Friday, January 14, 2011

12.12.2010 情熱大陸:Kohei Uchimura

Narrator: With these hands he grasped the top of the world. Gymnast Kohei Uchimura. His callused palms are clear evidence.

Kohei Uchimura: I have two pairs of nail clippers, one for cutting my nails and one for cutting off the dead skin from my hands. This is really embarrassing.

Commentator: We can see the raging fire (i.e. his power)... He stuck it! Stuck it!

Narrator: At the World Gymnastics Championships that took place this October (2010) in the Netherlands, Uchimura became the first Japanese gymnast to defend the All-Around title. He is only the third gymnast ever to make this brilliant achievement. The name Kohei Uchimura swept through the gymnastics world. He is the man currently closest to the (All-Around) gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

Koji Gushiken (1984 Olympic All-Around Champion): No matter what area you look at--pick up--he has very clean, beautiful gymnastics. They make a picture. He must have eyes all over the place--where he is and how he is positioned, what he should do to stick the landing, all these things.

Narrator: What are "beautiful gymnastics"? Uchimura has intently pursued this. For this Uchimura, there is one title now that he desperately wants.

Kohei Uchimura: I know that Japanese Nationals and the World Championships are completely different, but everyone wants us to win Nationals, and we athletes also want the title no matter what, so...

Narrator: The World Champion, who does not let up at all, was focused on winning with his friends and teammates in his last competition as a student.

Question: Gymnastics is...?

Kohei Uchimura: I guess it's destiny? I feel like it's not too extreme to say that I was born so I could do gymnastics.

Narrator: Where does the road that the 21-year-old World Champion seeks lead?

(Nippon Sport Science University)

Narrator: The World Champion rides his bicycle to school from his dorm every day.

Kohei Uchimura: 'Morning.

Crew: Are you not a morning person?

Kohei Uchimura: I don't really get sleepy, so...

Crew: Oh really?

Kohei Uchimura: Yes. If I sleep, my body doesn't move well, so...

Crew: I see.

Kohei Uchimura: Yeah. This is my standard outfit.

Crew: You're wearing work gloves?

Kohei Uchimura: Yes, because it's cold.

Gymnasts: Good morning! 'Morning!

Narrator: Nippon Sport Science University Gymnastics Club. It is a renowned gymnastics program that has produced numerous medalists. Practices are held daily for an hour midday, and four hours in the afternoon. Uchimura is a senior and the captain who pulls together the 65 members of the men's division.

Gymnasts: Let's work together.

Narrator: (Only 13 more training sessions until) Japanese Nationals, which start on December 3. For Uchimura, it is the last meet he will compete with his friends.

Gymnasts: Together! Let's go!

Narrator: In the team competition in gymnastics, three athletes from each team compete on six events such as floor, the high bar, and still rings, and the total scores from those performances are used. Last year, Nippon Sport Science University allowed the "working adult team" to win, and finished in second place. And so especially, the World Champion was very focused on the last meet he would spend with his friends.

Koji Yamamuro (senior): He's very shy, but I think he's gotten a lot better.

Fumihiro Hosokawa (senior): There are parts of him that I don't get, but I do think that he's a great athlete who hides it when he gets down.

Masataka Aoyama (sophomore): You get the feeling that he competes against himself. He doesn't get nervous, and performs with confidence.

Narrator: On this day he went to a ramen place with the underclassmen with whom he lives in the gymnastics division dorms.

Masataka Aoyama: To be honest, we're definitely better than Kohei at still rings--

Kohei Uchimura: Shut up.

Takumi Sato (junior): Sorry.

Kohei Uchimura: First, these noodles--

Waiter: Noodles.

Kohei Uchimura: --and gyoza, five of them.

Waiter: Okay.

Kohei Uchimura: Fried chicken--fried chicken, three of them.

Narrator: They ordered noodles, gyoza, and fried chicken.

Crew: Are you a picky eater?

Kohei Uchimura: Oh yeah, definitely. Things I don't like...

Takumi Sato/Masataka Aoyama: Tomatoes...

Kohei Uchimura: Tomatoes. Green peas. Yeah, vegetables.

Crew: Which actors, comedians, etc. do you like?

Kohei Uchimura: Saki Aibu. Saki Aibu.

Crew: Usually when you go out to eat, do you split the bill?

(Takumi Sato and Masataka Aoyama shake their heads and gesture towards Kohei Uchimura)

Crew: Oh he treats?

Takumi Sato/Masataka Aoyama: The burden of being a veteran.

Kohei Uchimura: Hey you, you ate the fried chicken without asking, didn't you?

Masataka Aoyama: Thanks!

Kohei Uchimura: What are you doing, eating it?

Narrator: There is only a little bit of time left that he can spend with his underclassmen. Only ten more days until Nationals. During practice, one could often see him like this. His hands calmly move through the air without rushing, as if he is waving a baton.

Kohei Uchimura: That--I'm imagining the skills I will perform.

Crew: Images?

Kohei Uchimura: Yes. In my mind I can see how they should be best performed, so I guess I am continuously seeking those in practice? Yeah.

Narrator: (Born on January 3, 1989) By the time he realized it gymnastics was already a part of his life. His parents, who were both gymnasts, opened a gym at their house when Uchimura was three years old. Nagasaki Prefecture, Isahaya City. Even today, his parents continue to run their club.

Shuko Uchimura (mother): Go! Go! Very good!

Narrator: From here the second Uchimura may emerge.

Crew: Excuse us.

Kazuhisa Uchimura (father)/Shuko Uchimura: Welcome, come on in.

Shuko Uchimura: There are a lot of pictures. Come in.

Narrator: Pictures of their World-Champion son decorate every corner of the living room.

Shuko Uchimura: Well, when he focuses... even if something, a bomb, exploded right next to him, he probably wouldn't notice--he was a child with that kind of ability of concentrate. One sunny day he was sleeping underneath the high bar. I was so shocked, I thought he had fallen! Yes. I guess he'd gotten tired after playing on it for so long. When I looked he was sleeping underneath the high bar.

Narrator: His toy was the high bar. The first time he competed in a meet was when he was six years old. The result: last place.

Shuko Uchimura: He was crying at his first meet. Yeah....

Narrator: Shuko showed us a notebook.

Shuko Uchimura: So it's this... it's a notebook that child wrote in as he imagined skills.

Narrator: Uchimura's notebook from when he was in elementary school. Inside, countless gymnastics skills were crammed in. His gymnastics life that began with last place. Wanting to get even a little bit better, he continued to draw imagined skills whenever he had a chance. And that is linked to his beautiful gymnastics today. Of this beauty, Athens Gold Medalist says...

Hiroyuki Tomita (2004 Olympics Team Gold Medalist): Rather than flexibility, I think he brings out beauty in the way he precisely and quickly moves his body. On the high bar, in general--the height of his releases, the opening up of his body... those are his strong points. It's rare that a gymnast can do a Kovacs so high. In his landings, the moment before his feet touch the ground, his midair positioning is very good. Well, I think he is the best gymnast in the world.

Narrator: His superior midair sense and landings. Their origins lie in the trampoline he has loved since he was a boy. Even now, he first imagines new skills on the trampoline. Uchimura was attempting a new skill on vault. It is a new skill that no one has successfully done before. If he succeeds at it at the World Championships, it would be named the "Uchimura." This skill requires three twists in the air. At the moment, the hardest vault recorded is two and a half twists. Upon landing, the body faces away from the vault. If this becomes a triple twist, it is an additional half twist--in other words, the body will face the vault. The key to success is twisting quickly. However, because he focuses so much on this, he cannot get into position to land.

Kohei Uchimura: Was it too fast? I ended up trying to get around.

Coach: I don't think that it's that you can't get the twists in, but.... something, something's a little off. A little more.

Narrator: Even Uchimura, with the best landing technique in the world, struggles.

Kohei Uchimura: Vault is the one event where even I feel like I don't do enough, so if I could change that I think that I could get stronger... yeah. Whenever I'm training skills I can't do at all, it's like, 'When the hell am I going to be able to do this?'

Narrator: There was only a week left before Nationals.

Trainer: You shoulder?

Kohei Uchimura: Yeah. But it doesn't hurt that much.

Trainer: How about now?

Kohei Uchimura: It hurts. The same place as before.

Narrator: In fact Uchimura was dealing with the uncertainty of having pain in his shoulder. He has bitter memories related to injury. The All-Around at his first Olympics as a 19-year-old, in 2008 in Beijing.

Commentator: He can make it... He's starting with this move... And now, swiveling around the pommel horse. It's here--AH! As expected!

Narrator: A fall on the pommel horse.

Commentator: His uncertainty struck! And again! A second time...

Narrator: With the second fall, he finished with the silver.

Kohei Uchimura: At the time, my wrist--my left wrist--was pretty painful, and even in everyday life is was extremely painful. I was thinking that I would definitely fall on the pommel horse, and I performed, and to me it was like, 'Good thing it was only twice.'

