TOKYO (AP) — Japan celebrated Yuzuru Hanyu's historic win in men's figure skating at the break of dawn Saturday, rejoicing in the country's first-ever gold medal in the Olympic event.
It was 4 a.m. in Japan when the 19-year-old native of Sendai beat out Patrick Chan of Canada to win the gold. With a rare snowfall blanketing the city, most Tokyoites stayed home to watch the moment live on television.
"This is something we've waited a long time for," said office worker Shinobu Higuchi, who stayed up all night. "Considering the importance of it, I had no trouble staying up to watch."
The last time Japan won gold at the Winter Olympics was eight years ago when Shizuka Arakawa took top honors in women's figure skating in Turin.
Hanyu's gold was a huge relief for Japan, a country that is constantly vying with its Asian rivals, China and South Korea, for supremacy at the winter games.
Given than China has won two golds in the past couple days in speedskating and short-track speedskating, Hanyu's win couldn't have come at a better time. After favorite Sara Takanashi came up short in her bid for gold in women's ski jumping, many Japanese were starting to worry that Sochi would be a repeat of Vancouver when the country failed to win a single gold medal.
Japan sent 113 athletes to the Sochi Olympics, its largest contingent ever for a winter games outside Japan. Hanyu's win brought Japan's medal tally to one gold, two silver and one bronze so far.