Ice Network

Content Takahashi: 'I don't have a desire to go back'

Olympic bronze medalist, former world champion regrets abrupt retirement
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Daisuke Takahashi is living in an undisclosed town on Long Island and spending his time studying English and dance. -Daisuke Takahashi's Instagram

So far, storylines for the 2015-16 figure skating season read like Back to the Future.

In April, Patrick Chan confirmed what many long thought: He will return to competition this fall. Just weeks later, another three-time world champion and Olympic silver medalist, Mao Asada, announced she will compete once again. Evgeni Plushenko also stated his intention to re-enter the competitive arena.

Daisuke Takahashi isn't joining them. As many of his contemporaries move back into the spotlight, he is backing away even further.

Japan's first-ever men's world champion left his home country in late April, giving up lucrative performing opportunities in favor of a quiet life in suburban Long Island, just outside New York City. He's living with an American family and prefers to keep the name of his new town private.

Takahashi's digs are close to several well-known skating rinks, but he isn't hitting the ice: His agent, Tak Ihara, says Takahashi left his skates in Japan. Instead, he's enrolled in a local university, where he is studying English.

"I don't know what my next goal will be yet," said Takahashi, who has refused most interview requests. "I do know my life from now on will be much longer than the time I was competing, so I need to find another passion to live my new life."

So far, his celebrity status has emerged only once. A few weeks ago, he filmed a commercial in Manhattan for Listerine Japan. Takahashi hopes it will help give his Japanese fans a glimpse of his new life.

This is the 28-year-old's second time living in the tri-state area. In the spring of 2005, he moved to Hackensack, New Jersey, to train under Nikoli Morozov. The Russian sparked his interest in dance, taking him to Broadway Dance Center for hip-hop lessons. The result was a near-legendary short program set to a hip-hop version of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, affectionately nicknamed "Cyber Swan."

Takahashi obviously has fond memories of his time in Hackensack, where he lived a simple life, taking correspondence courses at Kansai University and bicycling to and from the rink.

"The reason I chose to move to New York was because I used study dance here," he said.

The skater left Morozov in May 2008 after the coach agreed to train his chief Japanese rival, Nobunari Oda, without consulting him beforehand. Morozov approached Ihara for a reconciliation in 2012, and they worked together through Takahashi's final competition, the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

Takahashi doesn't regret retiring, although he admits he could have handled it better. He had battled injuries for years, tearing his right ACL in 2008 and undergoing surgery to repair it. In May 2011, he went under the knife to remove hardware implanted in the knee. The injury flared up again prior to the Olympics, limiting his training time and consistency with his quadruple toe jump.

After placing sixth in Sochi, he withdrew from the 2014 World Figure Skating Championships held in Saitama, Japan. He announced he would sit out the 2014-15 season but soon after called it quits.

"It was rather an abrupt decision," Takahashi said. "I was originally planning to think about it for a year or two, to decide whether to continue competing or not. But I didn't enjoy the feeling of hanging in the middle. I decided to draw a clear line and move on."

So in October 2014 in Okayama, a Japanese city near his hometown of Kurashiki, he pulled the plug on a competitive career that included five Japanese titles, the 2010 Olympic bronze medal and the 2010 world title.

"I realize my fans weren't ready for this," Takahashi said. "I didn't give them an opportunity to enjoy my 'final' competition. I apologize to my fans for my abrupt retirement."

Takahashi plans to stay in New York for at least a year, and hopes to grow fully fluent in English, a language he understands quite well but is sometimes reluctant to speak. He also plans to enroll in dance classes in Manhattan.

"After the Sochi Olympics, I started to think about moving to the States to learn English," he said. "I'm not very open to new things by nature, so if I really want to grow, I need to place myself out of my comfort zone. I also want to communicate better with other skaters I met through my competitive days."

Right now, his dance classes are for fun and are meant to increase his knowledge. He's not planning to become a choreographer, at least not yet.

"I really don't know what I want to do in the future," he said. "It will not be an easy thing for me to find. I'm hoping that maybe a new path may appear after studying English and dance."

It's been seven months since he announced his retirement, but Takahashi has no regrets.

"I thought I would miss competing more, but so far I don't have a desire to go back," he said. "I'm only looking ahead and not [to the] past."