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There were no traits of a crying baby. Instead of shedding tears, which was her trademark in childhood, Ai Fukuhara kept smiling and repeated the words of appreciation as the 29-year-old table tennis icon spoke to the media on Tuesday, two days after announcing her retirement from competition.

“I was going to fade out after the announcement on my blog and I never expected this many people would come to see me after a two-year absence from competition,” Fukuhara said of more than 100 media members gathered at a Tokyo hotel. “I really appreciate it.”

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