The Yomiuri Shimbun Ski jumper and Japan Olympic team captain Noriaki Kasai has vowed to win his first gold medal at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games for his sister, who is battling a serious illness.
At 41 years old, Kasai became the oldest winner in history of a ski jump World Cup competition in January and is referred to as “a legend” in Europe. The veteran jumper is now making his seventh winter Olympic appearance and is determined to win a gold medal to inspire his sister, who is currently in the hospital.
A long fight
Kasai drove to a hospital in Nayoro, Hokkaido, to see his sister, Kumiko Maekawa, on Jan. 15—four days after he broke the age record for the ski jump World Cup championship in Austria. Maekawa, who has been hospitalized since last summer, had said she wanted to eat sweets, so Kasai brought more cream puffs than she could eat alone.
Maekawa has been battling hypoplastic anemia since 1993, when she was diagnosed with the serious blood disorder right after she entered high school. After years of continuous treatment, she received an umbilical cord blood transplant in 2002.
She married and recovered enough to be able to work, but was hospitalized again last summer after developing complications following pneumonia.
Her brother’s spectacular showings have always been her support while she was fighting the disease, she said.
The Kasai family used to live in Shimokawa, Hokkaido, a town where ski jumping is widely practiced. Maekawa was proud of her brother when she saw him flying energetically into the snowy sky from a ski jump that was located right in front of Kasai’s house.
Since participating in the 1992 Albertville Olympic Games in France, Kasai has taken part in the Winter Olympics five times in a row.
At the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer in 1994, he was on the Japan team that won a silver medal in the team large hill. The Japan team won a gold medal in the ski jumping team event at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, but Kasai was not on that team.
“I’m aiming to win a gold medal. As a leader of the team, I’d like to encourage other members [by obtaining the medal,]” he said on Feb. 7.