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A Japanese figure skater is stuck with music from a fraud composer

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Daisuke Takahashi skates at a competition in November 2013 (David Richard/ USA TODAY Sports).

Music is an important part of any figure skater's routine — it sets the tone for the athleticism and artistry, tells a sort of story, and maybe even inspires the athlete to perform at the highest possible level. Japanese skater Daisuke Takahashi, the men's bronze medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Games and a competitor again at Sochi, has performed to "Sonatina for Violin," a work from composer Mamoru Samuragochi, beloved in Japan for his compositions and for overcoming deafness to become one of the country's leading figures in classical music. Takahashi is set to perform to Samuragochi's music yet again at the Olympics, and it figures that the piece means quite a bit to his career and life as a whole.

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Unfortunately, Takahashi's relationship to Samuragochi's music is about to change quite a bit, because it turns out that the composer is a big fake. From Martin Fackler for The New York Times:

On Thursday, Japan learned that one of its most popular musical figures, Mamoru Samuragochi, 50, had staged an elaborate hoax in which someone else had secretly written his most famous compositions, and that he had perhaps even faked his hearing disability. [...]

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The scandal began on Wednesday, when Samuragochi publicly confessed that someone else had written his most famous works. These include Symphony No. 1 “Hiroshima,” about the 1945 atomic bombing of his home city, which became a classical music hit in Japan; the theme music for the video games Resident Evil and Onimusha; and Sonatina for Violin, which the Japanese Olympic figure skater Daisuke Takahashi is scheduled to use in his performance in Sochi.

The timing could hardly have been worse for Takahashi, a potential medalist who won the bronze in the Vancouver Olympics four years ago. He said in a statement that he would continue to skate to the musical piece — he really had little choice given all the time and work needed to prepare an Olympic routine — and hoped the revelations would not overshadow his performance.

“Takahashi and the people involved with him did not know about this incident,” the statement said. “This is a crucial time just before the Olympics.”

While Takahashi is a particularly notable bystander to these revelations, he was also apparently the inspiration for the true composer of the work to come forward:

The reason for this sudden repentance became clear on Thursday when the ghostwriter revealed himself to be Takashi Niigaki, 43, a largely unknown part-time lecturer at a prestigious music college in Tokyo. Niigaki said he had written more than 20 songs for Samuragochi since 1996, for which he received the equivalent of about $70,000.

He said he felt so guilty about the deception that he had threatened to go public in the past, but Samuragochi had begged him not to. He said he finally could not take it anymore when he learned one of his songs would be used by the Olympic skater. He told his story to a weekly tabloid, which went on sale Thursday.

“He told me that if I didn’t write songs for him, he’d commit suicide,” Niigaki told a crowded news conference. “But I could not bear the thought of skater Takahashi being seen by the world as a co-conspirator in our crime.”

You can watch footage of Takahashi skating to "Sonatina for Violin" below:

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This is pretty much the worst possible timing for Takahashi, who is set to perform to the music for his short program during Sochi's men's figure skating competition. With such little time before that performance, there's simply no way that he could rework his routine. This news continues a surprisingly rocky few months for the reigning bronze medalist, who injured his leg in November and became a surprise member of Japan's Olympic team after finishing fifth at nationals in December.

The Samuragochi scandal is sure to be discussed when Takahashi performs to "Sonatina for Violin," but, as he said, it should be possible to enjoy his routine without letting the news overwhelm things. The performance video above proves that, scam or not, the combination of beautiful music and world-class skating can still be powerful. These revelations will serve as distractions, surely, but they don't have to detract from whatever Takahashi does at Sochi.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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