|Akira Lenting profile
Date of Birth: 11 August 1990
Fujisato Elementary School
I was born in Tokyo in August 1990. When I was 4 years old, my parents (my dad is from New Zealand, my mum from Kyushu) decided to live in a more natural environment, and moved to the town of Shinanomachi in Nagano. From that time I started walking in the nearby mountains with my parents, and played in the snow in winter.
In Japan, you start school on April 1st of the year after your 6th birthday. Schooling lasts 12 years – 6 for elementary school, 3 for junior high school, and 3 for high school. University is normally 4 years. At my local school, Fujisato Elementary School, the playing fields are snow covered for 3 months in winter, so we played on hybrid cross country skis in sports or recreation classes most days of the week. We had a few very small races, but my first big race was when my whole class of 13 kids entered the Nagano Prefectural Championships. Out of 100 or so boys in my year, I didn’t make the Top 50.
In my 5th year at elementary school I joined the local Shinanomachi XC Junior Ski Club, with training and coaching on weekend mornings in winter. In my 6th and last year, to help me train, the principal would plough a course in the rice paddies behind the school using a snowmobile. The extra practice paid off and I was 9th at the Nagano Prefectural Championships in my year, and was part of an awards ceremony for the first time. The spark to do more skiing started to burn.
Shinanomachi Junior High School
For the first year of junior high school, I went to a school affiliated with Shinshu University in Nagano city. I trained by myself on the weekdays, and joined the Shinanomachi Junior High School ski team on the weekends. In the prefectural championships I was 44th, and not very happy.
I talked my parents into letting me transfer to Shinanomachi Junior High School for my final 2 years because I wanted to concentrate more on my skiing. Under the enthusiastic guidance of Kuroda coach who had just returned home after graduating from university, the training was intensive, focused and fun, and the results followed quickly. In my 2nd year, I was 2nd in the Nagano Prefectural Championships, and went to the National Junior High School Championships for the first time where my best result was 17th. In my final year at junior high, I won the National Junior High School Championships for Classic 5k and Relay, and Junior Olympic championship in Classic.
Iiyama Kita High School
There are very few high schools in Nagano with a cross-country team, and I chose to attend Iiyama Kita High School, which is 27km from home. From April to November, I used to bike to school nearly every day, which provided a base for training. As the XC team was small and didn’t have a coach, it gave me the opportunity to talk to a number of coaches around Nagano, to create a menu for the team. I guess I have been a self-starter ever since.
In my second year I was fortunate to be selected for the Japan Junior National team to go the World Junior Championships in Italy, and placed 29th in Classic 10K. At my first international competition, I was surprised by the depth of the field, and the speed and quality of the top skiers of my age. In my last year of high school I placed 9th in Skiathalon 20K and 11th in Free 10K at the World Junior Championships in Praz de Lys Sommand in France, and in my first year at University I placed 5th in Skiathalon 20K and Classic 10k in Hinterzarten in Germany.
I joined Waseda University as part of the ski team, but it is a little different from western countries. There were no scholarships or financial support, and we were expected to complete the full academic requirements as well. Though they had a strong ski team, there was no coach, so I continued to create my own menus, and in later years the menus for the team, with long-distance advice from the Japan Junior National team coach.
In my second year I raced my first World Cup race in Gällivare, Sweden, and was OK with my 82nd place, but surprised again by the gap between the top skiers in the world and racing in Japan. In my third year at University, I placed 43rd in a World Cup race in Rogla, and in my 4th year was 44th in the Skiathalon and anchored the Japan relay team to 8th at the World Championships 2013 in Val di Fiemme. I graduated from Waseda University in March 2013.
Dala Sports Academy, Falun, Sweden
Having spent many years without close coaching and supervision, I knew there was still a huge amount to learn if I was to achieve my dream of being competitive with the best in the world. But how to go about it? I always wanted to train in Scandinavia which is the heartland of cross country skiing, and from my 3rd year in University started to search for the next step. I am happy to say it was surprisingly easy. I was introduced to Johan Granath and Mattias Nilsson at Dala Sports Academy and asked them about training and possibilities, and they responded right away with ‘come and join us.’
So in September 2012, after a university training camp in Finland, I spent 2 weeks with the Falun-Borlange team, and knew I had found a great environment for me. I started planning my return after graduation, and moved to Falun in May 2013.
Having been here just a short time, I find something new to learn everyday. I am very grateful to the my coaches, teammates and club for taking me in, and hope I can offer them an enthusiastic training partner and a slightly different view on what comes naturally to them. It is also the first time in my life that I have been a full-time professional athlete. On the other hand, life is getting simpler – train, eat, communicate and sleep. How I support myself is a separate story about TEAM AKIRA and how I set it up.
In June, I was named to Japan National Team for 2013-14, with the goal for all on the team of the Sochi Olympics, especially the men’s relay. There will be hurdles such as IOC allocations and SAJ final selection criteria to overcome, and I am also striving towards my personal goal for the season of a Top 30 finish in a World Cup race.