Frosty Reception for Ex-Olympic Snowboarder Melo Imai’s Porn Debut

Frosty Reception for Ex-Olympic Snowboarder Melo Imai’s Porn Debut

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The young snowboarding prodigy has struggled to find her way for years.

In the months leading up to the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy, there was a rising star dominating headlines in Japan. Melo Imai was only 19 at the time of her stardom, having just won an Olympic qualifying half-pipe event in Switzerland. Publicity came easy and sponsorship deals were struck. Imai headlined events, appeared on television and even released a rap song, which was critically panned. However, her home country took it all in stride, placing their hopes and honor on the young girl. As she arrived in Europe for the Olympics, the collective gaze of an expectant Japan was bearing down on her and she, tragically, failed to compete. During her first qualifying run, she painfully crashed, her injuries forcing her to withdraw from the prestigious competition. Japan swiftly forgot about Melo Imai, save for the mocking term her performance left behind in Japan’s snowboarding community: ‘Pulling a Melo’.

Melo Imai in pain after sustaining the injury that forced her to withdraw from the Olympics.

Soon after her disappointing and short-lived career as an Olympic athlete, Imai’s life began crumbling. Her place as the nation’s sweetheart and Olympic hope was lost, replaced with her name becoming the butt of jokes and constant exposure in gossip magazines. Her personal life was put under a microscope and both fact and lie alike were printed for the amusement of millions. Born in Osaka, Imai had become a snowboarding prodigy at age 12 under the extremely harsh tutelage of her father. She was forbidden to pursue interests beyond snowboarding, even going as far as to be denied ‘girlish affectations’ such as dresses or make-up.

“I was raised by a very strict father until I was 17,” she told the paper. “I was forbidden from any sort of behavior that was girly, like wearing a skirt or putting on makeup. I just wanted to get out of that life, so I’d dress up pretty and work at a hostess bar.”

But with her Olympic hopes dashed in Italy, Imai rejected further imposed ambition from her father and sought to go at life alone. Without any skills beyond snowboarding, she struggled to make money for herself. Within a year, Imai was spotted by the weekly gossip magazine Shukan Bunshun working as a part-time prostitute for a ‘delivery health call-girl service’. The headline read, “Beautiful M.I. from the Turin Winter Olympic Team now turning tricks part time,” and was accompanied by photographs of an undressed Imai.

This revealing article was included in one of Japan’s most sold tabloids.

“There was a time of youthful recklessness when I became a call-girl because I needed money, but everything besides that, I wanted to do on my own volition,” Imai said.

One marriage, one child, one divorce, one autobiography, one decade, and a multitude of soft-core porn publications later, Adult Video label Muteki announces a May 2017 release for Imai’s debut full-fledged porn film. The promotional material for the tritely named “Snow Drop” goes to lengths in describing the 29-year-old’s body: “An athletic body made of steel, one that has been trained to a world-class level –– and now, she’s finally opened up to sex.” While she’s not the first former athlete in Japan to make the move to adult entertainment, her life has surely been the most tumultuous. In her autobiography, as well as during an interview with Japan’s tabloid Nikkan Gendai, Imai confided how she had been the victim of rape at age 17 and still suffers under the traumatic event.

Melo Imai in happier times before she withdrew from the Olympics.

The announcement on March 31 by Muteki spurred a variety of responses, from hateful to sympathetic. “Who would buy it?” asks one commenter. “Just how much demand is there for a porn debut that’s five years too late?” asks another netizen with a hint of entitlement. Yet Imai remains hopeful in interviews.

“I get messages every day from single mothers and women who went through the kinds of things I did. It would be nice if I can encourage people like that from now on. I have no regrets with the way my life has turned out, and I’m not ashamed of it either.”