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【Winter Sport】JAPAN Para-Ski Federation Press Conference to Report on the 2016-17 Season Vol.1

On June 8, a press conference was held to look back over the 2016-17 para-ski season. It was attended by athletes such as sit-skier Taiki Morii, who has achieved his second consecutive individual overall victory in the men’s alpine sit-skiing, cross country skier Yoshihiro Nitta, and snowboarder Gurimu Narita. Morii, who is anticipated to win gold at the PyeongChang Paralympic Games in nine months’ time, told reporters of his goal for next season: “I don’t have a Paralympic gold, so it’s one of the titles that I want, no matter what. I’m going to give my all to get it.”

Sit-skier Akira Kano, who will be going for his second consecutive win in downhill skiing and third consecutive win in the super-G, is gearing himself up for success, saying: “the way to get there is for me to concentrate on each race at a time and give my best performance in each one.” Takeshi Suzuki, who will be going for his second consecutive win in the slalom, showed his strong resolve, commenting: “Honestly, I think my win at Sochi was down to luck. Next time I’d like to take the top spot with my technique.”

Here we introduce comments from the athletes and head coaches at the press conference.

Para-alpine ski: Morii confident with “good results going into next season”

● Momoka Muraoka “Looking back on my results, I often placed third, so it’s made me think about what I can do to achieve a better position. I’m getting closer to the top, but there is still a long way to go. As my body is contorted, there is a difference between my right and left turns, so I’ve addressed that. I will continue to apply myself, with the goal of taking home a medal at next year’s PyeongChang Paralympics.”

Morii, who has won gold at the venue where the PyeongChang Games will be held

● Taiki Morii “A special point in the season was the World Cup Final held in Korea. My victory in Korea is a good result as I look toward next year’s games. I think that if I do what I need to do, the results will follow naturally. In preparation for next season, I am going to focus on developing seat cowling (the leg cover) that reduces air resistance further, as well as closely reviewing my skiing technique, of course.”

● Akira Kano “I took second place in my category of the World Cup downhill skiing and third place in the World Championships. But I didn’t win any of my events, so there are still points I need to address. As I do so, I’ve tried various things and tested them out a number of times, so I’m planning to put them all together properly in the run up to PyeongChang and prepare myself to give my best performance at the games.”

● Takeshi Suzuki “ it was my goal to get myself a place on the podium at the World Championships and the World Cup Final. I managed to fulfill those goals, by taking third place in the World Championships, and first place in the last slalom at the World Cup. I’d like to keep up this momentum next year at the PyeongChang Paralympics. And as for my equipment, since changing the material of the seat to carbon, sometimes I perform well, sometimes not, so I’d like to make sure that I can really use it well by the time the Paralympics come around.”

● Hiraku Misawa “ I secured my first place on the podium in the high-speed super-G. Until now I have just been focusing on the slalom as my technical event, but recently I’ve realized that I have a greater variety of skills. I will make sure I do what I need to do as I prepare for the PyeongChang Paralympics in March. I don’t intend to change what I’ve been doing up until now. I’d like to draw on the disappointment of Sochi to motivate me.”

● Kazushi Shido, head coach “Looking back on the season, the first half was a struggle, but results improved as we headed into the test event (PyeongChang World Cup) in March, and ultimately we took medals in five categories (three gold, two silver, and four bronze). This is because the technique of ensuring that the athletes reach their peak performance in March—a technique we have been working on for two years now—is gradually taking root among the athletes. In September last year, we made our first tour to Chile, and carried out high-speed practice in a location at 3,000-meter altitude for three weeks. The fact that we started the season differently to normal may be why it was difficult in the first half. This year we will also start the season with a tour to Chile, starting late August. Also taking into account the difficulties last year, the staff are also working to ensure that the athletes are able to enter their competitions in March in the best possible condition, and the athletes are also keeping their strong events for March in mind as they train. Both the staff and athletes will really give their all to ensure that the athletes are able to take home the medals they are aiming for.”

Para-Nordic skiing: Nitta aims for two golds at PyeongChang

● Yurika Abe “ I was able to win medals in the cross country and biathlon, but I finished the season with some regret because I wasn’t able to secure the results I wanted to in the all-important test event. My achievement this season was improving my downhill technique by keeping up weight and balance training. I’m planning to train with the aim of taking medals in two events—classic sprint and biathlon—at the actual games in March next year.”

● Momoko Dekijima “I won medals in both the biathlon and the cross-country skiing in the 2016-17 season. These medals will be my encouragement to really train hard until winter. In terms of technique, the training has helped me to improve my skiing in comparison with last year. I will use the remaining time to work on remedying my lack of muscle strength and other such weaknesses.”

Experienced athlete Nitta talks about his positive results this season

● Yoshihiro Nitta “I achieved four in eight of my goals—that is, medals in one in every two races. For me, one of the biggest of these wins was the gold medal in classic skiing at the World Cup in PyeongChang. Next season, I’m aiming for two gold medals in the Paralympics. The accuracy of my skiing technique has improved, and we’ve also been able to develop equipment for competing on an international level. I’m now 37 years old, so I feel that I need to work on moving my body quickly.”

● Kazutoshi Nagahama, head coach “Our goal was five medals at the World Cup and World Championships, and ultimately we were able to far exceed that goal, with a total of ten medals. As we did so, the medals from three central team members, Nitta, Abe, and Dekijima, also motivated their teammates, and many of the younger athletes succeeded in placing in their events, such as fourth or sixth place. This very successful season has helped us to pick up momentum as we head toward PyeongChang. This year, we will work on keeping up the great motivation that we are enjoying now to help us take home medals at PyeongChang. Developing the athletes’ fine technique, increasing the accuracy they need to win, and steadily training their physical strength; we’ll focus on these three points as we work on making sure that the athletes are confident as they stand at the start line in their events at PyeongChang next year. However, there’s no question that the Paralympics look set to be a really tough fight. The male competitors face particularly tough competitions that are decided by a matter of seconds, but we’ll work to make sure that the athletes make that small margin their own, and secure the team medal for Japan for the sixth games in a row.”

text&photos by Asuka Senaga
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