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Five-time Olympian Uemura retires in upbeat mood

Kyodo

Freestyle moguls skier Aiko Uemura, who narrowly missed out on an elusive medal in her fifth consecutive Winter Games in Sochi in February, said she was able to enjoy a “happy career” at her retirement news conference on Tuesday.

“I was able to compete with my heart and soul and had a happy career,” said Uemura, who failed to medal but finished in the top eight in all five Olympic competitions starting with her debut in Nagano in 1998.

“Nagano was the first Olympics I wanted to compete in and I realized my dream,” said the 34-year-old, who placed seventh, sixth, fifth, fourth and fourth in that order in her five appearances.

Uemura had a medal in her sights in Sochi as she was third with only defending champion Hannah Kearney of the United States left to ski in the six-woman final.

But it was not to be as Kearney took third to finish behind Canadian sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe.

“In Sochi I wanted to show the technique I had worked so hard on and I was able to do that. That gave me the drive to move forward.”

The Hyogo Prefecture native said she wants to place importance on time spent with her family and would be happy if she became a mother.

Uemura signed off in style by winning her last competitive event before retiring at the Freestyle Skiing National Championships in Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture, on March 27.

She won the overall World Cup crown during the 2007-2008 season and won two titles at the 2009 World Freestyle Skiing Championships.

Also Tuesday, freestyle moguls skier Miki Ito, who withdrew after aggravating an injury to her right knee before the second round of qualifying at the Sochi Olympics, revealed that she will soon undergo surgery to hopefully make a comeback as quickly as possible.

The 26-year-old Ito said she will rehab the knee for about 10 months before starting training on the moguls course. “I hope to make a comeback as quickly as possible,” Ito said.

The Shiga native, who was one of Japan’s Olympic medal hopes, injured ligaments in her right knee while training in Finland last December. She has missed competing in the 2013-2014 season. Since returning from Sochi, Ito had focused only on rehab.

“I want to change my motivation and once again give all my effort to skiing,” she said.