Few figure skaters in the history of the sport have had the kind of awe-inspiring presence that Yuzuru Hanyu has right now. For six years, he has captured the imagination of his entire country of Japan and won the hearts of fans across the world. As he won his second Olympic title today, joining only three other to have won two or more Olympic titles in men's skating, he did it under extraordinary circumstances in an era where skating has never been deeper and more competitive.
Great, indeed; and I'd argue, the greatest.
Recap/videos: Men's free skate
That Hanyu has been as consistently successful as he had over the past five seasons is nothing short of spectacular. Since the start of 2012, he has finished no lower than second in 28 of 31 competitions - two Olympic titles, two World titles, four Grand Prix Final titles, set and reset all three world record scores multiple times.
He is doing all this in an era in skating without school figures, in a time of greater objectivity in judging, in a sport where variance should be the norm.
I talked about his GOAT status after he won the 2015 Grand Prix Final with what, for me, is still the greatest free skate of all time. But for him to have continued to stay the course for another 2 1/2 seasons after that when everything and everyone around him closed the gap is nothing short of incredible. Men's figure skating has never had this caliber of talent skating the way that they are skating - technical content and all-around greatness.
Since Sochi, the field has had to rise because of just how magnificent a skater Hanyu is. And while they have cut away at his advantage in pure skating (see: Javier Fernandez, Shoma Uno) and surpassed him in technical ability (see: Nathan Chen, Boyang Jin), Hanyu has been able to fend them off on the biggest stages - last year at Worlds and today at the Olympics.
What makes Hanyu's victory today even more incredible than the fact that he was the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since 1952 is that he did it with a potentially season-ending injury just three months ago.
He has said this week that the ankle injury he suffered in practice at NHK Trophy in November was more severe than anyone originally thought it was. He had started practicing triple axels three weeks before he came to the Olympics, quads just two weeks before. His composure and determination - and belief in his training and technique - carried him through when an injury like that would have sunk most other skaters. And in a lot of ways this victory was actually made more possible because his injury forced him to go for elements that were less risky than what he had planned earlier in the season.
Many thought that Hanyu didn't need a quad lutz, or even a quad loop, to win the Olympics again. Those were his lowest percentage quads, and incidentally, those were the jumps that would hurt his injured ankle most. Today's win happened without either of those jumps in either program.
Let's not forget that Hanyu is still only 23 and has the desire to extend his career beyond these Olympics. And as he looks ahead to the next four years, who knows what his trajectory will be? But what he has already accomplished is unlike anything anyone has every done.
He is inspiring a brand new generation of Japanese skaters to embrace their inner Yuzu. And the sport is better because of him.
Yuzuru Hanyu stands, singularly, as the greatest of all time.