Giving thanks and praise to the athletes who inspired people all over Japan
On Tuesday, September 28, 2021, the Debriefing Session for Waseda University Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Representatives was held online as an opportunity to praise the Waseda University students and alumni who participated in the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
In total, thirty alumni and students participated in the Tokyo Olympics, and five alumni and students participated in the Tokyo Paralympics. Of those athletes, Olympic athletes Asuka Terada (Athletics), Marina Tokumoto (Water Polo), Kiyomi Watanabe (Judo *Represented the Philippines), Kyosuke Matsuyama (Fencing), Haruka Hirotsu (Rugby Sevens), and Tatsunori Otsuka (Volleyball), and Paralympic athletes Mami Tani (Triathlon), Takayuki Suzuki (Swimming), and Koyo Iwabuchi (Table Tennis) participated in the Debriefing Session.
The Debriefing Session was moderated by Oi-san (second-year, Graduate School of Environment and Energy Engineering) and Miura-san (second-year, School of Social Sciences) of the “VIVASEDA” Olympics promotion project by Waseda University students. The Debriefing Session began with a spirited performance of the “Konpeki no Sora (Deep Blue Sky)” cheer song by the Cheerleading Club, and then Oi-san and Miura-san expressed thanks to the athletes for their hard work and efforts at the Olympics and Paralympics.
Next, Waseda University President Aiji Tanaka took the stage and expressed appreciation for the athletes’ efforts, saying, “The Games this year were truly a unique situation. They were originally scheduled for 2020, but were delayed for a year, and I think that this was extremely difficult for all of the athletes. In addition to this, there was a flurry of various opinions in society about holding the Games, and everybody was worried, but I think that, in the end, it was very good that they were held. I believe that pushing the limits of what humans are capable of has empowered people, both in Japan and around the world, and has had an immeasurably positive impact.”
President Tanaka, who watched many of the competitions live during the Games, touched on two Olympic athletes (Yui Susaki and Kiyomi Watanabe) and two Paralympic athletes (Koyo Iwabuchi and Mami Tani) who were active during the games and who served as flag bearers, and praising all of the athletes who participated, saying that “I think that these were a special Games, where Waseda graduates played an important role. Those who won medals received most of the attention, but just being selected for the Olympics and Paralympics is wonderful.”
In concluding, he stated that “Since I became the President of Waseda University, I have always said that ‘I want you to hone your strong intellect to take on unanswered questions,’ and individuals who are active at the top levels of a sport are pushing their brain and body to the limit, constantly searching for the correct answer to unanswered questions. I believe that everyone who has achieved such things will absolutely succeed not only in the sports world, but also in life,” and then gave a cheer for all of them.
The next speaker was Yohei Kono, Chairman of the Waseda University Tomonkai, who began by introducing the acceptance ceremony speech given by retired baseball player Tatsuro Hirooka, who was awarded the Distinguished Sportsmen Commendation by Waseda University this year, “People are shaped by the accumulation of one day after another. They are tools that express themselves both physically and mentally. While being grateful for this as long as you live, hone your mind and body for the world and have conviction while guiding those younger than you.” Chairman Kono then gave his thanks to all the athletes, stating, “Day in and day out, all of you have truly honed both your body and mind, going out onto the world stage and performing magnificently. I would like to express my heartfelt blessings and respect. You are both a model and a goal for the students, and, without a doubt, all of the students must make great efforts to follow your example.”
Following this, the results achieved by Waseda University alumni and students at the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games were introduced, and messages from Daiya Seto (Swimming), Kanako Watanabe (Swimming), Yuki Soma (Football), Jun Endo (Football), Nako Motohashi (Basketball), Ibuki Koizumi (Sailing), Takeshi Kamura (Badminton), Jumpei Kimura (Triathlon), and Yui Susaki (Wrestling), who unfortunately could not attend the Debriefing Session, were delivered.
Next, there was a report of VIVASEDA’s activities. It was reported that more than 1,000 messages of support were written on the “BIG T-Shirt” jersey, which was produced with the cooperation of ASICS Corporation, and also that the Cabinet Secretariat presented a letter of appreciation for the welcome event that VIVASEDA held with Tokorozawa, the host town for the Italian National Team.
Then, the Briefing Session moved to the Interview Corner with representative athletes, which everyone had been looking forward to. After each athlete in attendance gave a message (see below), they answered questions asked by the students, with a portion of the questions being introduced below.
