Satoko Miyahara Out of World Championships


Japanese champion withdraws from Worlds, citing stress fracture in hip she didn’t recover from in time.

For the past month, everyone’s hoped it wouldn’t happen. But on Monday, Japanese superstar Satoko Miyahara pulled out of the World Championships.

Her troubles started as early as December. She won silver at the Grand Prix Finale and gold at Japanese Nationals, but was skating through hip pain. In February, she announced she had a stress fracture in her hip. She pulled out of her two competitions for that month, but still wanted to make Worlds. Last week, while attending the World Junior Figure Skating Championships with two more of her students, coach Mie Hamada talked about her condition (the article is in Japanese). She tried to put an optimistic face on things. A Japanese Skating Federation official did the same. But they had to admit her injury was not healed.

Now, it seems, she has chosen not to try to skate through still lingering pain when undertrained. It’s a smart decision. Had she gone and aggravated her injury, it could have cost her the upcoming Olympic season. That wouldn’t have been worth it even had she been likely to do well. And when undertrained and still in pain, she probably wouldn’t have.

This is a hard blow, though. Miyahara already has one world medal, and had she been able to compete at full strength, she would’ve had a good chance at another one. She’s one of very few skaters who might have even beaten heavy favorite Evgenia Medvedeva, though that was not extremely likely. Meanwhile, provided one of teammates Wakaba Higuchi and Mai Mihara skated well, Japan likely would have maintained their three ladies berths for the Olympics.

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Now Higuchi, Mihara, and replacement Rika Hongo will go to Worlds just hoping to preserve that third berth against the odds. It’s not impossible, especially if Mihara continues trending upward as she has this season. But two of them would probably need everything to go right. And for Hongo, especially, most things this season have gone wrong.