Daisuke Takahashi finished second at Japan’s figure skating championships, then declined a world championships spot, allowing a younger skater to take his place in his return from a four-year retirement.
The 32-year-old Takahashi took silver behind Olympic and world silver medalist Shoma Uno, who earned his third straight national title with Yuzuru Hanyu again absent for health reasons.
In the women’s event, Olympic sixth-place finisher Kaori Sakamoto upset Grand Prix Final winner Rika Kihira, while 2018 World silver medalist Wakaba Higuchi was fifth, ending her bid to return for March’s worlds in Japan. Sakamoto and Kihira are joined on the world team by two-time medalist Satoko Miyahara.
Takahashi, older than any Olympic singles skater since 1952, fell once and had no quadruple jumps in Monday’s free skate but maintained his second-place spot from the short program. He finished nearly 50 points behind Uno, who is going to worlds with Hanyu and Keiji Tanaka.
“I never imagined that I could take a medal at nationals,” Takahashi said, according to the Japan Times. “I have not decided my future yet.”
Takahashi last competed internationally at the Sochi Winter Games, taking sixth, four years after becoming both the first Japanese male Olympic figure skating medalist (bronze) and world champion.
“It took me nearly 4 years from then, but now I would like to face fully with figure skating, and for me to catch up on my skating from the old days, I realized that returning to the competition is the answer,” Takahashi said on his website in announcing his comeback on July 1. “Being away for 4 years, I understand that it will be beyond my imagination of how difficult it may be for me to get back in the game.”
Takahashi won two other world championships silver medals and finished eighth or better at every worlds and Olympics at which he skated from 2006 through Sochi.
He helped usher in an internationally accomplished generation of Japanese men’s skaters.
“I asked him for advice, and he has helped me many times,” Hanyu said in a statement when Takahashi retired, according to Agence France-Presse. “As a skater … he will always be someone I look up to.”
The fourth son of a hairdresser and an architect, Takahashi opted not to follow his brothers into karate.
He would become one of the beloved athletes in the sport, adored in Japan as a five-time national champion. Fans were brought to tears when it was announced in the arena at the 2013 Japanese Championships that he was placed on the three-man Olympic team despite finishing fifth at that event.
NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.
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