Sochi Olympic men’s 4 x 10km relay

Result: Japan 16th: Lapped

The relay was my first-ever Olympic race, and in the end it was not to be.

スクリーンショット 2014-02-17 2.00.19

Our 3rd leg came into the changeover 6 minutes and 26 seconds behind the leader on the 3.3km course, and was close to being lapped just as I was about to start. Before getting the tag, a race jury member stepped forward and said you cannot start. I was stunned. So close, but I still don’t know what it feels like to race at the Olympics.

To get this far to the Olympic Games I have had the support of many, many people. In my hometown of Shinanomachi, over 120 people gathered to watch the race at the local school. Around Nagano, Japan and the world, friends and family gathered around the TV and internet to watch the race. The fact that I didn’t even start is totally frustrating, and deeply disappointing. And for all the people who supported me, I feel very sorry. Still, I asked you all to support me, and it gave me great power to get to the starting line. Thank you for your support.

Our Japan relay team was aiming to finish 6th, higher than the 8th we achieved at the World Championship in 2013, but we only saw the worst possible side of what we could achieve yesterday. Cross-country skiing is an individual sport, but the skis are a critical tool, and how well they slide impacts directly on the results. In the very challenging conditions in Sochi, the selection of the best ski, base structure and wax was very, very difficult. And we blew it.
In this situation, the coaches and staff tried to do their best, but this time it didn’t pay off. Even though Cross-country skiing looks like an individual sport it depends on the whole team, and yesterday we showed we don’t have a strong team.

It was an extremely difficult day for me, but many people cheered for me even though I didn’t race, and after the race sent messages of ‘gambatte’ (keep doing your best) and you will get another chance at the Olympics in 4 years time. When I couldn’t start I was speechless, but with the messages and support I have received, I can begin looking forward. This is the power of my support to lift me up.

My first thought is I have to wait 4 years to get Olympic revenge, but when I think about it, if I want to achieve my aim of winning a medal, I only have 4 years. So tomorrow is the start of looking forward, and in 4 years time I will be back as a potential medal winner. And there will be many stories to share along the way.

Thank you very much for your support. The Olympics continues with Japan competing in the Team Sprint on Wednesday 19th. I think some people watched Cross-Country skiing for the first time today, so please keep watching if you find it interesting.

On another note, I hear there is heavy snow in Japan, especially in Karuizawa, Nagano and Yamanashi. I hope everyone is alright, and will be rescued safely.

Thank you very much for all your support.

Akira