Figure skating: Ando becomes mother, vows to skate on

 TOKYO, July 02, 2013 (AFP) - Japan's two-time world figure skating champion Miki Ando has revealed she secretly had a baby during a break from competition, but vowed to come back and seek a spot in next year's Sochi Olympics.Pictures showing the 25-year-old and her baby girl were splashed over the front pages of sports dailies Tuesday, the morning after her revelation on a late-night television show.

"I became a mother after successfully giving birth in April," the 2007 and 2011 world champion said with a big smile on the TV Asahi network.Ando, who has shunned competition in the last two seasons, did not say who the baby's father was. But media speculated he might be a 27-year-old professional Japanese figure skater who retired from competition after the 2010-2011 season.

Her interviewer quoted Ando as saying off camera that she definitely wanted to get married when "various arrangements have been made with the partner".Ando said she would pursue her dream of competing in her third Olympics in February and then retire.

"I want to continue working hard on the rink in a responsible manner," she said.Ando, who in 2002 became the first and only woman to land a quadruple jump in competition, said she became aware of her pregnancy last October when she pulled out of the 2012-2013 Grand Prix series citing insufficient conditioning.

Ando hinted she had considered an abortion."Skating is something indispensable that has brought me up to where I am," she told TV Asahi. "I could not make up my mind all the way but I hated to make a decision to say goodbye (to the baby). I have chosen the baby's life over skating.

"It was a decision I made naturally as a woman."Ando resumed practice a month after giving birth in April, adding muscle toning to her regime. She appeared in a domestic ice show on June 28 where she displayed her triple salchow.To qualify for the Olympics, she needs To finish on the podium at the national championships in December. Japan have three women's singles figure skating spots in Sochi.

Ahead of that she will have to qualify for the nationals through regional championships in October.Ando, who finished 15th in the 2006 Turin Olympics and fifth in the 2010 Vancouver Games, parted company with Russian coach Nikolai Morozov after winning her second world title in Moscow in 2011.

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Ando and Morozov were once romantically linked in media reports, which they did not deny, until they ended the professional relationship.Morozov told the Fuji TV network on Tuesday he was not the baby's father.

In May, a Japanese paparazzi magazine published photos of Ando and the 27-year-old Japanese pro skater, with a caption claiming they were living together in Yokohama.Figure skating is wildly popular in Japan with domestic competitions nationally televised. The country has produced five women's world champions, including Mao Asada who was also the 2010 Olympic silver medallist, and one men's champion. 

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