Japan’s Olympic badminton champion Takahashi retires

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Japan's Misaki Matsutomo (bottom L) and Ayaka Takahashi (C) celebrate winning a point during the women's doubles quarterfinal match with China's Chen Qingchen (top R) and Jia Yifan (top L) at All England Badminton 2020 in Birmingham, Britain on March 13, 2020. (Photo by Tim Ireland/Xinhua)
Japan's Misaki Matsutomo (bottom L) and Ayaka Takahashi (C) celebrate winning a point during the women's doubles quarterfinal match with China's Chen Qingchen (top R) and Jia Yifan (top L) at All England Badminton 2020 in Birmingham, Britain on March 13, 2020. (Photo by Tim Ireland/Xinhua)

Japanese Olympic badminton champion Ayaka Takahashi has announced her retirement.

At a press conference, the 30-year-old shuttler said she had decided to retire as she could not keep her motivation high for another year until the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

“After the announcement of the postponement of Tokyo 2020, I thought I could not keep my motivation high enough to go through another tough year. I thought about continuing to play until the end of the Olympic qualification period as well, but I followed my will and decided to finally end my badminton career,” she said.

Takahashi will be most remembered for winning Olympic gold with partner Misaki Matsutomo at Rio 2016, after enjoying a comeback win over Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl in the final.

Her other accomplishments include the Uber Cup triumph in 2018, a World Championships bronze medal, two Badminton Asia Championships crowns, and an All England title.

Takahashi and Matsutomo are currently ranked No.7. Their last tournament appearance was at the All England in March, where they beat Chinese top seeds Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan on their way to the semifinals.

Her partner Matsutomo, who will continue to play mixed doubles with current partner Yuki Kaneko, paid tribute to Takahashi.

“I’m sure I couldn’t have achieved such good results without her, including the gold medal at Rio. I thank her so much, much more than words can express,” said Matsutomo.

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