The most popular sport in Japan is baseball, but what comes next? It’s a bit difficult to say. A lot of people play football, or visit golf courses, or go fishing (a proper sport according to anglers), however, a case can be made for figure skating. Admittedly, figure skating is not a mass participation sport, however, it has a large following, and the television coverage is extensive.
The main reason for the huge popularity figure skating in Japan is the number of very good athletes, who have a great chance at winning major championships. There is something approaching an embarrassment of talents at the moment for figure skating in Japan, and this is true for both men’s and women’s competition. It does not look like a case of one-off golden generation, especially for women’s competition, as there are many promising young skaters.
Since there are so many good skaters, selecting three athletes to represent Japan can be a tough call. The domestic championships just finished, and in women’s competition, the nation’s favourite and the silver medalist at the Vancouver Games, Ms Mao Asada, had most to prove after a difficult season. She came second, behind the technically brilliant and ever graceful Ms Miki Ando. A second place finish was sufficient to secure a place for Ms Asada, however, it must have been one of the toughest calls for the selectors, and unlucky for the other athlete, Ms Akiko Suzuki, who finished fourth, and missed out on a place despite being second in the world rankings, and had finished eighth at the Olympics.
Figure skating is likely to remain popular in Japan for some time, and if everything goes well, Japan should be able to field a strong team at the Sochi Games in 2014.