SOCHI, Russia – Olympic figure skating champion Yuzuru Hanyu dedicated his triumph to victims of Japan's devastating tsunami and earthquake that ripped through his hometown of Sendai three years ago.
After securing gold at the Iceberg Skating Palace on Friday night, Hanyu told how he had been motivated by carrying the hopes of his region, which he was forced to leave following the natural disaster. He eventually relocated to Canada to train.
"I really wanted to stay in Sendai," Hanyu said. "After the tsunami and the earthquake, a lot of people helped me out and I don't think I was here spiritually by myself. I am here because of all the people in Japan who supported me.
"Maybe I am the gold medalist in the Olympic Games, but I still feel helpless. This medal can't really help out. I feel like I am not really making any contribution."
Hanyu fell twice during his long program, but with runner-up Patrick Chan of Canada making three mistakes, combined with the high level of difficulty in Hanyu's free skate, the Japanese star took gold. Denis Ten of Kazakhstan won bronze.
His victory was greeted with delight in Japan, especially in the stricken region where more than 15,000 people lost their lives. Hanyu was in Sendai the day of the disaster and was forced to run from his training hall to find safety.
He wants to use his success to have a positive impact on the lives of the community that has been steadfast in supporting him.
[Related: Yuzuru Hanyu wins gold in men's figure skating]
"Perhaps now there is something I can do going forward," Hanyu said. "I think [by winning] I was able to give something back, to return the favors I got. I did not feel like I was alone."
Hanyu now works with Brian Orser in Toronto and has made dramatic progress over the last two years to become the most exciting skater in the sport. Now he has a gold medal to match those skills.
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