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Skater Mao Asada's retirement highlights pressure on Japan's sports stars

Winning personality made her Japan's leading sports idol, retirement underscores relentless public expectations

Mao Asada drops her retirement "bombshell" at a press conference on April 12 in Tokyo. (Photo by Tomoki Mera)

There comes a time when every athlete reaches his or her limit, when the body does not do what the mind wants it to and it is time to quit. It is inevitable.

In Japan, it is happening with 43-year-old baseball star Ichiro Suzuki who has been spending more and more time on the bench, although he stubbornly insists he will play until he is 50. It is happening with the Mongolian sumo champion Hakuho, who at 32, with 37 sumo tournaments under his belt, is starting to slow down and has not won a championship in four tournaments.

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