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Kozuka gets touching send-off at 'Stars on Ice'
小塚は ’スターズ・オン・アイス’ で感動的な見送りを受ける
2011 world silver medalist says farewell to skating at show in Tokyo

Posted 4/25/16 by Wei Xiong, special to icenetwork
In a fitting gesture, Takahiko Kozuka skated to a song called "Epilogue" during his farewell performance. -Getty Images

A pouring rain accompanied by strong wind left everyone in Tokyo wet and battered last Sunday, April 17, but those conditions couldn't stop thousands of figure skating fans from showing up at Yoyogi National Stadium to attend the last show of the Stars On Ice Japan tour.
The show was headlined by several Olympic and world champions -- Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Shizuka Arakawa, Mao Asada, Patrick Chan, Daisuke Takahashi, Javier Fernández, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford -- but the hero of the day was Takahiko Kozuka, former world silver medalist and Japanese champion, who performed his "last dance" as a skater and said farewell to the ice.
Kozuka was born into a figure skating family. His grandfather, Mitsuhiko Kozuka, was the co-founder of the Aichi Skating Federation and Nagoya Sports Center, and helped to lay the foundation of the sport in the city known as the kingdom of figure skating in Japan. His father, Tsuguhiko, was a three-time Japanese champion and an Olympian; his mother, Sachiko, was an ice dancer.
小塚はフィギュア・スケートの家庭に生まれた。彼の祖父、小塚光彦は愛知スケート連盟と名古屋スポーツ・センターの共同創設者で、日本のスケート王国として知られる市に、その競技の連盟を置くのを助けた。彼の父、小塚嗣彦は3度の日本チャンピオンで、オリンピック選手; 彼の母、幸子はアイス・ダンサーだった。

A competitor on the senior circuit for the last decade, Kozuka had his greatest success in 2010-11, when he won both of his Grand Prix events, took the bronze at the Grand Prix Final, won his first (and only) Japanese title and capped off the campaign by claiming the silver at the 2011 World Championships.
The depth of the Japanese men's field, coupled with tendinitis in his left ankle, led to Kozuka's decline the last few years. Still, the Nagoya native achieved some personal milestones recently. In February, he married Yukari Oshima, a newscaster for Fuji TV. The following month, he graduated from Chukyo University, where his main training rink is located, receiving a master's degree in physical education.
On March 15, Kozuka quietly announced on his blog that he would officially retire from competitive skating at the end of March.
"As for the future, I will leave the ice rink behind, and start my new life as an employee of Toyota Motor Corporation," he wrote.
“将来のためとして、僕はアイス・リンクを離れます、そして新しい人生をトヨタ自動車の従業員として始めます” と彼は書いた。
For his farewell performance, he wore a simple white shirt with glittering decoration. Kozuka chose the aptly named song "Epilogue" by Ryuichi Sakamoto as the music for this first performance. The piano ballad served as a perfect vehicle to demonstrate his skating skills, which were always among the most outstanding in the men's field, as he flowed across the ice to the music. While the triple lutz and double axel in the performance were beautifully done, his footwork stood out the most, especially his trademark spread eagle.
When the last note ended, everyone in the stadium stood up to cheer. His fans raised banners with his name and words of thanks; many of them burst into tears.
最後の音が終わった時、スタジアムの全員が立ち上がり応援した。彼のファンは、彼の名前とありがとうの言葉のバナーを掲げた; 彼らの多くは号泣していた。
Kozuka made a second appearance, during the finale of the show. After the group number, he took a selfie at the entrance of the rink, with the ice and audience as the background. He then came to the center of the ice, surrounded by his fellow skaters, and the brief retirement ceremony began. He shared a message with the fans.
"This is Kozuka from Toyota Motor. Thank you all for supporting me for 23 years. It was a really enjoyable skating life, but the most enjoyable part for me is that I was able to spend all these years with you. It became a wonderful memory.
"I need to thank my parents and my coaches, but I need to thank you more for keeping cheering for me, so that I was able to keep skating. From now on, I will become one of you, and cheer for the sport of figure skating, as a fan. Thank you very much!"
After his speech, Nobuo Sato and Kumiko Sato, his coaches since primary school, entered the rink and presented him with a flower bouquet. At the end of the ceremony, Nobuo clapped his student on the shoulder before he left the ice, as if to see him off for his new life. Some of the skaters on the ice, like Mao Asada, who trains at the same rink as Kozuka, and Daisuke Takahashi, his longtime rival and teammate, held back tears.
Backstage after the show, Kozuka told the media, "Coach Sato said to me, 'From now on, please work hard as a freshman of society.'''
Then, with tears in his eyes, he said, "I will start from zero, but I will work hard."

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