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Encouragement for victims of the disaster

Moment of the Year by Masashi Inoue

Japanese ace Hiromi Miyake is determined to deliver a strong performance at the London Olympics this summer to provide encouragement to those still feeling the effects of one of Japan’s worst-ever natural disasters.

The March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that triggered a nuclear crisis last year claimed the lives of over 15,000 people and left more than 3,300 missing.

The 53kg bodyweight category weightlifter Miyake is thankful that she survived the quake and tsunami that ravaged Japan’s northeastern coastline, inflicting particularly heavy damage on the Miyagi Prefecture her famous father hails from.

”I am grateful that I am alive and able to lift barbells,” said Miyake, whose father Yoshiyuki won the bronze medal in the featherweight class at the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

Although Yoshiyuki’s inland hometown was spared by the tsunami, the quake shook tiles off his house and forced him to cover the roof with makeshift vinyl sheets, while the surrounding roads were left full of bumps and cracks.

”I was so shocked I was lost for words,” said Hiromi, who witnessed the damage first hand.

In May last year, Hiromi and her father visited Shibata Norin High School. The school was being used by students from Miyagi Nogyo High School as their own school building in the coastal area of the prefecture had been damaged by the tsunami.

Before visiting the school, Hiromi and Yoshiyuki checked out the size of the feet of over 200 of the Miyagi Nogyo High School students and provided them with sport shoes that fitted, delivering them along with towels and 350 T-shirts.

A third-year Miyagi Nogyo High School student, men’s 77kg category lifter Ryuta Hikichi, had his home in Natori City swept away by the tsunami and only managed to save himself by clinging onto a plastic greenhouse that he happened to see.

In August he competed at the Inter-High School Championships wearing the uniform he had found a week after the disaster, lifting a personal record.

Hiromi says she had had numerous training camps at Shibata Norin High School.

The 26-year-old finished ninth at 48kg on her Olympic debut in Athens in 2004 and had an even better result in finishing sixth at the Beijing Games four years ago.

Looking ahead to this summer’s London Games, Hiromi, sixth in the 53kg category at last year’s World Championships, said, ”What I have to do at the moment is train. I want to post a good result in London and hopefully that will provide encouragement for victims of the disaster.”

Masashi Inoue

Kyodo News