“Come on. Is this for real?” is what I said to myself as I read the note. A Japanese fan, who has a finger firmly placed on the pulse of the sport, contacted me yesterday to say that Japanese skating genius Tatsuki Machida had retired.
This is the man who burst on to the scene just last season and finished in fifth at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games and 2nd subsequently at Worlds. In six trips to his national championships, he only finished once on the podium and that was last year with a silver medal. On the weekend, he finished in fourth place but with his body of work was named to the World team for Shanghai in March.
In a move that took everyone by surprise, Machida announced his retirement. On the ice. During the announcement of team members who will be competing at the remaining international events during the second half of the skating season.
I love this man’s sense of drama and would be relishing in the deliciousness of it all if it weren’t for the fact that, I am going to miss his skating. If you watch his performance from Worlds in Japan in March 2014, you will see what I mean.
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The good news in this story is Machida is halting his skating career in favour of pursuing a graduate degree in Sport Sciences at a university in Tokyo. This is a decision to be admired and one that will hold Machida in the spotlight despite him leaving the ice.
I thought that with perennial favourites Daisuke Takahashi and Mao Asada off the field of play that these Japanese nationals would just be another skating day.
The surprises weren’t reserved for the men’s event; Kanako Murakami will be going to Worlds despite a disappointing 5th place finish at Nationals and clearly based, at least partially, on the strength of her Four Continents title earlier this year.
The real surprises for me are the two young women who will be joining Murakami in Shanghai: first time Japanese champion Satoko Miyahara and silver medallist Rika Hongo. They’re talented. They’re teenagers; which means that there is lots of time for these skaters to reach their potential.
Yet another reason for us to keep paying attention.