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Retired Olympic champ Kaori Matsumoto to pursue dream of opening ice cream shop

Kyodo

Two-time Olympic medalist Kaori Matsumoto said Thursday she has put her judo days behind her and is looking forward to kick-starting a new career at an ice cream shop.

Matsumoto, who said she decided to draw the curtain on her judo career after her hopes for a third Olympic appearance were dashed, surprised reporters when she said she is getting ready to help open an ice cream shop in the Tokyo college district of Takadanobaba on Feb. 12.

“Making ice cream will be the new chapter of my life. I’m speeding up preparations for the shop opening. I hope you all come,” Matsumoto said at her retirement news conference.

The 31-year-old, who won gold in the women’s 57-kg weight class at the 2012 London Olympics and bronze in Rio four years later, said she remembers herself craving for an ice cream parfait after the London Games.

“I went and ate four ice cream parfaits in a day, but it made me sick,” she said. “I want to make ice cream that’s good for your body, ice cream that you can eat when you’re on a weight loss program, ice cream that you can eat every day, ice cream for athletes.”

The announcement came after Matsumoto, who got married shortly after the Rio Olympics and gave birth in June 2017, said she felt she reached her athletic limits and struggled to juggle motherhood with a successful judo career.

“My child became my main priority, not judo. I couldn’t achieve the results I wanted and I felt qualifying for (the 2020 Tokyo) Olympics was difficult. I started thinking my adventurous days were over,” she said.

Despite her desire to become a “gold medalist mama,” Matsumoto’s Olympic hopes took a hit when she was eliminated in the first round of last November’s Kodokan Cup, one of the qualifying events for this year’s world championships.

But Matsumoto, also a two-time world champion, remained upbeat about the future, saying she has accomplished all her dreams and goals on the judo mat, and will move on to the ice cream counter with no regrets.

“I was able to put smiles on people’s faces through judo,” she said, “and now I’m going to try something completely different. I’m going to try to spread smiles through ice cream.”