Tatsuki Machida, a figure skater who competed at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and World Figure Skating Championships, was central in figure skating’s boom in popularity. Machida suddenly announced his retirement from figure skating in December 2014 and in April 2015 enrolled in Waseda University’s Graduate School of Sports Sciences. He completed his master’s degree and is continuing his research as a PhD student.
Machida underwent intense figure skating training from the age of three and now researches copyright law and cultural economy within the world of artistic sports, which encompasses, among others, figure skating, rhythmic gymnastics, and artistic swimming.
Why did Machida decide to embark on the path of a researcher following his competitive career? And what are the “pressing matters” of the figure skating world which have caught his attention?
＃1 “I have absolutely no regrets about retiring”
A decision informed by life and the figure skating world
ーIn December 2014 you suddenly announced your retirement at a press conference and enrolled in Waseda University’s Graduate School of Sports Sciences. Why did you step away from your athletic career and embark on a path in academia?
Machida: I began my career as a figure skater when I was a child. Since then I was blessed with many wonderful moments but I also experienced many hardships.
The reason I decided to become a researcher was because I wanted to use academia to address the doubts and concerns I felt throughout the ups and downs of my career. Many media outlets called it a “sudden retirement” but for me it was a decision made at exactly the right time.
I first learned about sports management as an academic discipline as an undergraduate at Kansai University. Over time I felt I wanted to study sports management at Waseda University’s Graduate School. In addition to my athletic training I spent around two years preparing to enroll in graduate school.
ー2014 marked a peak in your athletic career. You placed fifth at the Sochi Olympics and won a silver medal at the World Figure Skating Championships. Did you have any lingering attachments to your life as a competitor?
Machida: Athletes are happy to hear from others that they quit at their absolute peak. I was sure about my decision so I didn’t have any lingering attachments. Moreover, figure skating is a “youthful sport” and most medalists are in their teens or early twenties. As figure skaters age they become less and less competitive because their ability to pull off jumps and spins deteriorates. I also felt I needed to prepare myself as soon as possible if I were to seriously pursue a career as a researcher.
As I considered my post-retirement career, I was fortunate enough to receive advice from those around me. This influenced my decision to enroll in graduate school. Looking back three years later I am confident I made the right decision.
ーI see that behind your retirement announcement was a firm resolution.
Machida: Between 2013 and 2014 I began performing well as an athlete and gained recognition in the major sports world, but I already knew I wanted to enroll in graduate school and become a researcher. My decision to retire was the first step in that direction. Of course, I devoted my entire being to competing in that final year and completing my program.
Figure skating is a darling of the media, but the truth is the sport faces various issues. By communicating these issues from the standpoint of a researcher I hope to inform the public of the truth of figure skating. I want to conduct research which is useful in resolving these issues and pass on a better culture to the next generation.