An Olympic bronze medallist in men’s singles and the first Japanese male to be world champ, the figure skater is making a return – in ice dance. Here, five things about the 34-year-old.
But the 34-year-old Olympic bronze medallist in men’s singles has always marched to the beat of his own drum.
After an initial comeback to singles to 2018 after having retired in 2014, Takahashi is now skating alongside Muramoto Kana in ice dance, making the pivot to a new discipline some 10 years after he became the first Japanese man to win a world title – not to mention win an Olympic figure skating medal, as he did at Vancouver 2010.
Here, we explore five things to know about the expressive, artistic and bold athlete who is making a second career for himself, with the hopes of qualifying for Beijing 2022.
It’s hard to put into words just how much Takahashi accomplished as a singles skater – and how he helped Japanese men rise to power internationally in the sport. The first Japanese man to win a junior world title in 2002, Takahashi qualified for Torino 2006, where he would finish eighth.
Overall, he would collect 19 Grand Prix medals in his career, including nine golds – five at NHK Trophy. His “firsts” for Japan extend to his Olympic bronze and world title, and at Sochi 2014 he would place sixth.
Takahashi initially retired from singles in 2014 before announcing a singles comeback in 2018, wherein he mostly competed domestically. In 2019 he said he was joining forces with Muramoto in dance.
Takahashi has always had a style of his own on the ice, and worked with choreographers like Lori Nichol, Shae-Lynn Bourne, Nikolai Morozov and others to bring out his best artistically when competing.
He has been a mainstay in Japanese ice shows outside of sanctioned ISU events, and in 2017 teamed up with American dancer Cheryl Burke to bring her “Love on the Floor” dance show to Tokyo, where they were joined by the likes of Olympic gold medallists Meryl Davis, Charlie White, Kristi Yamaguchi and more.
Burke said of Takahashi’s dancing, according to Tokyo Weekender:
“I tell you – if he were ever to do ‘Dancing with the Stars’ here in America, he would win hands down.”
Following his initial retirement from the sport, Takahashi also spent time in New York City, training at Broadway Dance Center, where he worked on different disciplines.
After winning bronze at Vancouver 2010, Takahashi went to the figure skating world championships in Turin, Italy, beating Patrick Chan and Brian Joubert for gold, and winning alongside countrywoman Asada Mao.
He would do a series of skating shows that spring and summer, and also serve as an advertising spokesman for marketing campaigns.
Takahashi began skating at the age of eight after an ice rink was built near his house. His mother wanted him to sign up for the local hockey club, but he didn’t enjoy the protective gear that was necessary for hockey, so instead chose the figure skating club. His three older brothers took on karate.
Six years later, in 2000, he was third at Japanese nationals in the juniors. Two years on he was junior national champion, then went on to win the 2002 junior world title, becoming the first Japanese man to do so.
Takahashi recently celebrated skating for 26 years in the sport, writing on Instagram: “I didn’t think I would be starting ice dance in Florida. I really don’t know what will happen in life. Interesting.”
Takahashi is taking on history by partnering with Muramoto in dance, and is attempting to move from being an Olympian in singles to ice dance for the first time in the sport, according to NBC Sports via Olympedia.org.
“That may be pretty unprecedented,” said Tanith (Belbin) White, the 2006 silver medallist with Ben Agosto in ice dance, in reference to Takahashi’s discipline switch.
The team is coached by Marina Zueva, the same mentor who worked with both Davis and White as well as Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir for the 2010 and 2014 Olympics. Zueva calls Takahashi “Zeus,” she said, because: “When he’s on the ice he’s just flying around,” she told NBC.
While Beijing is the goal, could Muramoto and Takahashi be contenders for a medal 15 months from now?
“If they will train how they did right now and improve how they improved like every day [this year], they seriously could fight for podium at Olympics,” Zueva told NBC. “For now, what they are, it’s very hard to say.”