One tenth of Japan’s 293 Olympian team members are directly related to the Tohoku region, being born and/or schooled there. This is now seen as a supplementary motivation for the athletes, as medals won at the 2012 London Olympic Games would help people in the area recover their optimism.
The Tohoku region, ravaged by last year’s triple disaster – quake, tsunami and nuclear crisis – has been in itself an example of resilience for all Japanese. The athletes feel that it is now their duty to bring back medals – and fresh hope – to Japan.
World shooting champion Tomoyuki Matsuda, 36, says he has been impressed by seeing how the destroyed region is recovering. “I want to get a medal and give strength back to the disaster area.”
Cyclist Kazunari Watanabe’s family has been forced to live apart in three different places since the March 2011 disaster, when about 7,000 people from his town, Futaba, remained scattered across the country after being evacuated.
“I will bring a medal back and have a victory celebration with you,” Watanabe said at a ceremony with about 150 former neighbours.
Fencer Kenta Chida found out about the devastation of his hometown, Kesennuma, when he was on the road in Germany. His best friend from childhood, Satoru Onodera, drowned in the disaster. “I may become able to freely show my gratitude for my best friend and my longing for my hometown only when I hold a medal in my hand in London,” Chida said.
This year’s Summer Olympic Games take place in London, England, between July 27 and August 12.