It’s rare that ice dance is the most anticipated event of a major figure skating competition. It’s even more extraordinary in Japan, which boasts some of the most popular singles skaters in recent history but never put a dance couple in the top 10 at an Olympics.

But at this week’s NHK Trophy, an annual Grand Prix stop streaming live on Peacock Premium, most eyes in Osaka will be on dancers competing together for the first time. Japan’s top singles skaters are sitting out, but a pioneer is partnering up.

“The debut of Daisuke Takahashi and Kana Muramoto is the story,” said Jack Gallagher, who has covered figure skating in Japan since 1997, both as a writer and on the Ice Time Podcast.

Muramoto, 27, and Takahashi, 34, combined to skate at the last four Olympics, separately, but became a couple on the ice last winter.

Takahashi, in his previous career, helped usher in the dominance of Japanese men’s singles skating. He was the first man from his nation to win an Olympic medal (bronze in 2010) and a world title (also in 2010)…

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