SENDAI -- Figure skating superstar Yuzuru Hanyu was all smiles as he waved to over 100,000 cheering fans while parading through a major thoroughfare here, his hometown city, on April 22, during an event honoring his historic feat of clinching a second consecutive gold medal at the Pyeongchang Olympics in February.
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Before the parade, Hanyu, sporting his gold medal, thanked the huge crowd of fans, saying, "I am so grateful for you coming here. I have this medal because of your support." He also said, "I'm happy to be able to say to Sendai, 'I'm home,' with my second consecutive Olympic victory and with my gold medal in my hands."
When 23-year-old Hanyu emerged at an intersection serving as the starting point of the parade at 1:15 p.m., crowds lining the thoroughfare cheered on the Japanese figure skating legend. Some of the fans had even started waiting along the parade course from the predawn hours of April 22.
The city was enveloped in a celebratory atmosphere from even before the parade day, with hotels, restaurants and shops along the route in Sendai's Aoba Ward booked up and commemorative T-shirts and wristbands snapped up. The local metro system ran extra train services on the parade day to shuttle the would-be spectators.
On April 22, many fans awaiting Hanyu along the thoroughfare were seen wearing the T-shirts and wristbands.
The last time Hanyu paraded in Sendai, following his Sochi Winter Games victory in 2014, approximately 92,000 people turned up to witness the young figure skating sensation. The latest parade covered a 1.1-kilometer stretch of the thoroughfare, about 220 meters longer than in the previous parade, to an intersection in front of the Sendai Municipal Government. The procession on April 22 drew a crowd of some 108,000, according to organizers.
The event was funded by donations and the proceeds from the sale of the T-shirts featuring the silhouettes of Hanyu and his signature.
Hanyu experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 while practicing at a rink in Sendai. He has endeavored to encourage people affected by the quake and tsunami disasters through his performances on the ice.