The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

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Winning the championship with a new tournament record, together!
Waseda’s heroines of weightlifting!

Namika Matsumoto (left)
Eri Mitsuke (right)

Truly they could be called “little giants.” Winning in the women’s 63 kg class and 69 kg class with tournament records at the 10th All-Japan Students’ Weightlifting Invitational Tournament held in April of this year, Namika Matsumoto and Eri Mitsuke are both short women, standing just barely over 150 cm. Matsumoto and Mitsuke, senpai (senior) and kohai (junior) in the Waseda Weightlifting Team, are top athletes who have also been chosen to be Japanese national representatives.

With the activities of weightlifter Hiromi Miyake, who won a silver medal at the London Olympics, the field of women’s weightlifting has suddenly been receiving significant attention in recent years. When asked what lead the two to begin the sport, Matsumoto stated, “My older sister is also a weightlifter and I went to the same high school as her, so I was very strongly invited by her coach.” Meanwhile, Mitsuke offered, “Because the atmosphere of my high school’s weightlifting club seemed fun.” Although neither was enchanted with the sport, both gradually grew obsessed with the depth involved and chose to continue it in university.

Training is a battle with oneself. Matsumoto (front) and Mitsuke (back) have overcome all obstacles to date by encouraging each other.

“I think that the fact I had many chances to appear in tournaments because weightlifting is a minor sport helped motivate me. And the more I participated in tournaments, the more I became aware of the existence of other, high-level weight lifters. The more experience I gain, the more my desire to become stronger increases.”

So saying, Matsumoto looked at the high-level weightlifter sitting next to her. “That said, Matsumoto is an amazing weightlifter,” returns Mitsuke, laughing. Even as they are aware of each other as fellow weightlifters, they normally conduct themselves as close friends.

This atmosphere, however, undergoes a complete change during training. A rigorous schedule awaits them. “The hardest part is doing squats while holding a barbell. Sometimes we carry ones that are over 100 kg,” says Mitsuke.

The groans of team members reverberate in the practice room. Aiming to be the victors of tomorrow, they all endure rigorous weightlifting sessions. Weightlifting, however, is not simply a matter of increasing physical strength.

“Finding out how high you can lift a weight without fatiguing your muscles is the key to winning. Then you jump and, while the barbell is floating in the air, try to put your body in the space below, but if you don’t have the flexibility and agility, you won’t be able to achieve this form. Moreover, your performance in terms of your smile is also important,” says Matsumoto.

Cry during training and smile at tournaments. In the spring of this year, both gave big smiles at major events.

From April of next year Matsumoto will join a corporate-sponsored team and continue to compete. Mitsuke, in her third year, is also aiming to enter a corporate-sponsored team in the future. Being able to make choices such as this is also one of the results of the efforts made by women weightlifters in recent years.

Both athletes look up to Matsumoto’s older sister, Moeha Matsumoto, a member of a team sponsored by Ichigo Group Holdings. Also a former member of the Waseda Weightlifting Team, Moeha, winner of the 27th All-Japan Women’s Weightlifting Championship, is a role model as a working athlete. There is something Matsumoto and Mitsuke would like to do before following this great weightlifter, however.

“Weightlifters can only experience team competitions during university. We would like to win at the All-Japan Women's Intercollegiate Weightlifting Championship held in December.”

The two will be immersed in a strict training regimen until just before the championship in order to seize glory for Waseda.

Matsumoto, opening her legs back and forth and lifting a barbell high overhead.

From Mitskue’s severe expression, one can glimpse the powerful will put into the instant in which the match takes place.

Away from a match, their friendly smiles soften the atmosphere surrounding the two.


Namika Matsumoto (left)
Fourth Year, School of Social Sciences

Originally from Chiba, Namika Matsumoto graduated from Matsudo Kokusai High School. Having posted achievements such as winning the All-Japan Students’ Weightlifting Championship since her first year, she was chosen to be one of Japan’s national representatives. Her interests include resting and relaxing.

Eri Mitsuke (right)
Third Year, School of Sport Sciences

Originally from Hyogo, Eri Mitsuke graduated from Mikihigashi High School. In 2012, she placed within the top three at all of the tournaments she appeared in and has been chosen as one of Japan's national representatives together with Matsumoto. Her interests include Korean drama and K-pop.