Eleven years ago, Daisuke Takahashi became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic medal and a world championship in singles figure skating. Two days ago — after a retirement, a comeback and switching disciplines and transforming his body — Takahashi and his partner in ice dance, Kana Muramoto, posted a record-breaking score for a Japanese couple.
This winter, Takahashi can become the first figure skater to compete in the Olympics in their career in both singles and ice dance as medal sports, according to Olympedia.org.
He and Muramoto are expected to go to the national championships in Saitama next month to vie for the nation’s one Olympic ice dancing spot. They may well enter as the favorites given they just outscored the three-time reigning Japanese champions at NHK Trophy in Tokyo over the weekend.
It will cap an incredible journey if they make it all the way to Beijing. During the pandemic alone, Takahashi went from zero competitive ice dance experience (and little training with Muramoto) to best in his nation.
Nearly 36, he would be the second-oldest Olympic ice dancer in history after British legend Jayne Torvill, who came back with partner Christopher Dean in 1994. He would be the second-oldest figure skater in any discipline in the last 25 years (after 2010 Chinese pairs’ gold medalist Zhao Hongbo), according to Olympedia.
“This may be pretty unprecedented,” NBC Sports analyst Tanith White, who first marveled at Takahashi’s dance skills in 2016, when he was part of an off-ice show called “Love on the Floor,” created by “Dancing with the Stars” pro Cheryl Burke, said last year before Takahashi and Muramoto’s debut. “Having said that, I think that Daisuke, he is one of the most naturally gifted skaters I have ever seen.”
At NHK Trophy last weekend, Takahashi and Muramoto totaled 179.50 points, a Japanese record in international competition and 22.25 points more than they scored at the same competition a year ago (their first as a couple).
The 179.50 would have placed 15th at last season’s world championships (Japan, a singles powerhouse, has never put an ice dance couple in the top 10 of an Olympics). More importantly, it was 7.3 points more than national champions Misato Komatsubara and Tim Koleto scored between Friday’s rhythm dance and Saturday’s short dance at NHK.
Komatsubara said afterward that she had an elbow tendon injury that would be examined this week after flying to North America. Their training base is Montreal.
Takahashi and Muramoto have the momentum.
“Compared to NHK Trophy last season, there were no major mistakes, and we were able to put on the performance we were practicing for,” Muramoto said after Saturday’s free dance, according to a translator.
Their coach, renowned ice dance mind Marina Zoueva, said last year that she gave Takahashi the nickname of Zeus, “because when he’s on ice, he’s just flying around.”
“Daisuke is like a dream ice dance partner,” Zoueva said in 2020 of learning that he was the 2018 Olympian Muramoto’s new partner. “He’s so fast, so edgy, so light, like a bird on ice.”
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