Interview: Japanese luger Kobayashi eyes gold medal in 2030 after Beijing letdown

By Wang Zijiang, Yang Guang (Xinhua) 15:15, March 15, 2022

TOKYO, March 16 (Xinhua) -- Seiya Kobayashi returned from Beijing 2022 in disappointment but as the only luger in Japan's largest overseas Winter Olympic delegation, he has his sights set on a medal in future Games.

"I am not satisfied with my performance in Beijing," said the 20-year-old, who finished a distant 34th place in the men's individual race in his first Winter Olympics. "I was too nervous and made too many mistakes."

Kobayashi grew in Iizuna Machi, Nagano. Like most children in Nagano, the 1998 Winter Olympics host city, he liked skiing and snowboarding. But when he was in fifth grade at primary school, he found the luge a more attractive sport.

"It is faster and more fun than skiing and snowboarding," he told Xinhua.

He looks shy, reserved and blushes easily when talking, but beneath the introverted appearance hides a brave heart.

Luge is often considered the fastest sport at the Winter Olympics, with lugers hitting top speed of up to 140 kilometers per hour.

"It is a dangerous sport," said his coach Toshiro Masaki, who finished 12th at the Turin Olympic Games in 2006. In a career spanning nearly 20 years, Masaki suffered injuries to his face, ankles, elbows, knees and coccyx.

Kobayashi said most of his childhood luge friends have given up because of injuries.

"I am the only one persisting," he said.

Masaki, also the luge coaching director of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), said there are only about 20 lugers across the nation.

Kobayashi's mother always feels especially worried about his safety before a major competition, but when all people in Iizuna Machi came over to congratulate the family after he had made the Olympic team, both parents were very proud of their son.

"I became a celebrity overnight in my town," he said.

Kobayashi missed the opening ceremony at Beijing's iconic Bird's Nest stadium because he had to focus on an early kick-off of his competition.

"I had to give priority to the race," he said. "But I was enjoying the Beijing Winter Olympics very much, and these experiences will benefit me in the future."

Kobayashi, who is studying in a sports school at Nagano, has been back in training and looks beyond the next Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina, Italy.

"I hope to achieve good results at the 2030 Olympic Winter Games," he said. "Hopefully I can win a medal there."

Sapporo, his coach Masaki's hometown, is a frontrunner to host the 2030 Games.

(Web editor: Xia Peiyao, Liang Jun)


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