Akito Watabe started with Nordic Combined when he was 12 years old. At first, it looked like his specialty would lie in ski jumping but after a crash in training in Kuusamo in 2006 where he fell and broke his wrist, he came back as a stronger cross-country skier after the two-month break he had to take.
For Watabe, who is known as an ambitious hard worker but also as a very open, friendly and easy-going person, Nordic Combined runs in his family. Younger brother Yoshito is also a Nordic Combined athlete in the World Cup circus. Akito's break-through year came in 2011 when he managed to improve his podium ranks from one to fourteen and finished second in the overall World Cup ranking.
Since then, the Japanese has moved up to be a regular on the World Cup podiums, finishing among the Top 3 47 times, claiming nine individual victories so far. From 2011 onwards, he has always finished among the Top 3 in the overall World Cup standings as well. In 2014, he established himself well and truly among the big names of Nordic Combined by finally winning an individual silver medal at the Olympics in Sochi after having been a victim of the "fourth-place-syndrome" as he called it for quite some time.
In the winter of 2015/16, Watabe advanced into Eric Frenzel's top challenger with his "fourth-place-syndrome" turning into a "second-place-syndrome": the winter had Watabe finishing in second place incredible eight times and also taking home the crystal medal for the second place in the overall standings again, the third time since 2011.
With the domination of the German team in the winter of 2016/17, times were tough for Watabe but as usual, the Japanese team leader showed his best form at the end of the winter: the result was an individual silver medal and a Team Sprint bronze together with brother Yoshito at the World Championships in Lahti and a victory over the German athletes in Oslo, as well as rank three in the overall rankings of the winter.