Tuesday, November 2, 2010

From the Archives: 12.17.2009 テレビ朝日:Kohei Uchimura Interview

This is almost a year old, but in celebration of November (?) and Kohei Uchimura's second consecutive World All-Around title... Please do not repost without permission.

Studio Announcer: And next, Shuzo Matsuoka.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Studio): Yes, thank you. Again this year, Japanese athletes really did well on the world stage. There was the WBC, and Ichiro... And there was this person, gymnastics' Kohei Uchimura, who won the gold medal at the World Championships. Where do the secrets to his greatness lie--well, it turns out he owns a 1,000,000-yen treasure.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Narrating): At the World Championships this past October, Kohei Uchimura won the All-Around gold medal. Between the World Championships and the Olympics, he is the seventh Japanese man to achieve this brilliant feat. Among these seven, at 20 years of age he is the youngest in Japanese history. Floor. Pommel Horse. Vault. Still Rings. Parallel Bars. High Bar. The All-Around is contested by the total combined scores across all six events. The athlete who wins rules gymnastics, and is given the name King of Gymnastics.

Koji Gushiken (1984 Los Angeles Olympics All-Around Gold Medalist): Those with lower body strength have no upper body strength, and those with upper body strength have no lower body strength. It's just splits up this way. The All-Around--the challenge is that you have to do all six events...

Shuzo Matsuoka (Narrating): This 20-year-old gold medalist--what is the secret to his greatness? Uchimura, currently a third-year student at Nippon Sport Science University...

Shuzo Matsuoka (Interviewing): For example, "You have to win the gold medal," or statements like that--there is pressure coming in from around you, right?

Kohei Uchimura: Yeah. But even if people say things like that... I do listen, but at the actual competition, I'm only thinking about my performances.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Interviewing): Did you have any doubts anywhere about being able to win the gold medal?

Kohei Uchimura: When it becomes the day of the meet, there aren't any doubts... Really, if I don't go in with full confidence, I can't do well.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Interviewing): You know, I think everyone around here has felt it--in a good way, you're very low-key, aren't you?

Kohei Uchimura: Haha, I don't know.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Interviewing): Is this how you normally are?

Kohei Uchimura: Yes.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Narrating): This shy Uchimura--his greatest characteristic is his landings. It is the one skill that is common to all of the events. Even a small break in his landings will result in big point deductions.

Kohei Uchimura: I first have to think about doing my routines well, but my focus on sticking my landings is almost just as strong.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Narrating): So how is Uchimura able to precisely stick his landings? Athens Olympic Gold Medalist, Hiroyuki Tomita, says that Uchimura's talent lies in the phases before the landing.

Hiroyuki Tomita (2004 Athens Olympics Team Gold Medalist): His midair sense is very good. For example, when you're in the air, if the timing of your twisting is off--being able to keenly pick up on that is one aspect of midair sense.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Narrating): In the air, even while rotating intensely, his ability to adjust his timing and form--this is what makes his accurate landings possible.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Interviewing): This sense, where do you think you most honed it?

Kohei Uchimura: Well it would have to be the trampoline when I was little... Having played on the trampoline is a big part of it.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Narrating): Uchimura's starting point: in fact it was not a normal trampoline, but rather a gymnastics training trampoline 20m in length on which one can do an approach run. It was on this trampoline that Uchimura's gymnastics life was developed.
Isahaya City, Nagasaki Prefecture. The gym that his former gymnast parents is here. In one corner, That Thing was still there. Uchimura first jumped on this training trampoline when he visited a gymnastics club in Tokyo at the age of 5. It was a valuable piece of equipment that at the time was not yet commonly used in Japan. His parents say that they received quite a shock, watching their son jump around on that training trampoline.

Shuko Uchimura (Mother): He was a child who would do an abnormally wide range of things on the trampoline. He did a back flip!

Shuzo Matsuoka (Interviewing): On the trampoline?

Shuko Uchimura: Yes. And I remember even now, saying, "No doing back flips!" It was around when he was 4 or 5 years old. We said, "What?!"

Shuzo Matsuoka (Interviewing): He just did a back flip by himself?

Shuko Uchimura: He did one by himself.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Narrating): Being able to do tricks that were impossibly difficult on the floor--having tasted this sense of satisfaction, Uchimura would from then on plead for a trampoline every time they went to Tokyo. However, the price of a trampoline: 1,000,000 yen! (approximately $10,000) It was an item that could not easily be obtained. Yet on his eleventh birthday...

Shuko Uchimura: He would say, "I want that trampoline... that trampoline is so nice," so we thought that even if we had to sacrifice everything else, we wanted to just buy this for him. (We thought that it would be worth it) If on the trampoline, this child tried more and more skills, and with it actually mastered and retained something...

Shuzo Matsuoka (Narrating): At long last Uchimura got his treasured heart's desire.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Interviewing): What was it like, when you received it?

Kohei Uchimura: It was like a toy. It was like the swings at a park or something.

Shuko Uchimura: He was on the trampoline all the time. He spent more time playing on this trampoline than he did on any of the actual equipment.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Narrating): 'Next, I want to try that skill...!' His ideas grew and grew. What his mother brought out was a notebook Uchimura filled when he was in elementary school.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Interviewing): Wow, this is amazing!

