Japan to place 8 sets of siblings on world’s most competitive stage

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Speed skaters Nana Takagi, left, and Miho Takagi

The Yomiuri ShimbunEight groups of brothers and sisters from Japan will compete at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which start Friday. This is a sharp jump from the previous Sochi Olympics, at which three pairs of siblings participated from this nation.

Each has grown up together, competing with each other since childhood. They display great cooperation in team events and are close rivals in individual ones.

Speed skating sisters Nana Takagi, 25, and Miho, 23, will both participate in the team pursuit comprising three skaters. They are from Makubetsu, a town close to Obihiro, Hokkaido, where speed skating is popular, and have been together in the sport since they were young children.

In the team pursuit, three skaters alternate taking the lead position, which incurs significant air resistance, while keeping the line. Harmonious cooperation among teammates makes the difference between winning and losing.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Curlers Yusuke Morozumi, right, and Kosuke Morozumi

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Nordic combined skiers Akito Watabe, right, and Yoshito Watabe

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Short track speed skaters Yuki Kikuchi, right, and Sumire Kikuchi

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

Japan is less competitive than the Netherlands, which is the leading country in the sport, in terms of physical build. However, Japan won all the World Cup competitions in November and December last year with outstanding teamwork, and established three world records.

Said coach Toshihiko Itokawa: “They communicate not only by words, but also through feelings. It’s a strength that only sisters have.”

The Morozumi brothers will compete in men’s curling. Hailing from Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, where there is a curling rink, older brother Yusuke, 33, serves as the skip, or captain of the team, and younger brother Kosuke, 29, is the lead who delivers the first stone. Based on the strategy planned by Yusuke, Kosuke throws the stone to a targeted position.

“My older brother has always ridden me hard since I was a small child. Yusuke once told me during a competition, ‘You’re messed up,’” Kosuke said. But he also expressed his trust in his brother: “If this guy [Yusuke] wasn’t the skip, I wouldn’t think we could win.”

In individual events, however, the bonds of brothers and sisters can work against athletes.

The Kikuchi sisters, Yuki, 27, and Sumire, 22, will compete against each other in short track speed skating. They are from Minami-Aiki, Nagano Prefecture, and have also skated together since they were young.

In a qualifying meet held in December last year, Sumire fell, and Yuki automatically slowed down. After the race, Yuki admitted, “I slacked off toward the end.”

The Watabe brothers, who will participate in the Nordic ski combined, are from Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture, the venue for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Yoshito, 26, entered Hakuba High School and then Waseda University, following in the footsteps of his older brother Akito, 29, who won a silver medal at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Yoshito expressed his rivalry with his brother, saying, “If I win a gold medal, I won’t care whether Akito wins a silver or gets another result.”

Tsukasa Suzuki, a professor of coaching science at Nihon University’s College of Sports Sciences, said: “The areas where athletes can practice winter sports are quite limited, and their environments significantly vary depending on where they were born. These athletes might have inherited physical qualities from their parents, but they’ve also practiced in a favorable environment, which seems to be the reason” so many pairs of brothers and sisters are participating in the Olympics.Speech

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