Arakawa started figure skating as a young girl because she wanted to “wear those pretty clothes”. As a teenager, she made a fairly inconspicuous Olympic debut at Nagano, and disappeared into anonymity afterwards. She reappeared in 2003, winning gold medals at the Asian Winter Games and Winter Universiade, and placing 8th in the World Championships. The following season, she surprised by becoming the first Japanese woman to win the world title in 10 years. Her results in the following years did not earn her a role as a favourite for the 2006 Olympics, but she moved up from third place after the short program to become Japan’s first Olympic figure skating champion.