Badminton: Women’s doubles Rio gold winner Ayaka Takahashi to retire

Elwanda Tulloch

Misaki Matsutomo, right, and Ayaka Takahashi pose with their gold medals for the women’s badminton doubles event at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics on Aug. 18, 2016. (Kyodo) Ayaka Takahashi, right, and Misaki Matsutomo compete against Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota in an all-Japanese women’s doubles semifinal at the All […]

Misaki Matsutomo, right, and Ayaka Takahashi pose with their gold medals for the women’s badminton doubles event at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics on Aug. 18, 2016. (Kyodo)
Ayaka Takahashi, right, and Misaki Matsutomo compete against Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota in an all-Japanese women’s doubles semifinal at the All England Open badminton championships in Birmingham on March 14, 2020. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Badminton star Ayaka Takahashi, a women’s doubles gold medalist at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, is intent on retiring, multiple sources close to her told Kyodo News on Monday.

Takahashi, 30, and her 28-year-old partner Misaki Matsutomo became Japan’s first Olympic gold medalists in badminton when they overcame Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl of Denmark in Brazil, scoring five straight points from 19-16 down in the final game for a dramatic comeback win.

They were facing an uphill battle in the race for the Tokyo Games, however, after finding themselves third in the domestic standings with Japan given up to two slots for the event. The qualifying race that started in April last year was suspended this March following the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Takahashi is expected to hold a press conference in the coming days.

Known for her strong smash from the back court, Nara-native Takahashi formed a pair with Matsutomo when they were in the same high school in Miyagi Prefecture and won five national championships between 2011 and 2016.

The pair, affectionately known as “Taka-Matsu” from their surnames, were also the first Japanese players to rank first in the Badminton World Federation’s world rankings under the current format in October 2014.

Takahashi also captained Japan to its first title at the women’s World Team Championships, or the Uber Cup, in 37 years in 2018.

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