The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

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The hope of the Nordic combined soars across the world stage

Mr. Akito Watabe

"The traction of our skis, our starting order in the race, the way the race itself went... there were a variety of positive factors that sided with our team. It was almost as if the competition was arranged for us to win," said Mr. Watabe, who contributed to a magnificent victory at the 2009 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships (Nordic combined team) held in the city of Liberec in the Czech Republic. It was that historic competition which Mr. Watabe had been analyzing. The victory marks Japan's first gold medal in the event in fourteen years.

"After we made the goal after three runs, I was supporting my team by watching the replay on the stadium's huge screen. Someone told me that I should return to the goal right away, which is when I thought that we might win the race. But I couldn't get into the goal area without wearing a numbered athletic 'bib.' While I was changing, the final skier made the goal," Mr. Watabe said, laughing. He initially couldn't believe that they had won, and said that the moment was "a very mysterious feeling."

Demonstrating one's true power at an international competition...what is the secret to such strength? "The secret is to not think too much, and to understand that lifestyles are different in other countries. You have to be aware of that ahead of time," he said plainly. During the "fight," there are all sorts of things one has to do other than the actual competition. "You need to take care of yourself and to get plenty of sleep, because there isn't time to feel nervous."

Mr. Watabe certainly is tough! One of the reasons that he earnestly strived to become an athlete was the Nagano Olympics in 1998. "All of the thundering, enthusiastic support made a big impression on me that still remains even now. At that time, I began to be fascinated by ski jumping." Ever since high school, Mr. Watabe has listened to the advice of his coaches to put together his own practice routine, and has explored the world of skiing. There was a time when his practice didn't bring any results during competitions, and he began to rebel against everything. But currently, "all of my studies in the School of Sport Sciences have a positive effect in my skiing," he said. He feels that there is a synergy between the academic and athletic parts of his life.

There are great hopes being aimed at Mr. Watabe for the Vancouver Olympics. "My heart is full of passion, but my head stays cool," he said, looking forward to the competition with confidence. "A strong heart...no, I think probably the opposite is usually true. Cowardice makes you think and practice, and I'm always considering what I can do to become stronger," he said, analyzing himself calmly. "Rather than thinking about the future, I'm dedicating myself to my current life of competition. I'm hoping to participate in the Olympics, and will continue to show results." We should definitely keep an eye on Mr. Watabe as he takes off for a new world.

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)

Mr. Akito Watabe

Born in 1988 in Nagano Prefecture. Graduated from Hakuba High School, and is currently a third year student in the School of Sport Sciences. Is a member of Professor Shinya Kikuchi's seminar. Mr. Watabe took second place in the 2006 Nordic Junior World Championships, and also participated in the Turin Olympics (Nordic combined) at age seventeen. He took first place at the 2007 Japan Inter-High School Ski Championships, and was also a member of the gold-winning Nordic combined team at the 2009 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships (Liberec, Czech Republic), which won Japan's first gold medal in fourteen years. Mr. Watabe enjoys wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets).