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Performance by the youngest cross-country skier in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics
“One percent was rough, but the other ninety-nine percent was fun”

Ms. Michiko Kashiwabara

Ms. Kashiwabara started cross-country skiing when she was a first year elementary school student, following in the footsteps of her older brother. She enjoyed the fact that the results she produced improved along with her own personal growth, and with the conviction that “I want to improve even more,” she has given her all to every competition she has participated in for over ten years. However, immediately following her enrollment into Waseda in May 2009, she faced a dire situation. “My shoulders have always been easy to dislocate. I tried to cover for my handicap by engaging in resistance training to build up muscle around the area, but...” The habitual dislocation of the shoulder that she was worrying about worsened, and she was told by a doctor to undergo an operation. Her resolve wavered, but in the end she decided to have the operation.

The operation was a success, but for a time she was forced to live with her arm held in a fixed position. As a result, she was unable to undergo training that involved her entire body. Through contemplation, Ms. Kashiwabara came to the conclusion that, “if I cant use the upper half of my body, then I'll just have to undergo training that works the lower half of my body!” She took advantage of this situation, viewed it as an opportunity to overcome her weak hip joints, and began rigorously training her lower body. After her recovery, she participated in a training camp for national team members. “I felt downhearted by the fact that I was left even further behind the other athletes than I expected.” Almost all participants in the training camp competed at a level that was close to their peak condition. Ms. Kashiwabara, who was unable to train sufficiently due to rehabilitation, looked as though she had gotten a late start and was behind the pack. “However, I had one small thing that I felt confident about.” Although she suffered the restrictions of not being able to use her arms or move her upper body, she continued to train while being mindful of her lower body. As a result, “I was able to discover a form with which I could more effectively move my body,” she said with a smile. She continued to participate in competitions with the belief that if she achieved her ideal form, she would be able to win once her body was at its best condition. As her condition began to gradually improve, she placed first at an intercollegiate sprinting event in January and ended up becoming an Olympic team member.

When asked about her first ever Olympic games, she said “they were fun.” However, she also said that there was still a formidable challenge that remained within herself. “When I participated in the Olympics, the only thing that I felt was a sense of happiness. That means that I still have a long way to go. You have to really want to win and aim for the top medals,” she stated with a slightly regretful expression. “I still believe that if I had only been able to scrutinize myself more objectively, I would have been able to achieve better results.” But it was exactly because she competed in the Olympics that she was able to understand the importance of one's own feelings. “I feel that being able to come to terms with what I needed on a mental level was an important achievement for me.”

Ms. Kashiwabara went on to say that she wants to become stronger as an athlete and aim for the world level. But at the same time, she wants to become stronger on a human level, as well. “I want to carefully examine my surroundings and pick up on a variety of things, and become a strong person who grasps the fundamental aspects and doesn't cause trouble for the people around her,” she said, smiling embarrassedly.

“I wonder if I've finally become Waseda material, after having become a second year student,” she pondered, tilting her head. She has recently become enamored with ramen and tsukemen (ramen noodles with dipping sauce), and is recruiting “ramen-eating colleagues” to enjoy ramen with her.

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)

Ms. Michiko Kashiwabara

Born in 1991 in Nagano prefecture. She graduated from Iiyama High School and is currently a second year student in the School of Sport Sciences. She competed in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics representing Japan in women's cross-country skiing. She placed ninth in the 4x5 kilometer relay event. She says that the most important element of creating a body that is strong enough to maneuver through the snow is “plenty of delicious rice!” Her favorite rice dish is inarizushi made by her mother. “The inarizushi is made by stuffing generous amounts of sushi rice with all kinds of ingredients mixed in, just like chirashizushi, into a fried tofu pouch. It's really delicious!” The athlete she aspires to be like is Norway's Marit Bjørgen.