yi-1

Who needs a bouquet of roses when you can get a nod to this season’s biggest sports anime hit?

It’s customary for passionate figure skating fans to shower the rink with flowers after their favorite athlete finishes a performance, and things were no different for Evgenia Medvedeva at the recent International Skating Union Grand Prix competition in Marseille, France. After the Russian star finished her short performance, a team of attendants skated around to gather the bouquets, but Medvedeva herself picked up one gift and personally carried it off the ice.

However, what caught Medvedeva’s eye wasn’t a particularly beautiful bundle of blossoms, but instead a stuffed animal, as shown in the video below. Well, technically a stuffed foodstuff, since it was a large plushie shaped like a triangular onigiri, or Japanese rice ball, that a fan had tossed onto the rink for her.

yi-2

yi-3

Those familiar with Medvedeva’s love of anime (the woman who greets her as she exits the ice can be seen holding a Luna, of Sailor Moon, stuffed animal) might think this is a nod to her love of Japanese pop culture, and that conclusion is half-right. But more specifically, the unusual gift was a reference to this season’s breakout Japanese animated hit, male figure skating anime Yuri!!! on Ice. Following an impressive performance in one episode by series protagonist Yuri Katsuki, the appreciative audience throws plush versions of various types of Japanese food to him, and someone thought to recreate the gesture in real life for Medvedeva.

Of course, that clever fan probably knew the skater would zero in on the onigiri, since 17-year-old Medvedeva has been extremely vocal about how much she’s been enjoying Yuri!!! on Ice. Just last month, she cosplayed as Yuri K. and shared the result with her Twitter followers…

…and on December 9, the day of the ISU Grand Prix short program, she managed to carve out enough time in her busy schedule to tweet about the latest episode of the anime.

The love seems to be flowing both ways, as Yuri!!! on Ice character designer Mitsuro Kubo has drawn the anime’s Victor cozying up to a caricatured Medvedeva.

Kubo was also watching Medvedeva’s performance seen in the video above, which prompted her to send out the following tweet.

“I don’t know who it was that threw that onigiri, but whoever you are, thank you.”

So after inspiring musicians and boosting Chanel sales, Yuri!!! on Ice has now come all the way back where it started by influencing real-world figure skating fandom.

Source: IT Media (1, 2, 3)
Images: YouTube/Loïc MR