Every skating competition tends to be its own little bubble. News from the outside world rarely intrudes unless it is something earth shattering. While competition got under way today at the Nebelhorn Trophy, during the breaks there was only talk about one thing. Daisuke Takahashi is going to become an ice dancer.
Ironically, it was during the men’s event that the revelation filtered through and there were audible gasps in the press room. Some had to check that it was not 1 April. This December’s Japanese Nationals will be Takahashi’s last as a singles skater. From January 2020, he and partner Kana Muramoto will be training in Florida with Marina Zueva. It was not something you expect to hear on a rainy September day in Oberstdorf.
Although the news was greeted with surprise, the reaction has been largely positive. It will surely give a boost to ice dance in Japan which, along with pairs, has struggled in the shadow of the singles events and will no doubt be given valuable airtime by Japanese television due to Takahashi’s star quality. Good news for the sport and welcomed by other athletes, including Switzerland’s Stéphane Lambiel who is here in Oberstdorf as a coach.
Lambiel had other reasons to be happy as his pupil Koshiro Shimada leads the men’s event after the short programme. Shimada is as engaging off the ice as he is on and wowed the gathered media with his fluency in English. This is his third season with Lambiel, living and training in Champéry. Despite mostly adapting to Swiss life, he confessed that he misses his mother’s cooking.
Shimada is just one of two Japanese skaters at the Nebelhorn Trophy this year. TV Asahi has sent a film crew here, but there are noticeably fewer Japanese fans in the audience than in previous years. This has not stopped the niche advertising by Japanese companies. If you are watching the live stream and are wondering if those creatures on the boards are mites, then yes we can confirm they are. It certainly makes a change from the toe-widening diet aids.
Pairs coach Bruno Marcotte was clearly having the time of his life when we ran into him today in Oberstdorf. Not only are his team of Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro leading the pairs event, but he is about to become a father any day now. He was bursting with pride as she showed a photo of his wife Olympic medallist Meagan Duhamel who is due very soon. Hold on until Bruno makes it back from Germany Meagan!
It is not just Japanese world champions who are trying new things this week. Mariah Bell skated into the lead in the ladies event with her programme to songs by Britney Spears. Choreographed by Adam Rippon, Bell had wanted to try something that she had not done before.
“My wheelhouse is slow, calm and pretty and this is so different. It’s a great year to do it. It’s two seasons out from the Olympic season so I have a lot of time to explore.”
The Nebelhorn Trophy continues tomorrow with the rhythm dance and the men’s and pairs free skating.