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[ICE TIME] Tomoe Kawabata Bids a Tearful Farewell to Skating

For Tomoe Kawabata, a traffic accident had a profound impact on her career: "I was unable to get my body back to full condition to compete at a high level."



Tomoe Kawabata
Tomoe Kawabata, seen competing in the 2021 National Winter Sports Festival women's figure skating event in Nagoya, in a January 2021 file photo. (Representative photo/JIJI PRESS/via SANKEI)

Read the full story on SportsLook - [ICE TIME] Tomoe Kawabata Bids a Tearful Farewell to Skating

There is nothing sadder in sports than seeing the promising career of an athlete cut short. But that is the reality that Tomoe Kawabata faced when she announced her retirement from skating on Saturday, March 9 in Tokyo.

The 22-year-old spoke after the annual university show "Waseda On Ice" and informed the audience of her decision through tears. It was an unfortunate ending that just a few years ago would have been hard to imagine.

Kawabata, who was born in Nissin, Aichi Prefecture, saw her career peak during the 2019-20 season. Then, as a high school senior, she medaled at the Japan Junior Championships for the second straight year. She followed that by claiming the bronze medal at the Japan Championships behind Rika Kihira and Wakaba Higuchi.

At 18 it looked like Kawabata, with her big jumps and elegance on the ice, was on the way to possibly becoming a new star in the sport and a contender for Japan's team for the 2022 Olympics. But it never happened and she revealed the reasons why during her speech ― bad timing and bad luck.

"I was a first-year university student, and right after I started to feel good in competitions, the spread of the coronavirus pandemic hit," Kawabata was quoted as saying by Nikkan Sports. "Overcoming the difficulties of practice restrictions due to the coronavirus, I took a leave of absence from school and concentrated on skating the following season."

Tomoe Kawabata
Tomoe Kawabata skates at the Japan Open on October 3, 2020, at Saitama Super Arena. (Representative photo/via SANKEI SPORTS)

Tomoe Kawabata Opens Up About Her Leave of Absence

Kawabata disclosed it was what happened next that created an issue she could not conquer.


"I was involved in a traffic accident just before the (2021) Japan nationals," Kawabata stated. "Although I was close to breaking down due to repeated hardships, I continued to compete for a year until last spring, thinking that I should not finish things halfway. But [due to] the aftereffects of the accident, I was unable to get my body back to full condition to compete at a high level."

It seems hard to believe now, but Kawabata only participated in one senior Grand Prix event in her career, finishing 10th at the pandemic-hit NHK Trophy in Osaka in 2020. Her last international competition came at the Cup of Austria in Graz in November of 2021 where she was ninth.

She skated in a total of four Junior Grand Prix events, taking fifth place in all of them. And she represented Japan twice at the World Junior Championships, where she finished 12th (2019) and 14th (2020).

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.


Author: Jack Gallagher

The author is a veteran sports journalist and one of the world's foremost figure skating experts. Find articles and podcasts by Jack on his author page, and find him on X (formerly Twitter) @sportsjapan.


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