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Daisuke Takahashi ends four-year figure skating retirement

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Japanese figure skater Daisuke Takahashi is coming out of a four-year retirement, according to the Olympic medalist and world champion’s website.

“First and foremost, I would like to announce my return to the competition from beginning of the new season,” the statement read. “In 2017 Japan Figure Skating Championships, I had the privilege to be present at the site from media’s standpoint and I was really moved by each skater’s respective positions thus motivations, which made me realize that I want to fight and skate again in such tensed environment.”

Takahashi, 32, last competed at the Sochi Olympics, taking sixth, four years after becoming both the first Japanese male Olympic figure skating medalist (bronze) and world champion.

He returns at an advanced age. For perspective, the last time a 32-year-old competed in Olympic singles skating was 1998.

“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. “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. But I would like to push and train myself even harder in order for me to achieve the feeling of giving all I’ve got and that is the one thing that I couldn’t accomplish before my retirement. Needless to say but I am really excited and looking forward to skating as a competitor again in front of all the people who have been supporting me for all these years. Wish me luck.”

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 the current deep crop of Japanese men’s skaters, including Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu and silver medalist Shoma Uno.

“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 and began figure skating instead.

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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Ashley Wagner takes figure skating break; Gracie Gold set to return

Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold
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Ashley Wagner is taking her first competitive break after 11 seasons as a senior figure skater, sitting out the fall Grand Prix series, while Gracie Gold is scheduled to compete for the first time since January 2017.

“After the craziness of last season, I decided to take a breather and sit out of this Grand Prix season,” was posted on Wagner’s Instagram. “My passion for the sport burns very bright, but after 11 seasons on the circuit I am ready for a bit of a break! I am continuing to train and take this day by day, but I’m allowing myself the opportunity to open up the definition of what skating means to me!”

Wagner, a 2014 Olympic team event bronze medalist and 2016 World silver medalist, and 2014 Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova of Russia were the notable singles skaters missing from the Grand Prix assignments published by the International Skating Union on Thursday.

Gold, a two-time U.S. champion who was fourth at the 2014 Olympics, is the newsworthy name on the entry lists.

GRAND PRIX ENTRIES: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance

She announced Sept. 1 that she was seeking professional help “after recent struggles on and off the ice,” then in October said she was in treatment for an eating disorder, depression and anxiety. Gold attended January’s U.S. Championships but had not announced anything regarding a possible return to skating.

The Grand Prix is the equivalent of figure skating’s regular season. The world’s best skaters each compete twice out of six events in October and November, with the top six per discipline qualifying for December’s Grand Prix Final, a prelude to the world championships in March.

This fall’s headliners are Olympic champions Alina Zagitova and Yuzuru Hanyu and silver medalists Yevgenia Medvedeva and Shoma Uno as well as U.S. champions Nathan Chen and Bradie Tennell.

The six Grand Prix series events are Skate America, Skate Canada, Grand Prix Finland (replacing Cup of China), NHK Trophy (Japan), Rostelecom Cup (Russia) and Internationaux de France. The Grand Prix Final is in Vancouver.

Wagner, 27, is the most accomplished U.S. woman over the last decade, taking three national titles, five Grand Prix wins and three Grand Prix Final medals. At her last competition, she placed fourth at the U.S. Championships in January, missing the three-woman Olympic team.

Wagner then withdrew from the Four Continents Championships and declined a spot at March’s world championships after PyeongChang Olympian Karen Chen gave up her spot after the Winter Games.

Sotnikova, 21, has skated just once on the Grand Prix circuit since taking the Sochi Olympic title over Yuna Kim four years ago and hasn’t competed anywhere since the start of 2017. Sotnikova has not announced retirement, though, unlike her Sochi teammate and fellow gold medalist Yulia Lipnitskaya.

Other big names missing from Grand Prix assignments already said they are taking a break from skating (Adam RipponMirai NagasuMaia Shibutani and Alex ShibutaniJavier Fernandez, Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot), retiring (Patrick ChanMeagan Duhamel and Eric Radford) or are simply not expected to compete again (Tessa Virtue and Scott MoirMeryl Davis and Charlie WhiteTatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov).

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Olympic figure skater lands quadruple Axel in harness

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A quadruple Axel has never been landed in competition, but Canadian Olympian Keegan Messing looked pretty strong completing one with the aid of a harness.

Messing, a 26-year-old Alaskan who finished 12th in PyeongChang, landed the jump while connected to a harness attached to a pole held by a man in a video posted on his Instagram on Wednesday night.

“My coach and I are going around the idea of starting the quad Axel,” Messing said at the world championships in March, according to Inside Skating. “It’s a dream I’ve had for a very, very long time – as soon as I found out that no one did it, I wanted to be the first.”

Other skaters have attempted quad Axels in a harness, including 2013 U.S. champion Max Aaron (video here) and French Olympian Chafik Besseghier (video here). Russian Artur Dmitriev Jr. tried one without a harness (video here).

Yuzuru Hanyu, the 2014 and 2018 gold medalist, has said he wants to master the quad Axel.

“No one in competition has achieved successful quadruple Axel jumps and there are very few people actually practicing even during training,” Hanyu said in PyeongChang, according to The Associated Press. “I want to continue my challenge towards achieving my dream of successfully performing the quad Axel, even if I may not be the first person to do so.”

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