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【Powerlifting】Talk Show, Olympian Hiromi Miyake and Para Athlete Eri Yamamoto

The Universal Art Festival in Sumida took place for two days (February 4 and 5) in the martial arts room of Sumida Municipal Ryogoku Junior High School. On February 4 a talk show titled, "The appeal of sports and the power of dreaming" was held, featuring weightlifting athlete Hiromi Miyake, who won bronze at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, and Eri Yamamoto Macdonald, who aims to attend the Paralympics in powerlifting. They talked about their dreams, commitment to their sports, and their thoughts on the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Yamamoto only fully started powerlifting nine months ago, and was excited to finally meet Miyake, whom she has admired since starting the sport. She said, "This is my dream come true!" Miyake and Yamamoto are around the same age, and seemed to get along very well from the very start.

What is the difference between Paralympic powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting?

Weightlifting and powerlifting are both sports in which athletes hold up a barbell and compete on who is the most powerful. Despite their similarities, however, they are quite different. Weightlifting includes two events, the "snatch" and "clean and jerk," which are performed three times each. The heaviest weight of each event is combined to make the athlete's total score. On the other hand, Paralympic powerlifting only includes the bench press. In addition, in weightlifting the athlete arches her back and uses her entire body to lift weights, but in para powerlifting the athlete lies on her back on the bench and only uses upper body muscles.
* Regular bench presses are done with feet on the ground, but in para powerlifting, athletes with disabilities in the lower body lie fully on a special bench with legs fixed.

"I want to be able to speak English by 2020, when many guests will visit Japan." (Miyake)

The talk show started with the two being asked why they started their respective sports. Miyake said, "I watched the Sydney Olympics when I was a third year junior high school student, and wanted to be a part of it. That is why I started weightlifting." Yamamoto shared an episode. "I tried powerlifting at a para sports trial event, and was able to lift 40 kilograms. Everyone was really surprised, and that convinced me to really try the sport." Miyake seemed surprised and said, "40 kilograms is really heavy. My heaviest weight on the bench press is 55 kilograms."

Miyake has attended four consecutive Olympic Games and took home medals from both London and Rio de Janeiro. She aimed for the Olympics from the very start of her training. Her father and coach, Yoshiyuki Miyake, is also a medalist. He put down two conditions: To get a medal, and to not give up. "For every athlete, going to the Olympics and getting a medal is the ultimate goal. The Olympics teach us about the importance of having a goal, and it also makes you grow emotionally." To this, Yamamoto nodded and added, "I will keep that in mind. I am now training for 2020, but it has only been nine months since I started this sport and sometimes I begin to doubt myself, whether I can really make the Paralympics. But everyone around me believes in me, and that pushes me to move forward. I'll take that strength and put it into lifting heavier barbells."

At one point during the talk show, Miyake showed her bronze medal from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, which drew applause from the audience. As a person who has achieved her dream of going to the Olympics and winning a medal, Miyake said, "To achieve a goal, it is important to prepare, plan and take action. But 80 to 90 percent of the time, you will fail. Analyze which areas led to results, and keep building on those areas. The key is to keep trying, one step at a time, towards your goal."

The next theme was daily training. "In general I train with squats, deadlift and press. My style is to train muscles and build strength up collectively. During the winter, like right now, I build muscles with muscle training, and in the spring I work on explosive strength." Yamamoto said, "I plan my training menu in three-month cycles. I do different things on different days, for example I might do speed training one day and heavy weights another. I am often asked how many kilograms I can currently lift. But if I put 100% into one lift, I won't be able to lift anything for a week. In training I always control my strength."

"Overcome one wall and you will be faced with another." (Miyake) "It's fun to clamber over the walls you hit." (Yamamoto)

As athletes who are constantly challenging their own limitations, they often hit walls. Miyake says, "If you hit a wall, the only thing is to steadily and gradually overcome it on your own. But overcome one wall, and you will be faced with another. The repetition of this is fulfilling and even fun. Struggles make you grow. Sometimes I feel discouraged, but I still have dreams that I haven't yet achieved so I never say I want to quit."

Yamamoto with an Olympian she admires

Yamamoto said with a smile, "I have only just begun this sport, so I don't know how tall my own walls are yet, but if I am overcoming them it is more like clambering over them. If I don't know what to do, I talk to someone I trust and I usually find out I'm not alone. So I've never felt like I hit a wall that I cannot overcome. It has even become fun." Yamamoto went to graduate school in Canada to study Para Sports studies. She started swimming at the age of nine and even represented Canada in ice sledge hockey (a type of ice hockey played on sledges, with a stick in each hand). She says powerlifting, where you "compete against yourself," is the most fun.

In conclusion, the two talked about their goals for 2017 and 2020.

"I want to make this a year to prepare for 2018. Food is a particularly important element in building our bodies, so I want to learn cooking from my mother and learn how to cook for myself. It is only three and a half years to 2020. I will train well, challenge myself to the limitations of my strength, remember the mindset of a newcomer, and get into the Olympics so I can achieve my other dream. Also, the Olympics and Paralympics are not only for athletes. They are for everyone, and I hope to make the Tokyo Games a great experience together with many others." (Miyake)

"My first goal involves time management. As I balance work and training, I want to both support the 2020 Paralympics and attend them as an athlete. I cannot choose between the two, so I am determined to accomplish both. I plan to work hard in both work and training with good time management. Also, many people are not familiar with para sports and the Paralympic Games . I hope these types of events make you a little interested in them. Learning about para sports will make 2020 that much more fun. I hope we can all make the upcoming Paralympic Games a fun event." (Yamamoto)

Olympic medalist Miyake is going for a higher dream, and Yamamoto hopes to support the Paralympics while training for the event herself. The two female athletes who aim for 2020 were full of the spirit of "i enjoy," never forgetting to enjoy their sport.

The audience was captivated by the conversation of the two athletes with small physiques

Yamamoto is always smiling: "My motto is to have fun."

text by TEAM A,photo by X-1
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