PyeongChang 2018

Here's Why Fans Rain Winnie-the-Pooh Dolls on Yuzuru Hanyu

Figure skating is dramatic and full of character, but it's not a sport where you generally see fans partaking in weird, boisterous traditions. That's not the case when Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu skates, though. 

When Hanyu made his PyeongChang debut Thursday night, he wowed the audience and judges with an impressive performance that landed him the second-highest Olympic score ever for the event. (111.68) Fans reacted by throwing an incredible number of stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh dolls onto the ice. (If you were only partially paying attention, they were not the stuffed animals medalists receive.)

Why They Throw Winnie-the-Pooh at Hanyu

It's not because he thinks he's Christopher Robin. When he skates, Hanyu places a Winnie-the-Pooh tissue box cover on the rink's boards as a good-luck charm. The Pooh is positioned to have a good view of Hanyu's performance near coach Brian Orser. The tradition of throwing stuffed animals at Hanyu dates back to 2010 when fans noticed he was carrying around the tissue box.

Now, the Pooh Bear is expected and pretty much goes everywhere Hanyu goes. Hanyu's Pooh even has its own Twitter account. Hanyu is often seen playing with the toy, and he's even brought the tissue box to interviews, reports Time.

Fans love it and throw the stuffed animals onto the ice.

At the Olympics, he replaced the tissue box cover with a case that kind of looks like a cake. Time says Hanyu has the tissue box at the rink (and you may have caught a glimpse of it during Thursday's skate), but Olympic rules require him to keep it in the locker room. (The Los Angeles Times speculates that it has to do with Olympic sponsorship rules.)

The Pooh Bear toss is so expected Nathan Chen told the Chicago Tribune that when you compete against Hanyu, you have to be prepared for the storm of Poohs that will follow.

What Does Hanyu Do With Those Winnie-the-Pooh Dolls?

Though Hanyu loves the A.A. Milne character, he doesn't keep the hundreds of stuffed animals to build a strange shrine in his home. According to Time, the 23-year-old figure skater donates the toys to local charities wherever he's skating. It's a sizeable donation if you've seen just how many stuffed animals are getting swept up by the ice crew after he skates.

There are charities in PyeongChang about to find themselves with trash bags full of Pooh.

If you missed the thunderstorm of Pooh, you can probably catch it again on Friday, when Hanyu competes in the men's figure skating free skate. If he holds the top place and wins gold, Hanyu will become the first male singles skater to win gold at consecutive Olympic Games.

Check back during the games for all of Thrillist’s continuing Olympics coverage. Think of us like an all-knowing friend watching along with you to answer all the important questions, like how heavy are Olympic medals. We'll explain everything from curling rules and figure skating scoring to what OAR means, why winning athletes are receiving stuffed animals and much, much more.

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Dustin Nelson is a News Writer with Thrillist. He holds a Guinness World Record but has never met the fingernail lady. Follow him @dlukenelson.