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Scandal shakes the Japanese skating world

Chef de Mission for Japan Seiko Hashimoto is seen during a press conference prior to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, at the Main Press Centre on February 2, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Another scandal has gripped the figure skating world and this time it is at the heart of one of the largest figure skating fan bases in the world—Japan. The chairwoman of Japan’s figure skating federation has been accused of sexual harassment and abusing her position. A popular Japanese magazine, Shukan Bunshun, broke open the story with photos of Seiko Hashimoto making unwanted advances to 2010 Olympic bronze medalist, figure skater Daisuke Takahashi.

Seiko Hashimoto is not only the chairwoman of Japan’s skating federation, she is one of Japan’s most prestigious athletes turned politician. Hashimoto is a mother-of-three, has represented Japan in speed skating at four winter Games and competed in track cycling at three summer Games, along with being a parliament member.

It is reported that during an alcohol-fueled party after the Sochi Olympic Games, Hashimoto was hugging and kissing Takahashi as he attempted to turn away from her. Daisuke Takahashi, known as the “Prince on Ice”, has a large female fan base due to his incredible talent and attractive look. The magazine article included information provided by a witness that catalogued the incident further.

“It wasn’t once or twice… It must have continued for several minutes,” the witness was quoted as saying. “She couldn’t stop once she started. She did it again and again, even while everybody was watching.”

Hashimoto denied the allegations and tried to explain that everyone would "hug and kiss (each other) very naturally" and she treated Takahashi as she would have any other athlete. "If this invited misunderstanding from other people, I regret it and think I should be careful," Hashimoto said.

Daisuke Takahashi has not filed an official complaint. “Takahashi does not think he experienced power or sexual harassment,” his agent was quoted as saying.

Even if Takahashi wanted to file a complaint, who would really want to go up against Seiko Hashimoto? This seems to be pointing toward a larger issue within the sport. The power and politics behind figure skating only seem to be growing stronger and more apparent.

"Hashimoto is the supreme figure in the [Japanese] skating world," the magazine said, suggesting that the incident could be described as "power harassment or sexual harassment."

This scandal has got to be unsettling for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has purposed to place more women in senior positions over the next six years leading up to 2020, where Tokyo will be hosting the summer Olympic Games.