Updated at 12:11 a.m. ET
The weather for the Winter Olympics has not been for the faint of heart. Some of the lowest temperatures on record met athletes for their walk at the opening ceremonies. Events have been delayed and canceled. And Thursday night (Friday in South Korea), a rare kind of precipitation covered the ice at the men’s free skating event: Dozens of Winnie the Pooh dolls and plushes.
Japanese Olympian Yuzuru Hanyu is a difficult man to follow on the ice. He proved his talent with a gold medal in Sochi 2014. And he claimed first place after an impressive performance in the short program with a score of 111.68.
It also just takes a long time for the young skaters — called “sweepers” — who are tasked with scooping up the horde of plush cubs from the ice.
American skater Nathan Chen told The Washington Post he saw a silver lining in the bear-shaped rain cloud.
“The only thing I can take away from it is, be prepared for the Pooh bears to rain down,” he told the Post. “Good thing about that is that it takes a while for them to clear it off, and then they give me as much time as I need to get ready.”
For Hanyu, the relationship went public in 2010, according to NBC. At a competition, he carried a tissue box cover in the shape of a prone Pooh Bear. From there, social media embraced the inter-species friendship, complete with a Twitter account for the companion.
Hanyu’s coach, Brian Orser – silver medalist in 1984 and 1988 — told Absoluteskating.com that Hanyu is very superstitious. The Internet is littered with mashup gifs and videos of Hanyu lovingly holding and interacting with Pooh Bear. And there are multiple renderings of a ritual they have together. Hanyu bends down, looks the bear in the yes, and softly rubs his ears and cheeks.
After the fans run out of Pooh Bear projectiles, the stuffed (with fluff) animals collected in giant plastic bags backstage. And after events, Hanyu donates the toys to local charities, according to Time.
Hanyu’s original Winnie the Pooh can’t be with him on the ice this time because of Olympic sponsorship rules, Time reports. But with fans like these, it’s not likely he’ll be without his favorite companion for very long. Just a few minutes into Saturday morning, Hanyu learned that he won gold, making him the first male figure skater be a consecutive Olympic champion since American Dick Button in 1952.