Yoshihiro Nitta, PyeongChang Is His Sixth Paralympic Games / Full Talk Show (Part 4)
Momoka Muraoka, Gurimu Narita, Yoshihiro Nitta and Taiki Morii, all medalists at the PyeongChang Winter Paralympic Games, spoke at the "Talk Show Celebrating PyeongChang Winter Paralympic Medalists" held on March 20, 2018. The medalists talked about a strange episode where Narita asked them to "come to my room, and bring your medals," at 11:00 o'clock at night after the closing ceremony. What were his intentions?
Going home at last
Yoshiko Kawano (hereinafter, Kawano): Next, I'd like to ask a few questions of Mr. Nitta. PyeongChang was your sixth Paralympic Games, which is really quite unbelievable. You won a gold medal for the first time in two Games. You said you haven't put the medal around your sons' necks, right?
Yoshihiro Nitta (hereinafter, Nitta): Yes, that's right.
Kawano: When is the soonest you will be able to do that?
Nitta: In another several hours.
Kawano: You can finally go home.
Nitta: Yes, at last.
Kawano: I'm sure your kids are jumping up and down in impatience to see you.
Nitta: I wonder? They are very noisy so the first thing I will probably do is scold them to be quiet.
Kawano: Your son said, "Papa got first place? Really first place?" Does your younger son understand that you actually got the gold?
Nitta: I think he does. They saw the silver medal, but not the gold medal yet.
My kids wanted me to get a gold medal more than anyone, so I am glad I was able to do that for them. Mr. (Taiki) Morii was talking about being a silver collector, but I envy him because he gets a medal every time. I only get a medal half of the time. The first time I didn't get a medal, then I did, then I didn't, then I did. This time I did, so next time I probably won't.
(The audience laughs)
Kawano: Oh no, that won't be true.
Nitta: I feel like that is how it goes. For better or for worse.
Kotono Tanaka (hereinafter, Tanaka): I hope you break that theory at the next Beijing Games. I am looking forward to the achievements of both of you.
Nitta: You are right. I'll try my best.
Kawano: We expect you to. And put them next to the medal your son made for you at Sochi.
Nitta: I will.
"My first thought after stumbling was, My knee hurts"
Kawano: There is something else I would like to ask you. You stumbled once at the beginning of the race.
Nitta: In the 10-kilometer (Cross-country Skiing, Classic Middle)?
Kawano: In the 10-kilometer, I think at the first turn. I remember well when you fell at the corner. What went through your mind when you fell?
Nitta: The moment I stumbled, well, before starting ... the area right outside the grooved tracks, which we call "cutters," was very soft and crispy.
Kawano: It was a little puffed up.
Nitta: I was told to be careful at that part, because it would make you suddenly stop, but I stumbled all the same. After I stumbled I went on as if nothing happened, but my first thought was, "My knee hurts."
Tanaka: Did you injure yourself?
Nitta: It was just a scratch, so I was okay.
Tanaka: You scratched yourself?
Nitta: But it was my last individual race, and I was constantly aware that I had to give it my best effort. I was always second or third, and third up to the last lap. In the last lap, just like Mr. (Gurimu) Narita, I kept talking to myself and pumping myself up when going downhill: "I can do this, I can do this."
I kept creeping up to the athletes in front of me, and I felt this was the moment of truth. After I finished, I looked up at the electronic board and saw I won by eight seconds, and I knew I had made it. That was a very happy moment.
Tanaka: Talking to yourself is actually important then.
Nitta: Like mind control?
Gurimu Narita (hereinafter, Narita): Sometimes I do it unconsciously.
Tanaka: Then it is important. Mr. Morii, do you talk to yourself?
Taiki Morii (hereinafter, Morii): I don't talk too much.
Tanaka: Ah, you don't talk.
The importance of keeping "small agreements"
Nitta: But don't you all have some kind of routine you do before you start?
Kawano: Do you have a routine?
Narita: I talk. For every single run, even for practice or course inspections, I repeat over and over the goal of that run. If I try for that goal I'm happy. I am scolded the most ... when I don't try.
Kawano: So it is important to try.
Narita: Yes, to have a goal and do it. That is what I do. Even before starting.
Kawano: You even write up agreements.
Narita: Oh, those are small agreements. I think the important thing is to keep them.
