ISU World Team Trophy Gala 2017: Kanako Murakami Retires, Yuzuru Hanyu Closing Shout

The ISU World Team Trophy 2017 (WTT 2017) closes today to both a beautiful and moving exhibition gala as figure skater Kanako Murakami announces her retirement from the sport.

Kanako Murakami announces her retirement [Image by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images]

World Team Trophy came back this year as part of the figure skating 2016-2017 season, which was held at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan from April 20 to 23. World Team Trophy 2017 is the 6th World Team Trophy, which was first held in Japan in 2009.

Traditionally, the competition concluded the World Championships and showcases figure skaters from USA, Canada, Japan, France, Russia, and China. Selected skaters from the different figure skating disciplines (men’s singles, ladies singles, pair skating, and ice dancing) compete to put together points, which then add up to determine the winning country.

This year’s World Team Trophy 2017 was won by Japan, after finishing Bronze in the last World Team Trophy in 2015. Golden Skate reports that Japan finished with a total of 109 points, finishing before Russia with 105 points and the USA with 97 points.

Japan figure skating team wins the World Team Trophy 2017 Gold [Image by AP Photo/Koji Sasahara]

This year’s gala exhibition was particularly moving as a guest figure skater joined the performing skaters during the exhibition. Japan Times reports that Japanese figure skater Kanako Murakami appeared at the World Team Trophy 2017 gala and performed for the last time, after announcing her retirement during the closing ceremony.

22-year-old Kanako Murakami, dressed in a white outfit, performed an emotional program at the WTT gala to the music “Prayer for Taylor” by American musician Michael Smith. The program was a perfect swan song for Murakami as she landed all her jumps cleanly, including a triple salchow jump.

You can rewatch Murakami’s exhibition performance below.

Kanako Murakami’s retirement during the World Team Trophy gala did not come as a surprise to many figure skating fans as she has been hinting about this retirement ever since the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Back in 2012, at the Golden Skate forums, one member posts a quote from Murakami talking about her future in the sport.

“My goal is definitely Sochi… after that, my competition days end and I’ll return to a normal life. By normal life, I mean a normal university experience. Up until now, kindergarten, elementary school, junior high, high school… it’s all been skating. School, hanging out with friends, I’ve never been a normal student. So that’s why I really want it. If I’m still skating by the time I graduate university, I’ll never experience that life even once! So when Sochi ends, I want to try to be a regular student. After that, I want to be a skating coach—that’s my ideal life path. But, I still want to do shows, if I do shows, I’ll still be a student as well.”

Kanako did make it to the 2014 Sochi Olympics. However, she failed to make it to the podium. Her last medal was a bronze at the Grand Prix Cup of China season 2014-15 while her last gold was at the Four Continents season 2013-14.

Kanako Murakami at Sochi 2014 [Image by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images]

Much of the the decline of Kanako’s skating career started in 2015, Golden Skate reports, after twisting an ankle during an ice show tour.

“The injury was one of the heaviest in my career so far, and it really took me a lot of time to recover. It wasn’t until September that I was able to resume routine training. It was so late that I couldn’t adjust myself and get well prepared before the new season started.”

Renowned Japanese figure skater Miki Ando went to Twitter to post a photo commemorating Kanako Murakami.

At the closing program of the World Team Trophy, Kanako Murakami was given the spotlight to thank all her fans and supporters throughout the years. She was also offered a bouquet and a flower crown.

The gala exhibition at the World Team Trophy 2017 looked like one of the happiest and equally heartwarming competitions of the year so far. Closing the gala was renowned figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu, who shouted at the top of his lungs, “San, ni, ichi… Arigatou gosaimashita!” This translates to “3, 2, 1… Thank you very much!”

[Featured Image by Kevin Lee/Getty Images]

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