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Japan's Olympic doubles champion Takahashi announces retirement

FILE PHOTO: Badminton - All England Open Badminton Championships - Arena Birmingham, Birmingham, Britain - March 14, 2020 Japan's Ayaka Takahashi in action during her women's doubles semi final match with Misaki Matsutomo against Japan's Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

(Reuters) - Japan’s Olympic badminton champion Ayaka Takahashi will not defend her doubles crown with Misaki Matsutomo at next year’s Tokyo Games after announcing she will retire at the end of the month.

Takahashi and Matsutomo defeated Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl in the Rio Olympics in 2016 to claim the women’s doubles gold medal and secure their nation’s first ever badminton title.

Takahashi, 30, cited the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics due to the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the reasons for her decision to step away, saying her body might not hold up for another year.

“I’ve decided to end my career on Aug. 31 as I had doubts as to whether my inner fire and body would get through another year,” she told a news conference on Wednesday.

“For me it has always been all or nothing. When I train I train, when I rest I rest.”

Takahashi and Matsutomo were doubles partners for over a decade and last played together at the All England Open in March, where they defeated the top-ranked Chinese pairing of Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan en route to the semi-finals.

“I have no regrets about this decision. I thought the match at the All England could be the last for me as we were not sure at that time whether the Olympic qualifying race would continue,” Takahashi said.

“That is why I wanted to play my very best and we managed to beat them. I am proud of my achievements.”

Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill

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