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The world has gone Olympic crazy with the 2018 Winter Games in full swing in South Korea, but that's not the reason why people are slinging Winnie The Pooh at competitors. Viewers who have been following the men's single figure skating competition have, without a doubt, noticed an odd ritual happening when Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu skates, because plush Pooh bears rain down onto the ice at the conclusion of his performances. So, what's up with that? The answer is somewhat complicated, but at its source, it all comes down to being an homage to a superstitious ritual of Hanyu's.
The tradition dates back to 2010 and is rooted in a tissue box that has a plush Winnie the Pooh skin over it. The odd object is Yuzuru Hanyu's good luck charm and has followed the athlete through some of the greater achievements in his career. According to a report from NBC, Hanyu is frequently seen playing with the bear/box when not competing, and is always careful to put it in a spot where the bear can best see the ice during his performance.
The charm, paired with Yuzuru Hanyu's unbelievable skating ability, struck a chord with fans and soon both became wildly popular in the figure skating community. Fans began to chuck plush versions of the silly old bear following Hanyu's performances as a sign of admiration for the skater and as a shoutout to his good-luck charm. The 2018 Olympics have been no exception, as hundreds of Pooh bears rained from the audience following Hanyu's performance, which resulted in the second highest score ever seen in the men's single skate opening short program:
As for why Yuzuru Hanyu began toting around a Winnie the Pooh tissue box prior to it becoming his thing, that remains a mystery. Some in the community have speculated that Hanyu's attachment to the Disney character is based in superstition, which is something many Olympic athletes believe in. It's hard to deny that something is helping Hanyu out, with the skater likely sealing the deal for Olympic Gold at the 2018 games, which will pair quite nicely with his 2014 gold win in Sochi. Hanyu also has several medals in other prominent figure skating events and is considered one of the top athletes in his sport, so, perhaps instead of questioning why he's carrying around Winnie The Pooh, folks should ask themselves why they aren't!
NBC's coverage of the Olympic games is still running strong on the network and its affiliates, so tune in there to keep up with all the action going on in PyeongChang. For some information regarding other television premiering in 2018, head on over to our midseason premiere guide. For more on figure skating, check out what we had to say about Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski's commentating during the games.