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Sendai commemorates Olympic gold medalists Hanyu, Arakawa

Olympic gold medalists Yuzuru Hanyu, left, and Shizuka Arakawa pose for photographs in front of the monuments commemorating their distinguished achievements, in Sendai on April 16, 2017. (Mainichi)

SENDAI -- A pair of monuments commemorating the distinguished achievements of Yuzuru Hanyu and Shizuka Arakawa was unveiled here on April 16, attended by the two Olympic figure skating champions and drawing hundreds of fans.

    The glass panel monuments bearing life-size images of Hanyu and Arakawa from their gold medal-winning performances in the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the 2006 Turin Games, respectively, were installed in front of the International Center Station on the Sendai Subway Tozai Line in the city's Aoba Ward. Both Hanyu and Arakawa once lived in Sendai.

    About 700 fans flocked to the unveiling ceremony due in part to the rarity with which Hanyu has recently attended such events.

    After the ceremony, Hanyu shared his thoughts about fellow figure skating star Mao Asada's retirement in front of the assembled media, lauding her as a "symbol of taking on challenges."

    "No matter how difficult the steps, spins and jumps were that she put into her performances to go along with the tunes, she would never give the impression that she was doing something difficult, which was what set her apart from other figure skaters," Hanyu said. "I admire her for that."

    When Asada announced her retirement on her blog on the night of April 10, Hanyu said he was devastated and distressed, unable to sleep. Recalling the time he first managed to pull off a triple axel, which is now his signature jump, Hanyu said he learned to do it it after watching Asada's jumps during a training camp in 2008. "I owe my first triple axel to Ms. Asada," Hanyu said.

    "Every time I do my jump, I realize that Asada ... no, Mao lives on in my heart," he said.

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