Asuka Terada, who participated in the 100m Hurdles at the Olympics while raising a daughter who is a first-grade elementary school student, was asked about “balancing child-rearing and a career in athletics,” and replied that “It is difficult to manage time, and there are some difficult parts, but I think it was good that I broadened my horizons by thinking not only about the competition, but also about my family.” Kiyomi Watanabe, who participated in Judo at the Olympics as a representative of the Philippines, was asked, “How did you overcome difficult times during practice?” and answered that “I was motivated by the encouraging people around me.”
Takayuki Suzuki, who won medals in all five of the Paralympics Swimming events in which he participated, was asked for a message to children with a handicap, and said that “I’d be happy if you see my performance and then think ‘I want to try something’ or ‘I want to take on the challenge of a parasports competition.'” Then, when asked about the path from campaigning for a Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics to the Games, Mami Tani reflected deeply on her strong emotions, saying that “Although there were difficult periods (including the bid for the Games), I’m full of feelings of accomplishment that we were able to complete this eight-year race. It was different than what we envisioned, due to the impacts of COVID-19, but we managed to hold them, and I think that, through the figures of the athletes pushing to their limits, through their brilliant and shining figures, we were able to share the power of sports with many people.”
A video, produced by students in order to show appreciation for the athletes’ efforts was played, delivering messages of thanks and gratitude such as “I was very moved by the sight of you working so hard” and “I truly respect you athletes who have worked so hard amidst this difficult situation.”
Finally, at the end, the Debriefing Session concluded with everyone singing the Waseda University song. Naoto Onzo, Executive Vice President for the Olympic and Paralympic Projects Promotion Section, gave the closing remarks, “The representatives moved all of us through their competitions while the Games were being held, and today, they were able to reinvigorate us all through their messages. In addition, I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to Waseda University President Tanaka and Waseda University Tomonkai Chairman Kono. Finally, I would also like to thank all the members of the Olympic and Paralympic Projects Promotion Office and the many student volunteers for making today’s project possible. I now bring this Debriefing Session to a close.”
Now, we will introduce comments from the representatives who participated in the Debriefing Session.
Asuka Terada (Athletics)
“Thank you so much to all of the students and alumni for all of the support and assistance you provided. You helped us so much.”
Marina Tokumoto (Water Polo)
“Thank you for holding an event like this today, and thank you so much for all of your support at the Olympics. I saw the ‘BIG T-shirt’ jersey and everyone’s messages, and that support provided me with a tailwind. It’s unfortunate that I wasn’t able to achieve a better result, but I was able to play at the highest level than I ever have in my competitive life.”
Kiyomi Watanabe (Judo)
“Thank you for holding this kind of event today. Participating in the Tokyo Olympics was very exciting and an amazing experience. Even though I was representing the Philippines, I received a lot of support and was able to do my best. I will continue to work hard, so I ask for your support.”
Kyosuke Matsuyama (Fencing)
“Thank you to everyone at Waseda University for all of your support. I also saw the ‘BIG T-shirt’ jersey and all of the messages written on it, and the support from everyone helped out so much. I want to continue giving it my all every day. Thank you for creating an event like this today.”
Haruka Hirotsu (Rugby Sevens)
“Thank you very much for providing an opportunity like this today. I wasn’t able to achieve a better result, but I was able to do my best thanks to the support of so many people at Waseda University.”
Tatsunori Otsuka (Volleyball)
“Thank you very much for preparing such a special time today. The support of everyone at Waseda and all the students was so helpful, and our team was also able to get seventh place. I’m really thankful to you.”
Mami Tani (Triathlon)
“Everyone at Waseda, thank you for your support. When I was a student, I was active as a cheerleader in the Cheerleading Club, so seeing this brings back so many memories. Additionally, it was at that time, when I was learning marketing at Professor Naoto Onzo’s seminar, that I became sick and was fitted with my prosthesis. However, from that point, I was able to participate in the Paralympic Games four times, I was able to participate in the bidding activities for the Tokyo Games, compete in them as an athlete, and play the major role of being a flag bearer. It really has been like a dream. One thing that I can tell you is that, instead of thinking ‘I can’t do it anymore’ or ‘I’m not good enough anymore,’ I want you to have the Waseda spirit and live this one life with a strong and stalwart mind and body.”
Takayuki Suzuki (Swimming)
“Thank you for a time like this today. I’m glad that I was able to obtain these kinds of results with everyone’s support, and also that I was able to view the report and debriefing at this event. I hope that in the future as well, you will continue to be interested in para-competitions. Thank you for your continued support.”
Koyo Iwabuchi (Table Tennis)
“Thank you so much for preparing an event like this and also for all of the messages that I received for the Games. I’ve met with people from Waseda in a variety of settings, felt the connection to Waseda University, and the presence of these kinds of people led to my positive performances on the competitive stage. Thank you so much.”