“Team Morii” of Around 40 Members / Full Talk Show (Part 5)
"Stability is not fun"
Tanaka: I really feel the energy of your determination to improve—to "aim for higher," to "try different things," to "find what will make you better." Where does this ambition, energy or power come from?
Narita: Well, I believe "stability is not fun." That is my philosophy, or how I feel. Stability or being protective does not excite me.
I don't like the feeling of being afraid ... that is, the feeling of physically recoiling to protect myself. Instead of feeling that, I'd rather take on new challenges and be able to laugh about it. Even at the PyeongChang Paralympics, I was always taking on new challenges.
I want to be an athlete that can finish a race with a smile on his face, even if he fails. I think I was able to accomplish that goal this time.
Tanaka: You seemed to be really enjoying competing. I am sure everyone watching on TV, and those who went to PyeongChang, felt the same way. You seemed to be having fun.
"Team Morii" of around 40 members
Kawano: Regarding equipment, I hear that Mr. Morii has a Team Morii.
Morii: Yes, I do. The company I work at developed a sit-ski for me. There are about 40 people in Team Morii. They have been involved in making my sit-ski, and it is very reassuring to have them.
Kawano: Forty people.
Tanaka: That is a lot.
Morii: Yes. The company makes automobiles, so engineers involved in developing automobiles made improvements to my sit-ski.
Tanaka: How long did it take them to make the sit-ski you used this time?
Morii: About two and a half years.
Tanaka: Two and a half years. That is quite a long time.
Minimizing air resistance with a boot cover
Tanaka: Can you tell us about what points the development focused on since the last Games, or what performance you aimed for?
Morii: The conventional frame... Japanese frames are already very good. But we had to still make improvements, so the first thing we did was make it lighter. Lighter weight increases maneuverability. Of course, the tradeoff with making it lighter is decreased rigidity.
A lighter frame is unavoidably weaker and less rigid. It was difficult to make it lighter but also stronger and more rigid.
There is another important part. (Looking at the photo) When you look at the photo, there is a black, white and red boot cover that hides the leg. We call this a "cowl." It minimizes air resistance. When you use this—
Kawano: Did you say "Powl"?
Kawano: Cowl. Like the cowl units of Shinkansen trains.
Tanaka: It looks like a face.
Morii: Yes. Some athletes from other countries asked me if I designed it based on a Shinkansen. (laughs) Minimizing air resistance is particularly good for fast races ... I think it worked well for the event that I got a medal in (Downhill).
So I did not get this medal with only my own efforts. My medal is a result of the support of Team Morii and everyone involved.
Both equipment adjustments and physical conditioning
Kawano: Ms. Muraoka, what are your thoughts about equipment? Is there anything you are particular about?
Muraoka: What I am particular about. Well, there is a big difference in my left and right sides. When skiing, you take each left and right turn alternately, so a left and right difference can be a big disadvantage. To make up for this, the seat and the area that I sit on are very important.
Tanaka: You did core training after Sochi to work on better balance between your left and right sides. Was it tough?
Muraoka: Yes. I had not done much training before that ... Actually, I couldn't do it because of doctor's orders. I started training around the time I started going to university. At the same time, I made adjustments to my equipment, and I think little by little I have been able to reduce the disparity between my left and right turns.
An "encounter" with skis
Kawano: And Mr. Nitta. The photo of you kissing your skis after the event circulated quite a lot. Are you very grateful for them?
Nitta: Yes. For about three years I have been visiting Pyeongchang around the same time to see the snow quality.
Kawano: You went to Pyeongchang for three years straight?
Nitta: Yes, for three years straight. I found out it doesn't snow regularly and the wind is very strong. The wind kicks up dirt and the snow can get very dirty. The wax technicians, the specialists who wax our skis, worked hard to prevent the dirt from getting on the skis. Another thing was, my cherished skis broke right before the Games.
Kawano: They broke?
Nitta: Yes. I got new skis in a hurry, and used those for the Games. In that sense, I had a meaningful "encounter" with my new skis, although that might sound funny. I really felt the support of many people before the start of the Games. It was that kind of experience.
"The weather forecast specialist was my best friend"
Tanaka: I heard that you also had a weather forecast specialist.
Nitta: For the PyeongChang pre-event, I had Weathernews Inc. give me a report on the wind amount, temperature, snow temperature, snow stiffness and other conditions. In that sense, I was able to visualize things.
For example, whenever Weathernews said it was going to snow, it would really start snowing within 10 to 15 minutes. It was that accurate. But when I got my last medal, the temperature was not as high as the original forecast...
Kawano: It wasn't?
Nitta: No. I immediately contacted my wax technician by transceiver to tell him I was going to make adjustments.
In cross-country skiing there is not much we can do regarding equipment development. Finding areas where we can make changes ... like the wax, or other things the Japan Team can do, is the unique thing about cross-country skiing.
Tanaka: So for all of you, this is not an individual battle. Your performances are supported by many people. This gives us a sense of how important your equipment is, almost like partners at competitions, as well as adjustments and maintenance.
Kawano: Yes, truly.
"An episode at 11:00 at night"
Kawano: Now, I'd love to hear about some behind-the-scene stories. To ask about "Paralympic behind-the-scenes episodes." Earlier I heard something about a meeting at 11:00 o'clock at night after the closing ceremony. Ms. Muraoka? (laughs)
Kawano: You are already apologizing.
Tanaka: Already? (laughs)
Kawano: So Mr. Narita is apologizing for something. What happened? Is it okay to ask you youngsters about this?
Muraoka: Well... my last race was on the 18th, the day of the closing ceremony. I was the flag bearer at the closing ceremony, and we had to meet up fairly early. I only had one hour after getting back from the slopes. To get ready and pack my bags for the return home.
Kawano: One hour after the closing ceremony?
Muraoka: No, um...
Kawano: After your event?
Muraoka: After the event and returning to the Village, I only had one hour until the closing ceremony.
Kawano: A busy schedule.
Muraoka: I really rushed to get ready. You have to take apart your sit-ski to pack it up, and it takes a long time. I really rushed and barely made it to the closing ceremony.
After the ceremony I came back and ate .... Before I knew it, it was past 11:00 at night. I still had a lot of packing to do.
And then ... so, I knew there was an athlete named Gurimu Narita, who I had merely said hello to before, and really hadn't spoken to at all.
Kawano: He's right here. (laughs)
Muraoka: And an athlete named Mr. Nitta—
Kawano: Right next to him?
Nitta: I am one of the victims here.
Muraoka: —and Mr. (Atsushi) Yamamoto were at my door. A staff member was like, "Momoka, someone's calling you." I was like, "What? ... What are they going to say to me?"
Tanaka: A summons.
Kawano: At 11:00 o'clock at night.
Muraoka: A summons, after 11:00 o'clock at night. I had no idea what it was, I was so scared, I kind of peeked around the door, like this, "... Yes?" (laughs) And then—
Nitta: You were so on guard.
Muraoka: Well, I was terrified.