Jiji Press MORIGUCHI, Osaka (Jiji Press) — A brand of skis from a Japanese company with only four employees is taking the world of mogul skiing, a type of freestyle skiing, by storm.
ID one skis, sold by Material Sports Inc., based in Moriguchi, Osaka Prefecture, are used by some 70 percent of mogul skiers participating in World Cup events, including Canada’s Mikael Kingsbury, who won the moguls World Cup title for six straight years through 2017.
The product is likely to be the most powerful brand at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which opened Friday.
The skis were developed in 2000 by Makoto Fujimoto, 59, president of Material Sports. Fujimoto, from Osaka Prefecture, was a member of a technical skiing club at Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences.
He started a business selling ski goggles in 1991 and built his network of contacts including skiers through competitions and other events.
At an early stage, Fujimoto became acquainted with Aiko Uemura, a Japanese mogul skier who competed in five Winter Olympics in a row from the 1998 Nagano Games.
Over a meal in spring 1999, Fujimoto asked Uemura how she was doing. Uemura confided that her skis did not fit her. Fujimoto immediately offered to make a pair of perfect skis for her.
Fujimoto started making the skis with help from a trusted ski maker in Nagano Prefecture, central Japan.
“Aiko said that she wanted to feel that the skis were clinging [to the soles of her feet],” he recalled.
Around the same time, Janne Lahtela of Finland, silver medalist in the Nagano Games and another old acquaintance, told Fujimoto that he wanted skis that could exploit his carve turn techniques, his strong point.
Fujimoto pursued a flexible feel for skis that both Uemura and Lahtela wanted.
Using wood dried naturally for three years or more as the core, Fujimoto created skis that are sturdy but supple.
Shaped with a moderate curve, ID one skis are adapted to skiing that cuts the sides of bumps on the mogul courses. The skis also have special features on their iron edges.
Both Uemura and Lahtela started using ID one skis in the 2000-2001 season and gave brilliant performances. Lahtela went on to win a gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
The brand then spread to other skiers as well.
Ikuma Horishima, a Japanese medal hopeful for men’s moguls in the Pyeongchang Games, also uses ID one skis. Fujimoto knew Kingsbury and Horishima as youngsters and is rooting for both skiers in Pyeongchang.Speech