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The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

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Star of the Japan short track skating race
Strong will is the key to victory!

Ms. Biba Sakurai

In a short track speed skating race, four to six skaters compete on a short ice track with a circumference of 111.12 meters. They compete for finishing order, not for speed, and the sport is called "Bike racing on ice." They run a neck-to-neck race, overtake and are overtaken or even stumble. The audience is thrilled as unexpected things may happen at the last moment of a race. Compared with the other sport on ice, figure skating, short track speed skating may be less popular, but once you watch a race, you will probably fall in love with it.

Attracted to this, Biba Sakurai started her career as a short track racer when she was six years old and is now actively engaged in the sport as the ace of the Japan Team. "The most attractive thing about short track skating is 'outfoxing,'" she laughs mischievously. "A racer that is not good at passing leads the race from the start but uses up stamina because of air resistance. I often skate in the middle of the group, find a space in between other racers, and overtake them." Asked if there is any knack to passing, she answers, "It is difficult to explain because before thinking, my body reacts." The accumulation of her efforts from childhood probably developed her natural instinct. "When walking in a crowd, I anticipate the movements of people ahead of me and unconsciously pass them" She says she always imagines situations in races even in daily life.

Biba smiling during the interview

Crowned with many titles, she hasn't always been a winner. "I became No.1 in Japan when I was a high school senior, but I felt really disappointed for the first time when I didn't win the championship the following year." Even in a slump, she looked at herself and strengthened herself not only physically but also mentally. At first, she couldn't build a good relationship with her Korean coach, but she finally gained mutual trust through aggressive communication beyond language barriers and difference of values. She honestly and positively deals with others as well as herself. That is the source of the strength of Sakurai. "In short track racing, what is the key to victory is the strength of your will in the end. To elaborate, if you can believe you're the best without being at the mercy of others, you can be strong. I do wonder though if I keep on doing this sport that my personality might become warped." No, there is no need to worry about that. Just a small talk revealed her kindness with careful consideration. She cannot hide her strong character. It is a part of the attractiveness that makes Sakurai shine.

As she is busy with training camps and tours, making skating and university compatible is difficult. She entered WASEDA because she thought she would be able to be stimulated as WASEDA had many top-notch athletes. On campus, she exchange updates with athletes of her generation and they motivate each other. To study her chronic complaint of backache, she majored in sport medicine. "The environment at WASEDA, with good players around me is very encouraging. I want to master what contributes to my skating."

In 2010, she participated in the Olympics, which was her dream, but for her Vancouver is just a transit point. She gives us promising words, "Next time, I want to race in a more relaxed manner. If I get good results, many more people will know about the fun of short track skating in the world. I want to do my best and win my matches!" All she has is her commitment along with her 'love for skating," and this is not associated with outwitting others.

Mental strength to win games is the key for the victory

Relieved at the moment of reaching the goal

Won gold medal in London!

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)

Ms. Biba Sakurai

Born in Osaka in 1989. Graduated from Musashino High School. Junior at the School of Sport Sciences. Scouted at a skate class when she was six years old and started short track skating. There is a lot expected of here as the ace of Japan and participated in Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010.
Her grandfather who loves horses, named her Biba (meaning a beautiful horse). She didn't really like this unique name when she was younger, but now she loves it because people can easily memorize it after she started to race around the world. She likes shopping and movies. She loves comedy films that encourage her. Recently she is into the Pilates method, and her target is "build blocky abdominal muscles" this year!