Figure Skating

Takahashi ready for curtain call

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Practice for the Japan Championships began at Yoyogi Gymnasium in Tokyo on Wednesday and Daisuke Takahashi did not disappoint as he heads into his final competition as a singles skater.

Takahashi worked on steps and choreography during a run-through of his new short program to “The Phoenix,” then focused on jumps during the rest of the session.

The 2010 world champion landed triple jumps effortlessly for the most part, then capped off the practice with a quadruple toe loop that created a stir among the observers.

“I have been recovering from an injury and have not been consistent in my practice before this,” Takahashi said.

“I surprised myself today. I felt comfortable out there. The quad toe loop I did was just to have a memory in my last singles competition.”

Takahashi said he is not planning any quads during his programs here.

“I will only do triples in my two programs. I was surprised I did the quad so cleanly,” Takahashi said.

The Vancouver Olympic bronze medalist claims he is not looking to add to his collection of honors this week.

“I’m not thinking about medals. I just want to compete for myself and not for any title,” said Takahashi.

“I just want to feel the feeling of competition. That is why I am here. I don’t feel any pressure here. I know there are so many strong competitors here, especially the younger ones.”

Takahashi, the world junior champion in 2002, is looking forward to seeing what the six juniors competing here have to offer.

“I’m excited to see what is coming from the next generation. I can feel this is the hope for the future of Japan,” Takahashi said.

The three-time Olympian is also hoping to set an example in his last go-round in singles.

“I want to show singles skaters that you can continue to 33 and have a long career,” Takahashi said. “It will give them positive motivation.”

Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who will be making his first appearance at nationals in four years, was a no-show at practice on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Shoma Uno said he is going to limit the quads he attempts here to the flip and toe loop, and is not planning to include a salchow.

Rika Kihira, last year’s runner-up at nationals, is debating whether or not she will use a quad salchow in her free skate.

“I want to have a clean and quality short program to prepare for using the quad salchow in free skate,” she commented after practice. “I’m not sure if I will put it in or not. I want to get a high score in the short program.”

Last year’s Japan junior champion Yuhana Yokoi is hoping a high finish here will be her ticket to more international competitions this season.

“I can’t say if the goal is top three or top five. There are so many strong skaters,” Yokoi said. “But I would like to get into top three or four. That way I can maybe go to Four Continents or worlds.”

In other news, Yuna Shiraiwa withdrew on Wednesday with an injured right ankle. She will need eight weeks to recover from the injury.

The women’s short program will begin Thursday afternoon, with the men to follow on Friday.

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