees at the company’s initiation ceremony. In 2002, Hanyu himself made a live appearance at the presentation of new uniforms for flight attendants, which were renewed for the first time in 10 years, to add to the excitement.

After Hanyu’s “proclamation” press conference, a 45-second video message was immediately posted on the official “ANA Travel Tweets” Twitter page.

I want you to cheer me on! Frankly, I want your support!”

We believe that beyond the pure thoughts of both athletes, there will surely be an unprecedented quadruple and a half success.

On March 11, 2012, exactly one year after the Great East Japan Earthquake, Yuzuru Hanyu and Shizuka Arakawa observed a moment of silence at a rink in his hometown, Sendai (Photo: Kyodo News)
Daisuke Takahashi (right) smiles after winning his first Grand Prix Final in December 2012, while Yuzuru Hanyu finished second. 2 years later, Hanyu won gold at the Sochi Olympics, while Takahashi finished 6th and announced his retirement that year. At the Sochi Olympics, Takahashi was 27 years old, the same age as Hanyu this time (photo: Kyodo News).
At the spring garden party in April 2014, right after winning the gold medal at the Sochi Olympics.
Then-Prime Minister Abe smiles as he puts on the gold medal Hanyu won at the Sochi Olympics. To his right is Mao Asada (Photo: Kyodo News)
Shortly after winning the gold medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.
At practice for the Beijing Olympics. Was it the pain in his foot, or was it his battle with inner pressure? Hanyu’s words gave a clear sense of the great pressure he was under with regard to the Olympics (Japan Magazine Association).
Falling down, falling down, and still challenging (Photo: Japan Magazine Association)
Before his performance at the Beijing Olympics in February, where his third consecutive Olympic victory was on the line, Hanyu put the edge cover of his skates on his forehead. It is a routine to express his gratitude (Photo: Japan Magazine Publishers Association)
After the end of his free skate performance on February 10, when the Beijing Olympics were held. His divine expression was impressive (Photo: Japan Magazine Association)
Immediately after her free skate performance. What thoughts ran through her mind (Photo: Japan Magazine Publishers Association)
Yuzuru Hanyu smiles and waves after the press conference. He was full of hope for a new start, not sadness of “retirement” that he will no longer compete (Photo: Kyodo News)

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