Narrator: How to deal with injuries and pain--this is also the destiny of gymnasts.

Yoshiaki Hanakeda (coach): The parts of the body that aren't usually used--you bring your body into these positions and a lot of weight is placed on those parts, right? So as expected, those parts get damaged--even if you think about it normally, they get damaged.

Narrator: The still rings place over six times his body weight on both shoulders. In his current state, it is impossible for him to perform his routine through the end.

Teammate: Does your shoulder hurt?

Kohei Uchimura: It hurts a lot.

Teammate: Does it hurt more than it did at Worlds?

Kohei Uchimura: It hasn't really changed.

Narrator: He tries (the still rings) using a harness that relieves some of the pressure on his shoulders, but... There was one friend who watched over Uchimura through all of this. His classmate Yamamuro was called Uchimura's rival from the time they were in high school.

However, he is also a close friend who supports the shy captain.

Koji Yamamuro: Kohei, I think the pain got a lot worse probably this year, and so in the beginning he wouldn't want to train because it hurt, but as a team we really need him.

Narrator: His teammates' thoughts come across painfully clear. What should he do as a captain so that his team wins? Uchimura was thinking. Four days before Nationals. At Nippon Sport Science University there is a traditional ritual that occurs before meets.

Kohei Uchimura: Nippon Sport Science University~!

Gymnasts: Fight!

Narrator: This was the last time he would lead the yell to raise his team's competitive spirits. On the way to Yamaguchi, where the competition would be held.

Kohei Uchimura: I took it!

Narrator: This was the last trip he would take with his team.

Crew: As captain, or as an individual competitor, what are your goals?

Kohei Uchimura: To have fun.

Masataka Aoyama: To have fun, and also to perform beautifully...

Kohei Uchimura: That's true, beautifully.

(Yamaguchi Prefecture Sports Culture Center)
(December 2, Official Practice)

Narrator: The competition was three days. Both a team competition and individual apparatus competitions would take place. The day before the meet, Uchimura was undecided about whether he would enter the still rings event. Because of the pain in his left shoulder, he had not yet been able to do a full run-through of his routine. That night...

Teammate: You're going to enter the rings, right?

Kohei Uchimura: Yeah I'll enter.

Teammate: Is it okay, your shoulder?

Kohei Uchimura: Yeah, it's okay.

Teammate: Amazing, as expected.

Kohei Uchimura: Probably.

Teammate: Well, I hope you have fun.

Kohei Uchimura: I think I can do it.

Narrator: And so the day of the team competition. Uchimura's battle begins.

(December 4, All-Japan Gymnastics Nationals, Team Competition)

Narrator: December 4, All-Japan Gymnastics Nationals, Team Competition. From high schoolers to working adults, the twelve elite teams that had won their respective competitions participated. The arena was packed with people who wanted to catch even a glimpse of the World Champion.

Gymnasts: Thank you. Let's go!

Narrator: Uchimura's last team competition as a student began. His first event was one of his specialties: floor. He pulled off numerous difficult skills and set up his team. Buoyed by Uchimura's momentum, his teammates also performed cleanly.

(Defending Champions KONAMI Team)

Narrator: Last year's winners, the KONAMI Team, which is filled with members of the National team, also performed cleanly and put pressure on Nippon Sport Science University. Even now the uncertainty over his shoulder remains. Next, the rings. If he enters, he cannot make excuses. As captain, as World Champion, this was his moment to prove himself. The time of his routine: 67 seconds. Of all of the competitors (in the event), his was the second-highest score. In the stands were his parents. And the event that everyone anticipated was the final performance of the team competition: Uchimura's forte, the high bar. The most beautiful landing in the world was also stuck on that day. The winners: Nippon Sport Science University. It was not the title, but this moment with his teammates that he wanted.

Kohei Uchimura: I want to become an athlete who can perform without mistakes, and beautifully, no matter the timing, no matter what the circumstances. What I'm aiming for--what I want to express--is far, far above what I'm doing now, so I think there is a lot more to be done in those areas. Thanks.

Narrator: The individual events the next day. The number that indicates Uchimura's vault is 0. It is a new skill that no one has successfully competed. On the last day, he somehow managed to contain the challenging landing. Higher, and beautifully. The landing that he struggled for is phase two of his dreams. Kohei Uchimura--on the road he has started to run along, a huge sky awaits.

1 comment:

edgykay said...

thanks so much for the translation!