Daisuke Takahashi, the first Japanese man to earn an Olympic figure skating medal, said on Tuesday he is retiring from the sport after 20 years on the ice.
The 28-year-old helped popularize the sport at home and made Japanese skating history by claiming a bronze medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He also became the first Japanese man to win a gold medal at the world championships the same year.
“I’ve decided to retire from skating and advance toward a new goal,” Takahashi told reporters at a hastily called news conference in his hometown of Okayama, where he was attending an awards ceremony.
“Originally I had planned to take a lot more time to think about this, but then I thought the best way to clear my path to start on something new would be to quit decisively, so I made up my mind rather suddenly.”
Takahashi, a three-time world medalist, said he had yet to make a decision on what to do next, but Japanese media reported he had expressed an interest in coaching.
The youngest of four boys born to a carpenter and a beautician, Takahashi began skating at the age of 8 after visiting a newly built ice rink in his hometown with his mother, who had hoped to interest him in ice hockey.
Known more as a hard worker than a prodigy, Takahashi’s perseverance began paying off when he started competing.
In 2001-02, his debut season as a junior, he became the first Japanese man to win the World Junior championship.
To defray expenses, his mother took on a second job working for a company that made boxed lunches, while his father would travel to construction sites far away in search of work, Japanese media said.
Until his first major victory, he had only one pair of skates and his mother made his costumes herself.
A torn knee ligament and surgery kept Takahashi off the ice for much of the 2008-09 season, but he powered back to gain a slot at the Vancouver Olympics, his second of three Olympic appearances, where he took the bronze.
Takahashi, a nine-time Grand Prix event winner, finished sixth at this year’s Sochi Olympics while competing with a knee injury. He then sat out the world championships the following month in Saitama.
Takahashi’s mother, Kiyoto, told the news conference she had mixed feelings about his retirement.
“I feel both lonely and happy,” she said, as Takahashi grinned beside her. “Your father and I hope you will try hard at whatever you decide to do next.”