The Japan Swimming Federation announced on October 20 that 32-year-old Inui Yukiko is retiring from artistic swimming and will hold a press conference in Tokyo on the 27th.
Inui Yukiko has been a key member of Japan‘s artistic swimming national team for over a decade, competing in three Olympic Games in a row and becoming a four-time World Champion in the last two years.
In 2009, she made her senior debut at the World Championships and never skipped a beat since. She competed in the eight World Championships held between 2009 and 2023, winning 12 medals across the solo, duet and team events. A key member of the duet and team routines right from the start, she eventually became Japan’s soloist in 2013.
She participated in the 2012, 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games in both duet and team. In Rio, she won two bronze medals, and finished fourth in Tokyo and fifth in London in both Olympic events.
Over the last few years, she had revealed she aimed to win gold at the World Championships in Fukuoka, which were ultimately postponed twice (originally scheduled to be held in 2021). After the Tokyo Olympics, she decided to focus solely on the solo events, and it paid off.
She claimed her first World titles in Budapest 2022 in the technical and free events, thus becoming the first Japanese artistic swimmer to win gold in solo.
The following year, she remained unfazed by the major overhaul in the sport’s rules, and constantly proved she was still the very best in the world, no matter the scoring system. (For the nerds, she has a 100% success rate. She never received any base marks in both tech and free solo all season-long, in all four meets she entered.)
In Fukuoka in July, she further etched her name in the history books and defended both of her world titles, this time in front of her home crowd just like she’d dreamed of.
“I was able to get a gold medal in front of this audience, which supports me daily, and I am very happy about that,” she said. “In 2001, I saw my predecessors get a gold medal here when there were the World Championships in Fukuoka. I am glad I could do the same for the team when my turn came.”
Known for her impeccable technique and precision, Inui always performed crisp and powerful routines, filled with fast and sharp movements, as well as intricate details matching her choreography.
Inui started synchronized swimming in first grade of elementary school, and joined the Imura Artistic Swimming Club in sixth grade when she was about 11. She has been working and training with famous Japanese coach Imura Masayo for over 20 years, and the two share a special bond.
After Tokyo, Imura retired from her head coaching position of the Japanese national team. However, she stuck around to keep working only with Inui, and to help her long-time athlete reach her goals after she decided to focus on solo. The successful duo went on to claim four historical World Championships golds.
Finally, Inui is an eight-time silver medalist at the Asian Games across three editions (2010, 2014, 2018). During the 2023 Fukuoka World Championships, she was also named the 2022 Artistic Swimming Female Athlete of the Year by World Aquatics, the sport’s governing body.
She stated she’d like to stay in the sport and coach the younger generations of artistic swimmers. She will likely further elaborate on the topic at her press conference next week.
ARTICLE BY CHRISTINA MARMET
Cover photo: Deepbluemedia
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