Olympics-Figure skating-Hanyu leaves fans in dark about future plans as millions tune in
By Sakura Murakami and Chang-Ran Kim
BEIJING (Reuters) - Yuzuru Hanyu left his legion of squealing fans in the dark and wondering whether they would ever see their Japanese figure skating hero compete again as millions tuned in live on Monday for his news conference on the sidelines of the Beijing Games.
The 27-year-old fell short of his stated mission to clinch a third straight Olympic men's title in Beijing, placing fourth, but his popularity remained unmatched with at least six million Chinese viewers watching a livestream of his appearance over social media sites Weibo and Tencent.
Japanese broadcasters also carried the event live despite organisers' jittery advisory a day earlier that there would be no special announcement at the news conference - the mere setting of which ignited rumours about his possible retirement.
"I didn't think there would be so many people here and I'm really surprised," Hanyu said as he took his place in the cavernous venue after passing a crowd of squealing Games volunteers and onlookers outside.
"I'm really grateful for the opportunity to speak to you all."
Over a 35-minute session in which he mostly fielded questions from Japanese media, Hanyu offered little news, saying he was still undecided over his future.
"I don't know if this is my last Olympics.
"For a figure skater, it's the only stage that's worth powering through an injury for," he said, noting that the re-injury of his ankle during the Games had been worse than he first imagined.
"It gave me a deep sense of happiness to be here, and there's a part of me that wants to skate here again," said Hanyu, who trained at a practice rink earlier in the day.
Hanyu had built up anticipation for his Beijing competition by promising to attempt the quadruple Axel - a 4-1/2-rotation jump never before landed by anyone, including himself - but fell short of that goal too.
Asked if he would continue his pursuit of the "4A", he was equally non-committal.
"I definitely feel like I want to land the 4A... but at the same time, I also feel a bit like my Axel is complete," he said.
"A lot of thoughts are going through my mind right now."
The one thing he was sure of? His unrivalled stardom.
"I don't think there are many skaters who achieve this level (of fans) so easily," said the skater, whose performances are usually greeted by an avalanche of Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed toys hurled on to the ice by hollering fans.
"I'm just happy to be Yuzuru Hanyu."
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami and Chang-Ran Kim; Additional reporting by Muyu Xu, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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