The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

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These women—members of the top Rowing Club among Japanese universities—want to show everyone, “This is Waseda." with dignity.

Ayami Oishi
Mika Karashima

Women who are 169 centimeters tall are considered to be tall in Japan. However, Ayami Oishi, standing on the winner's podium for the first time at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Linz, felt small as she was surrounded by women whose height exceeded 180 centimeters. As power comes into play in boat races, a person's physique can be directly impact the outcome of the race. How can Japanese people, who tend to be small in stature, compete on the world stage? “Since getting off to a quick start is one of my strengths, I use that explosiveness to jump out in the first half of the race, and try to break out at a frantic pace after that. The only thing I can do is study how the race progresses."

Ayami Oishi, after achieving her goal of winning a medal at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships that took place in Linz, Austria in July 2013.

Oishi finished fifth in the women's lightweight double scull event (in the section where two people row) at XXVII Summer Universiade in Kazan, Russia one week before the World Rowing Under 23 Championships, and felt that she came close to achieving her goal of winning a medal. As she reflected on the disappointment of not achieving her goal, she returned to Japan and then immediately left for the next event. She entered the women's lightweight single sculls event (in the section where one person rows) at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships, still tired from the previous race. While going at full speed for about eight minutes in the 2,000 meter course, her only thoughts were, “I'm certainly going to stand on the winner's podium this time and will manage to hold on somehow." Ultimately, Oishi won the bronze medal. In that instance, a new star was born in the Japanese rowing community. Her success was recognized as she was the recipient of the supreme athlete award at the 63rd annual Japan Sports Awards (sponsored by the Yomiuri Shimbun) in January. From this spring, Oishi will be a member of the adult rowing team as she embarks on a new journey to fulfill her dream. “First my goal is to participate in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics; then I want to be at my best for the next Olympics in 2020. My ultimate goal is to stand on the winner's podium at the Tokyo Olympics."

Oishi also captained Waseda University's Women's Rowing Club, known as a powerhouse throughout the university rowing community in Japan. Looking back, “I definitely felt pressure leading a team that everyone expects to win all the time, but that pressure and sense of urgency made me stronger. I had so many experiences that I could only have at Waseda. Many alumni and former members of the Rowing Club came to races to support and encourage us. Such strong support from alumni is because it's Waseda. I also got an extra burst of energy when members of the Cheering Club sang the song ‘Konpeki no Sora.' My energy really heated up whenever I heard this song being sung near the finish line."

Oishi has retired from Waseda University's Women's Rowing Club and Mika Karashima, who has been named the new captain, first started rowing only after entering Waseda. Before that, she had success in water polo but wanted to join a club that could be the “top" of its sport, so she decided to join the Rowing Club. Karashima always followed in the footsteps of her excellent teammate, Ayami Oishi, who was successful on the world stage and now the role of captain has been assigned to her. While feeling the weight of this role, she has also come to understand it. “Since Ayami was so reliable, I often worried that couldn't be like her. I've now gotten past those doubts and am going to further strengthen this team in my own way." Of course, the goal is to win a sixth consecutive overall championship and achieve the remarkable feat of sweeping all four events. On Sunday, April 13th, the traditional Regatta Waseda vs. Keio will also be held at the Sumida River. “Since Waseda has won the last 24 regattas in a row, we don't want to just win another regatta this year. We want to show everyone ‘This is Waseda' with dignity. Please come out and support us."

Note: This article was written before the Waseda vs Keio Regatta in Waseda Weekly magazine. Waseda rowing club won twenty-five consecutive victories at the Regatta in the women's quadruple.

Last year's All Japan University Championship. Mika Karashima (second from the right) after winning the quadruple scull event.

Members of the women's Rowing Club, who have been the overall champions five years in a row.

Regatta Waseda vs. Keio, which was first held in 1905 and continues to this day, is a regatta that Waseda cannot afford to lose.


Ayami Oishi (left)
2014 graduate, School of Sport Sciences

Originally from Aichi Prefecture, where she graduated from Sanage Norin High School. Oishi enjoys cooking and during the winter there were times when she provided the members of the Rowing Club with a nice, warm stew. From this spring, she is continuing to polish her rowing skills as a member of the adult rowing team.

Mika Karashima (right)
4th Year, School of Sport Sciences

Originally from Tokyo, where she graduated from Fujimi Senior High School. Karashima often enjoys going out with her friends on the days she doesn't have classes. Recently she's addicted to eating pancakes that were introduced on a local television show.