Shuzo Matsuoka (Narrating): The notebook was packed with drawings of numerous skills. Full-twisting double back layout. Skills that Uchimura dreamed of doing, such as a double twisting double salto, were carefully drawn one by one. It was like he was a learned scholar of gymnastics. What he imagined and drew were always perfect-10 performances.

Shuko Uchimura: He would imagine, and draw by hand like this--he would draw figures, and say, "If I think I understand it, then I can do it."

Shuzo Matsuoka (Interviewing): Wow...

Shuzo Matsuoka (Narrating): And Uchimura also regularly used this... a Pink Panther stuffed animal!

Shuko Uchimura: He was lying on the sofa, doing this (with his hands), so I thought, 'What?' And he would make noises as he did this--shhhhhh, like this--and when I asked, "What are you doing?" he said, "Image training." He would say things like, "Double twisting double somersault!" as he did it...

Shuzo Matsuoka (Interviewing): And as the dad, what did you think?

Kazuhisa Uchimura (Father): I thought, 'Is he going to be okay (safe)?'

Shuzo Matsuoka (Interviewing): One would worry a bit, right? So he played with it too much--

Shuko Uchimura: It turned all black, the color was almost charcoal grey--

Kazuhisa Uchimura: It became like a Black Panther.

Shuko Uchimura: And once, I thought, 'What?' because the Pink Panther was lying on his bed, and he said, "It was so dirty that I washed it." That was cute.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Narrating): He would try on the trampoline a skill that he imagined in his mind, and if could do it, then he would imagine a new skill. As he spent his days doing this, his competition results grew. As a middle schooler, he competed at the (Middle School) National Championships. When he was in high school, he dominated the (High School) National Championships.

Kohei Uchimura: It's kind of like I naturally learned the skills while I was playing around.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Interviewing): Really, gymnastics for you, rather than contested events, is play.

Kohei Uchimura: I think probably yes. Play... it's like, play I take very seriously.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Narrating): And at 19 years old he was chosen to represent Japan at the Beijing Olympics.

Commentator: And at the end, a triple twist. He stuck it! An amazing performance from Uchimura!

Shuzo Matsuoka (Narrating): In the All-Around, he won the first Japanese medal in 27 years. The midair sense he mastered on the trampoline had along the line become a weapon that translated onto the world stage.

Commentator: And in the All-Around, he's completed it all...!

Shuzo Matsuoka (Narrating): Furthermore, Uchimura is now training new skills in preparation for the London Olympics in three years. The skill he is working on currently is on the floor event. Of the over 130 recognized skills, there are only two that are of the highest rank: huge skills of G difficulty.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Interviewing): Now, what just happened now?

Kohei Uchimura: I rotated twice backwards in a tuck position, and twisted three times sideways.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Interviewing): This... is a skill that people can do?

Kohei Uchimura: I was able to do it, haha.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Narrating): He has recently become able to successfully do this skill on the floor as well. Popularly known as the "Lee Johnson." He is twisting three times while rotating twice backwards! Please watch it one more time. Uchimura says that from here on he will start challenging himself to do the hardest skills not just on floor but on all of the events. There is no end to this determination.

Kohei Uchimura: If everyone does the same things, it's not interesting for those watching, right? I think that I have to find and perform my own trademark skills, appealing to people through my ability to do things that are different from what others are doing.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Interviewing): Appeal?

Kohei Uchimura: Yes.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Studio): You really get the sense that for Uchimura, gymnastics is truly a serious form of play, a beautiful art form. At the World Championships (2009), something happened that really represented this attitude: the last event (in the All-Around) was this high bar, and at this point there was already no question that he had won gold. His landing--it missed by a step. Even with this he won the gold medal. Normally, since he had won the gold medal, he could pump his fists, but he stuck out his tongue! When I asked him why he stuck out his tongue, he said that he wasn't satisfied (with himself). This wasn't good enough. Along with feeling that that because he is so focused he has these obsessions--you saw him training, right?

Studio Announcer: Yes.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Studio): The thing that left the biggest impression on me was his extra (overtime) training. Usually extra training carries a sense of being pressured, but he's turned his gym into an amusement park. It's so much fun for him! At an amusement park, you go on rides and have fun, but he has so much fun with just his own body, and as an athlete (Shuzo Matsuoka is a former professional tennis player) I was so envious I couldn't stand it! With that kind of attitude, I thought, of course he'll improve...

Studio Announcer: You get the feeling that his body has become an amusement park ride for his mind.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Studio): Yes, exactly. I think so.

Studio Announcer: But as fun as it may be, there must be struggles somewhere that he doesn't show anybody... And because of that it becomes even more fun.

Shuzo Matsuoka (Studio): All the more reason to be so focused.

Studio Announcer: Yes, it must be.


duotiger said...

I've been a fan of Kohei since I saw him on TV for the Olympics. Like many others, not only was I amazed by his skills and talent, but I fell for his cute smiles too. :)
Thank you so much for translating this video.
He is amazing to watch. He makes everything he does look so easy and he's so flawless.

Francine (aka duotiger)

Maya said...

Thanks so much for this,
from Serbia