News & Topics

2018.03.15

Momoka Muraoka Becomes Youngest Japanese Winter Paralympics Gold Medalist / PyeongChang Paralympics

On March 14, Momoka Muraoka (LW10-2) won the Japan team's first PyeongChang gold in the alpine skiing Giant Slalom event (women's sitting).


Her calm course selection led to a gold medal. © Getty Images Sport


Brushing off the pressure

Muraoka was in the lead after the first run, with 1.40 seconds ahead of the runner-up (Netherlands) and 3.95 seconds ahead of rival Anna Schaffelhuber (Germany). "But these were time differences that could easily be eliminated with a single error." Muraoka felt the pressure on her second run. "I was nervous, but once I started there was a part of me that was able to calmly analyze the important points in the course." At the finish line her total time was declared 2:26.53, giving her the gold medal in her main event.

This was Muraoka's fourth medal—she had already snatched the silver in the Downhill and bronze in the Super-G and Super Combined events. At 21 years old, she is the youngest Japanese athlete to get a Winter Paralympic gold medal.

"At the ceremony immediately after the race, when my name was called I cried out 'Yatta!' just as loud as the other non-Japanese athletes around me, but the Japanese supporters in the crowd were so loud that I was completely drowned out by their cheers!" she said happily.

Muraoka has been able to learn a tremendous amount from the numerous top-notch men's sit-skiing athletes that are her seniors, from carving turns (her strength) to materials that help with speed. She has the support of many, including her family.


Muraoka's smile lit up the center of the medal podium. © Getty Images Sport


"Having fun" got her the gold

She is not necessarily great at handling pressure. She once said, "I get stage fright. When I am in the lift on the way to starting, I often complain that I feel sick and nauseous." On the other hand, she also said with bright eyes, "Once I am in front of the starting gate, I get into it and can concentrate. I like how that feels."

After winning the silver in the Downhill event on the first day, Muraoka was released from some pressure. She said it made her feel like being more aggressive and simply trying her best.
"I think that as my desire for a gold medal became stronger, at a certain point I was able to break through the pressure."

After her first medal on the first day, she had said, "Now I would like to simply have fun at the remaining events."
With three medals already tucked beneath her belt, she says she was able to have fun at the Giant Slalom event.


Muraoka says she was able to start with a calm mind because of her three medals, including the Downhill silver (shown in photo). © X-1


Muraoka started sit-skiing at age 11. Growing up in Saitama prefecture, skiing was a special seasonal sport she could only do during the winter. She loved going to the snowy slopes, and before she knew it she was hooked.

"It seems that the more fun I am having, the better I ski. To me, skiing is fun. I love it. I loved skiing today, and I think this feeling allowed me to win."

Momoka Muraoka brushed off all pressure and now stands at the top of the world. We look forward to seeing her use this gold medal as momentum to go on and try new things. She is small in stature, only 150 centimeters tall, but the light and inspiration she shines on the world is bright.


text by Asuka Senaga
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