Hanyu's successful defense of his gold medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games was the first in the men's competition since American Dick Button in 1952. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES
Hanyu’s successful defense of his gold medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games was the first in the men’s competition since American Dick Button in 1952. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES

On Tuesday, figure skating superstar Yuzuru Hanyu finally confirmed the rumors: After 12 years in the senior circuit he would withdraw from competing and skate as a pro in exhibitions.

Known for his effortless elegance on the ice, Hanyu was the first Japanese athlete to win a gold medal in men’s figure skating at the Winter Olympics, a feat he achieved twice in a row.

Here are a few of highlights of his awe-inspiring run.

Yuzuru Hanyu skates at the age 5 in November 2020. | COURTESY OF THE FAMILY OF YUZURU HANYU / VIA KYODO
Yuzuru Hanyu skates at the age 5 in November 2000. | COURTESY OF THE FAMILY OF YUZURU HANYU / VIA KYODO

Hanyu displays a flag in November 2011 in support of the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake after his first victory at the Cup of Russia in Moscow. | KYODO
Hanyu displays a flag in November 2011 in support of the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake after his first victory at the Cup of Russia in Moscow. | KYODO

From left: Daisuke Takahashi, Yuzuru Hanyu, Mao Asada and Akiko Suzuki pose for photos following their medal-winning performances at the 2012 NHK Trophy in Rifu, Miyagi Prefecture. | KYODO
From left: Daisuke Takahashi, Yuzuru Hanyu, Mao Asada and Akiko Suzuki pose for photos following their medal-winning performances at the 2012 NHK Trophy in Rifu, Miyagi Prefecture. | KYODO

Hanyu competes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES
Hanyu competes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Yuzuru Hanyu reacts after hearing his score of 101.45 in the men's figure skating short program at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES
Yuzuru Hanyu reacts after hearing his score of 101.45 in the men’s figure skating short program at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Hanyu celebrates after winning Japan's first men’s singles figure skating gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES
Hanyu celebrates after winning Japan’s first men’s singles figure skating gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Hanyu (right) and Shoma Uno celebrate after winning gold and silver in the men’s singles competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES
Hanyu (right) and Shoma Uno celebrate after winning gold and silver in the men’s singles competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Fans throw
Fans throw “Winnie the Pooh” toys onto the ice after Hanyu’s performance at the 2018 Winter Olympics. | CHANG W. LEE / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Hanyu waves to people in Sendai in April 2018 during a parade to celebrate his second Olympic gold medal, which he won in the men's figure skating competition at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. | KYODO
Hanyu waves to people in Sendai in April 2018 during a parade to celebrate his second Olympic gold medal, which he won in the men’s figure skating competition at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. | KYODO

Hanyu receives the People's Honor Award from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July 2018. | KYODO
Hanyu receives the People’s Honor Award from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July 2018. | KYODO

Hanyu performs his free skate during the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing in February. | HIROKO MASUIKE / THE NEW YORK TIMES
Hanyu performs his free skate during the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing in February. | HIROKO MASUIKE / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Hanyu attempted the notoriously difficult quad axel in his free skate at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, coming closer to landing the jump than any skater before him. | KYODO
Hanyu attempted the notoriously difficult quad axel in his free skate at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, coming closer to landing the jump than any skater before him. | KYODO

Hanyu performs during the exhibition gala at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. | REUTERS
Hanyu performs during the exhibition gala at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. | REUTERS