Tanaka: Mr. Morii, what is your routine?
Morii: More than anything, in alpine skiing we inspect the course beforehand. Slowly. It depends on the event, but usually for about an hour. For some events we cannot do a practice run. So we have to ... we have to memorize the course, and there are around 50 flags.
Tanaka: Left here, right here. I see.
Morii: Yes. For the Paralympics, we cannot take photos. Basically it has to be in your head or in notes. So, rather than having a routine, the important thing is to have the course memorized in my head so that I can actually imagine each flag when I close my eyes. Before starting I imagine a good, solid run.
When I imagine the run, I imagine everything from exiting the gate to skiing the course, finishing the course, looking up at the electronic board, and pumping my fists.
Kawano: Have you been doing image training since when you first started?
Morii: Yes. I do a lot of image training. Even while I am racing. Instead of thinking that I am skiing myself, I image watching through a camera two or three meters above my head. I always imagine the line of where I will ski, even while skiing. That's what I do.
Kawano: So you always have a birds-eye-view of yourself.
Morii: Yes, that's right.
Tanaka: I used to do rhythmic gymnastics, so I understand very well.
The routine of "adjusting my goggles"
Kawano: Ms. Muraoka, what about your routine?
Momoka Muraoka (hereinafter, Muraoka): Of course, I do the same thing as Mr. Taiki (Morii), but apart from that, I have the habit of adjusting my goggles. Before starting, I spend a lot of time adjusting my goggles. (laughs)
Kawano: What are you thinking about when you fix your goggles?
Muraoka: I always think, "They don't feel right." It is a pretty intense sport, and if you or the person in front of you stumbles, the race stops, too. At the start and stop, there is a little bit of standby time.
Even at those times they don't feel right. (laughs) I have never started a race fully satisfied. I have never started a race thinking my goggles are just right. (laughs)
Kawano: So your goggles are always a little unstable. (laughs)
(The audience laughs)
Muraoka: I guess so. (laughs) The goggles are fine and I never have trouble with them during practice. It's just before I start...
Tanaka: They start to bug you.
Muraoka: Yes! I guess I am funny. (laughs)
Kawano: I see.
Muraoka: Yes. Am I weird?
Morii: Just to make things clear, we both use the same brand (of goggles) and they are perfectly fine in function. (laughs)
(The audience laughs)
Muraoka: True! I will agree.
Kawano: Thank you.
Muraoka: They are perfectly fine goggles. During practice they are perfectly fine, I just get worried before starting. (laughs)
Tanaka: Because it is before a competition.
Muraoka: Yes. I am nervous and I want to be doing something. And my face is what bugs me. (laughs) My face, or my goggles. And I often wonder if my nose is running. (laughs)
Kawano: Maybe if you become calmer about that at Beijing ... Can we assume you will get even better results? (laughs)
Muraoka: No, the goggles are fine so that wouldn't make a difference.
Kawano: I see.
Using equipment with a good fit
Kawano: I feel that the development of equipment, including goggles, is very important in Paralympic sports. Mr. Narita, what do you think about equipment? I hear you changed your boots.
Narita: Yes, I change them frequently. Is the photo (of equipment) up?
Kawano: Yes, the photo just came up.
Narita: I use different boots for my left and right legs. I have impairment in my left leg, and cannot lift at the ankle. So when I put my weight on it, it might twist or bend at a weird angle.
So I decided to just keep it firm ... I'm not sure if you can tell, but my left boot is fixed in a very hard shell, like a ski boot or cast.
Kawano: The black one in the front.
Narita: Yes, the left leg.
Kawano: How much trial and error did you go through to get to this style?
Narita: It has been about two years since I started para snowboarding. (I came to this style) Just lately.
Kawano: Oh, just lately. (laughs)
Narita: Yes, I think it was a few months ago.
Kawano: So at the very end, you decided to go with this.
Tanaka: The first time you used a different boot for each leg, did you feel like, "This is it!"
Narita: Yes, well, I went through trial and error. For example, I cannot bend forward easily and it is not very flexible.
Tanaka: So there are demerits.
Narita: I tried using it unbuckled, or with a weird piece of cloth shoved in it. Because I tried different things, I was able to compete at PyeongChang using equipment with a good fit, so I think it was good to do that.