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The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

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Ultimate team sport, boat race
Want to achieve our goal with all-out efforts

Ms. Naoko Misoka

Making the peace sign with teammates

"I really wanted to compete on the national level. I played basketball till junior high, but couldn't get lucky. I started boat racing because I wanted to play a sport that enabled me to reach the national level even if I started in high school," she reflects with shining eyes. "In fact, my older brother involved in it, so I thought I could do it (Laughing). Once I started though I was surprised at how tough it was!"

When you pull an oar, do you feel pain in the arms or back muscles? "No, to tell the truth, strength in the legs is the key. On the boat, you fix your toes, sitting on the floor bending your knees and every time you pull the oar, the seat moves backward and forward. So it's like sitting and repeating squats endlessly." Just imagining it makes my thighs tense.

Let's ask her about some items of the boat race. "It can generally be divided into two. One is 'Sweep' in which each rower pulls a long oar. The other is 'Scull' in which each rower pulls two short oars. Sweep includes items with eight (Eight), four (Four) and two rowers (Pair), while Scull has four (Quad Scull), two (Double Scull) and one (Single Scull) rowers. Women only have Scull items." For your reference, some items have a cox who steers the boat. In women's races at universities, Quad Scull is especially popular.

In this Quad Scull, however, it doesn't simply work if you gather good rowers in a Single Scull item. "A boat race is referred to as the ultimate team sport, and we create great speed with perfectly concerted rowing. For this reason, it is important to get to understand each other day by day. If we have a good Single Scull rower on the boat and she cannot work perfectly in harmony, it has a negative effect."

When she was a third year student in high school, she was ranked second in the inter-high school Single Scull race. With such a good result, she entered WASEDA, but she had few chances to join the race. "I was desperate to get used to a new environment. Different from high school days, about 60 or 70% of my life was devoted to racing, so every day was like 'eat, sleep and row.' (Laughing). Though I couldn't fully show what I could do, some of the peers had already rowed in races, so it was a complex time for me them."

In off-season winter, Naoko practiced recklessly. She rows a training machine called an "ergometer" and boat, challenging the limit of her strength. "With rowing, training in winter directly affects the following season's performance. I was in perfect condition in my second year season." As soon as she became a second year, this unknown rower attended the Quad Scull at All Japan Rowing and won first place. She was also selected as a member of Team Japan for the East Asian Games and won silver, rebounding from a lackluster performance in her first year.

Maybe Naoko has developed herself further when she became captain of the team in third year. "Prior to that, I has considered teammates to be rivals, and I did my best, despite my complex feelings. But since becoming captain, I have become able to honestly think that everyone can do their best."

This spring, in the last year of her school days, she achieved a 22nd consecutive victory in Quad Scull of the WASEDA-Keio Regatta to kick off a good start, and also won the championship at the All Japan rowing.

On the day of Toda Firework Festival, the boathouse is open to the public to view the fireworks. They also serve food and drink.

Naoko's position is the "bow," sitting closest to the forward part of the hull. The bow supports the team by checking the condition of other rowers and encouraging them.

Daily communication is important for rowers to feel the same and compete in races.

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)

Ms. Naoko Misoka

Born in Nagasaki Prefecture in 1989. Graduated from Nagasaki Prefectural Omura High School. 4th year, School of Education. Currently captain of the Women's Team of the WASEDA University Rowing Club. Her hobby is writing letters. "I love writing. I often write letters to my mother and boat mates from high school days. I may sound old-fashioned, but when you receive a letter, it makes you happy."