In one of the strangest stories that we’ve seen out of the PyeongChang games, the beloved bear Winnie the Pooh is making a comeback.
The loveable bear is the unofficial mascot of Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu. Every time Hanyu takes to the ice, he keeps a stuffed bear on the side of the rink, and after he finishes his routine, the fans throw stuffed bears onto the rink. And the carefree bear has proved to be a pretty effective spirit animal for Hanyu, who is considered by some to be the best figure skater in history.
And the bears aren’t wasted either, after Hanyu has left the ice and the stuffed animals are crowded on the rink, they’re donated to local charities.
The 23-year-old won a gold medal in PyeongChang on Saturday, making him the first male skater since 1952 to win back-to-back Olympic golds. And in a New York Times profile of the star, the paper wrote that thousands of Hanyu’s fans traveled to South Korea to see him compete. Some of them wore Winnie the Pooh hats while others donned Winnie the Pooh costumes.
And the story of Hanyu’s gold medal performance has the kind of storybook twists and turns that you might expect from something a lot more dramatic than Winnie the Pooh. In the months leading up the games, when he should have been entering his final round of preparation, Hanyu suffered an injury to his ankle that threatened his performance. But, in a comeback story for the ages, the Japanese star managed to return with a vengeance, cementing himself as the greatest ice skater in the world. And, Winnie the Pooh was there on the sidelines for the entire thing.