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Daisuke Takahashi, world champion figure skater, switching to ice dance

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Daisuke Takahashi, the 2010 World figure skating champion who ended a four-year retirement last year, will switch from singles skating to ice dancing next year.

Takahashi, 33, will couple with Japanese ice dance Olympian Kana Muramoto and train under renowned Michigan-based coach Marina Zoueva, according to Japanese media. He will officially move after competing in singles one more time at the Japanese Championships later this season.

“There will be many hurdles that we will come across,” was posted on Muramoto’s social media, “but with our shared passion to perform and skate, we believe we can overcome any challenges together as a team.”

Takahashi said he wasn’t yet aiming for the 2022 Olympics, according to his website. But he could become the first skater to compete at the Games in singles and dance as medal sports, according to the OlyMADMen.

Brit Malcolm Cannon finished 20th at the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Games, then participated in ice dance in 1968 when it was a demonstration event.

Last season, Takahashi unretired and finished second at Japanese Nationals, then declined a world championships spot to allow a younger skater to take his place.

He last competed internationally at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, taking sixth, four years after becoming both the first Japanese male Olympic figure skating medalist (bronze) and world champion.

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,” 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion Yuzuru 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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Kaori Icho, Japan wrestling icon, likely shut out of Olympic record in Tokyo

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Japanese wrestler Kaori Icho, the lone woman to earn individual gold medals at four Summer Olympics, looks like she will not go for No. 5 at home in Tokyo.

Icho’s already dim Olympic qualifying hopes were weakened while she was absent from this week’s world championships. Her countrywomen earned medals in all three weight divisions that Icho could have realistically entered to make her fifth Olympic team in 2020.

Japanese wrestlers clinch Olympic berths by earning medals at this year’s world championships.

Icho’s best — perhaps only — chance to compete at the Tokyo Olympics is if one of those three medalists gets injured between now and July.

The 35-year-old Icho took more than two years off competition after earning her fourth gold medal in Rio.

She attempted to earn Japan’s 57kg spot for worlds but lost in a playoff against fellow Rio Olympic champion Risako Kawai, who went on to win a third straight world title on Wednesday.

Kawai, 24, moved down in weight this Olympic cycle, ending up in direct competition with Icho upon Icho’s return, then handed Icho her first defeat to a countrywoman in 17 years.

Icho once held a 13-year win streak overall and owns 10 world championships. She is already the oldest female Olympic wrestling champion (women’s wrestling was added to the Olympic program in 2004, Icho’s first Games).

In Rio, she joined sailors Paul Elvstrøm and Ben Ainslie, discus thrower Al Oerter, long jumper Carl Lewis and swimmer Michael Phelps as athletes to earn individual gold medals at four Olympics. Dutch speed skater Ireen Wüst joined this list in PyeongChang.

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MORE: World Wrestling Championships TV Schedule

U.S. routs Japan by 53 points at FIBA World Cup; Giannis, Greece next

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The U.S. men’s basketball team rebounded from near defeat to crush Japan by 53 points at the FIBA World Cup on Thursday.

It routed Japan 98-45, two days after a one-point overtime win over 17th-ranked Turkey. The U.S. won all three of its first-round group games to advance to a second round of group play.

A full box score is here.

The 53-point margin of victory came just shy of the U.S. record margin of 59 points over Finland in 2014. The record is for the Dream Team era, since teams of NBA superstars started playing at major international tournaments in 1992. The U.S. led by as much as 62 late in the fourth quarter.

The overall U.S. record margin is a 79-point win over South Korea in 1990.

Next up: Greece, led by NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greeks finished second in their group behind Brazil.

“We go as far as Giannis goes,” said Greek teammate Nick Calathes, a former University of Florida standout who played for the Memphis Grizzlies between stints with Greek power Panathinaikos, formerly coached by Rick Pitino.

The top two teams from the second-round group of the U.S., Greece, Brazil and the Czech Republic advance to the quarterfinals next week. The points from the first round of group games carry over.

“He is the MVP, but at the same time, they do have other great players on that team,” said U.S. swingman Khris Middleton, Antetokounmpo’s teammate on the Milwaukee Bucks. “It’s not just all about Giannis.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup schedule, results

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