Just 15 months after shocking the skating world with his return after a four-year retirement, Daisuke Takahashi has done it again.
Last week the 2010 world champion and Vancouver Olympic bronze medalist announced that he would end his singles career at the Japan nationals in December, then become an ice dancer with Kana Muramoto as his partner.
The move makes sense on a number of levels.
First, ever since the Okayama native injured his leg in training back in 2013, his ability to do jumps has been impacted. This was one of the reasons Takahashi retired back in 2014. There are no jumps in ice dance, which will eliminate considerable stress on his legs had he continued his singles career indefinitely.
Second, the 33-year-old’s innate sense of style and panache seem tailor-made for ice dance. Takahashi is a legendary figure in skating, both in Japan and overseas, primarily because of his skating skills and showmanship.
Many foreign skaters I have spoken to over the years have listed Takahashi as someone who inspired them and they wanted to emulate.
Third, moving Takahashi into ice dance will improve Japan’s chances of medaling in the team event at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. With two years to learn the sport, it’s a good bet that he and Muramoto will be representing the Hinomaru in China.
Even fielding both Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno in the singles in the team competition in Beijing won’t be enough for a place on the podium. Japan will need strong efforts from the women and also either ice dance or pairs. Preferably both.
The bottom line is that Takahashi is revered and that his presence alone will have a positive impact on Japan’s chances for an Olympic team medal.
Richaud evaluates move
Ice Time spoke with leading choreographer Benoit Richaud about Takahashi’s big move and the former ice dancer provided some interesting insights.
“A few days ago, before the news came out, I got an email from the manager of Daisuke who told me he was going to go for ice dance,” Richaud stated. “It made me smile. I was surprised and not surprised at the same time.”
Richaud noted how Takahashi has always been willing to take chances.
“When you take a look at the career of Daisuke, you can realize how much he liked challenges and how much he likes to try new things,” Richaud commented. “The choice of all of his choregraphers during all of his career, his choice of music, costumes, show. You already have a feeling that Daisuke liked to explore a lot of things.”
Richaud then talked about being brought up in the discipline.
“I’m a former ice dancer and my coach (Romain Haguenauer) is the best coach right now in the world,” Richaud remarked. “He is the coach of (four-time world champions) Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron. He has all the best teams in the world. He teaches in Canada in Montreal. I learned ice dance from him.”
Richaud then addressed what Takahashi can bring to the sport and what he will have to confront.
“I think Daisuke has a lot to offer in ice dance — his musicality, his expression, the way he moves on the ice,’ Richaud said. “But he has to learn to do it with another person. Ice dance is about sharing emotion and sharing figure skating with another person on the ice.”
Richaud then elaborated on his viewpoint.
“We can’t forget that ice dance is a very difficult sport and very different from figure skating,” Richaud noted. “It’s much more complex in the steps.”
Richaud then provided another interesting observation.
“With all of the experience Daisuke has to work with all of his choreographers, most of them came from ice dance. Don’t forget that,” Richaud stated.
Richaud concluded his thoughts by concurring with Ice Time that Takahashi’s presence will resonate with skating fans and enhance the visibility of the field.
“It’s also very exciting, because ice dance is a big part of figure skating,” Richaud commented. “It’s very popular. In Japan I feel that ice dance is not so popular. I think Daisuke can give ice dance greater exposure in Japan, because it is an amazing sport.”
Shimada second in Germany
Koshiro Shimada (214.98) made his season debut at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, last week, where he took second place behind Russia’s Makar Ignatov (220.51).
Shimada, who turned 18 last month, led after the short program, but had multiple issues in his free skate to “The Artist.” He fell on his opening quad toe loop and doubled a planned triple axel in an uneven outing.
Shimada was joined in Germany by Marin Honda, who was also making her season debut. Honda (174.01) wound up in fifth place behind winner Mariah Bell (205.13) of the United States.
Honda fell on a triple loop and popped a double axel into a single in her free skate to “La La Land,” but still displayed her trademark elegance with level fours on her spins and step sequence.
Sato books JGP Final ticket
Shun Sato locked up a berth in December’s Junior Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, with a third-place finish at the JGP in Croatia on Saturday. Sato will join rival Yuma Kagiyama for the trip to the JGP Final.
Russia’s Andrei Mozalev won the event with a total of 236.44 points, while Sato tallied 219.69.
Sato was fourth after the short program in Zagreb, but rallied onto the podium with his free skate to “Romeo and Juliet.” The 15-year-old had trouble with his spins and step sequence, but his two quads and two triple axels helped him move up.
“A very determined performance by Shun,” stated ISU announcer Ted Barton on the livestream of the competition. “Some little mistakes here and there, but he also had some big elements gather a lot of points.”
Kawabe, Uramatsu miss out
There were no medals for Japan in the women’s event in Croatia, with Mana Kawabe (163.73) and Chisato Uramatsu (161.07) finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.
South Korea’s Lee Hae-in was the winner with 203.40. The victory was the second for Lee this season on the JGP circuit, who Ice Time sees as having the potential to be the country’s biggest star since Yuna Kim.
Kawabe vaulted from seventh after the short program to come in fourth with her free skate to “Black Swan.” Despite under-rotating three jumps, Kawabe impressed Barton with her determination.
“An ambitious technical program and Mana was on a mission,” Barton commented. “Maybe some of the elements were under-rotated, but my gosh, she was going for it all. Great speed throughout.
“Look at the height she got on the triple salchow. She can really climb up into the jump. Very nice job by Mana tonight. Powerful and dramatic.”
Uramatsu was fourth after the short program, but came undone in her free skate to “Miss Saigon.” She fell on her triple lutz/triple toe loop combo, then had several more under-rotations.
Barton liked what he saw from Uramatsu despite the mistakes.
“I love Chisato’s aggressiveness and skating skills and ice coverage. It’s just beautiful. Powerful,” Barton said. “I think the one item that is difficult for her is the efficiency of her rotation in the air. Gets around most of the time, but it is not aesthetic and not as efficient.”