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Athlete Interview Vol. 5: swimmer Honoka Nakamichi

The fifth Waseda athlete interview features Honoka Nakamichi from of the swim club (1st year School of Sports Sciences, Minami-uwa, Ehime). Ms. Nakamichi, who has a congenital missing tibia, won consecutive victories in the S9 class 400 m women’s freestyle at the Japan Para Championships in high school. She also won the same event at the Asian Youth Para Games. We asked her about her competitive career and her thoughts on 2020.

“A very disappointing memory”

— When did you start to swim competitively?

“I started taking swimming lessons when I was in the second grade of elementary school. I entered general competitions starting from the fourth grade, and para competitions from the sixth grade.”

–Has there been a turning point in your competitive career?

“When I was in the third year of junior high school, I competed in a tournament in Russia as a member of Team Japan for the first time. I don’t think there were many Paralympic-level athletes in the tournament, but everyone was still faster than me and I didn’t win any medals. In particular, I missed a medal in the backstroke by less than a second, and was so disappointed that I cried in front of my team members. It was a very disappointing memory, but the tournament was an important step in heading out into the world.”

–Are there any athletes you hope to emulate?

“Ellie Cole of Australia. She’s been to the Paralympics three times and has won gold medals many times, including in the World Championships. She’s like me in that she is missing part of her leg, but with a larger disadvantage compared to other S9 class athletes, and is top class in freestyle, backstroke, the butterfly, and individual medley. Plus, she’s enjoyed a long competitive career. Her kicks and pulls are very good, and I model myself after her because of her excellent technique.”

“A long life ahead after competing”

–Why did you decide to enter Waseda University?

“Around the end of my second year of high school, I started looking for where I would go next and learned that Waseda University was the top level in the fields of sports sciences and human sciences, which I wanted to study. I knew that getting in by academic ability alone was difficult, so I took the entrance examination for top athletes.

People around me say that there is a long life ahead after competing, and I agree with them. I thought that entering Waseda would be very meaningful considering how I want to lead a fuller life in the future. I’m grateful that I was admitted, and I want to make sure I don’t waste it.”

–Is there anyone on the swim team who has been an influence on you?

“Everyone, but I have to say that I’ve spent at a lot of time with Mako Hamaguchi (4th year School of Sports Sciences, Kanazawa Nishikigaoka, Ishikawa). When I joined Waseda, I couldn’t get used to the swimming school practice environment, so I practiced in my free time at Aqua Arena. Ms. Hamaguchi saw me and wrote on the swim club’s blog “Honoka is working hard.” Ms. Hamaguchi’s backstroke was a good reference. She has a bright and calm personality, and she helped me mentally from the beginning. Other seniors also encouraged me from the beginning.

Masaya Murakami (2nd year School of Sports Sciences, Sakaide, Kagawa) is also from the same Shikoku region as me and taught me what kind of university Waseda is, the practice environment it has, and how to contact the coach. Mr. Murakami had good results at this year’s inter college swimming championships, and he is really serious about any practice, so my impression is that he doesn’t mess around. For me, there’s lots to learn from an attitude like that.”

“I want to do my best”

–The Paralympics will be held in Tokyo next year. What are your thoughts?

“When Tokyo was chosen as the site for the Olympics, I was told that it was my time, so it’s a miracle for the Olympics to be held in Tokyo when I am at this age, and it is an experience that should not be missed, and I thought I could be part of it as long as I grew. I fell into a slump when I was in my second and third year of high school and was impatient, but I want to do my best in competitions even if I’m not chosen to be part of Team Japan. I believe in having the mentality that I have done my best to earn my place on the team and compete in these great Games.”

–Is there a time record you’re aiming for?

“The biggest goal is to break the standard time record! At the very least, I want to swim my personal best in both the backstroke and the butterfly, and I want to exceed the line for the developing S category in the 400 m freestyle.”

Interview and article by Kanaha Une ( Waseda Sports Magazine)

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