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Koji Murofushi

by Judit Kawaguchi

Koji Murofushi, 34, is a two-time Olympic medalist hammer thrower — with a gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and a bronze in Beijing this year — and the Asian record holder at 84.86 meters (2003). He’s been a national champion 14 times in a row, and at the Asian Games, his efforts earned him the silver in 1994 and the gold in 1998 and 2002. That year, he also won another gold at the Grand Prix Final. His long list of achievements goes on to include two gold medals in 2006, one at the World Athletics Final and one at the World Cup. Koji credits his father, Shigenobu, the legendary “Iron Man of Asia” and a four-time Olympian hammer thrower, for putting him and his sister, Yuka, on the right track. With his guidance, both children developed into world-class athletes. Yuka throws discus and hammer and won the 2000 silver and 2005 bronze in the Asian Championships. These champs have already pumped enough iron to build a small stadium, but Koji and Yuka continue going the distance. They’re powered by their grandma’s love, which lifts their spirits so high that they can keep throwing even further.

I feel like I am flying when I throw. The tension on the hammer is up to 400 kg when I throw 80 meters, but I don’t feel it. I release the hammer, and we’re up there, flying.

To get stronger, use the power of communication. I talk to the hammer all the time. “Hey, buddy, good job! We made it. We worked really hard to get here. Now can you give me some power, please? I’ll do my best, too.” It supports me a lot. If my condition is bad, it gives me the extra strength I need.

Tools have spirits and we can feel them through touch. I brush my hammer with soap every day. I even experimented with different brands of soaps and brushes to see which were the best for it. How could I just leave it there, full of dirt? When I bring it to elementary schools, the kids totally get it. They say, “I bet the hammer likes getting a nice shower. Must feel nice.”

To teach something, we must wait till the student is ready. My father doesn’t talk much during practice. He’s watching me patiently, and when I get to a certain point, he explains what might help. He waits till I can understand him. I learned everything from him and am still learning — he’s a philosopher with many new ideas.

Being a good person is honorable. That’s what my father taught me through his behavior, philosophy and life. I respect him the most in the world.

Step forward and face the hardship: It’s good for you. You shouldn’t always be able to pick what you want or don’t want to do. You must do what you’re bad at. If you don’t have enough strength, train yourself to gain some. If you’re bad at running, you must sprint. There’s no easy way out, but sports can be a tool to polish your mind and heart.

If you exercise, you’re going to lose weight. Same with the hammer: It loses weight with every throw. It starts at 7.26 kg but takes a beating every time it hits the hard soil.

You have to satisfy yourself, not others. Do your max, and you’ll feel proud and happy.

Don’t compare yourself with anyone. People often see themselves through others’ eyes and feel inadequate. I’m not like that. I know that I give 100 percent, so whether I get a medal or not, the gold is already inside of me.

Nobody has it easy. We all have challenges, but the way we solve them is different. Most people who succeed have as many problems as anyone else, but they enjoy the struggle more than others.

The closer you get to people, the more you realize how nice they are. I love shaking hands because I can feel and understand the other person more. Everyone’s a lot kinder up close than from far away.

The biggest challenge is not to get lazy. I also want to stay at home and relax, but I work out six days a week. I can do it because the hammer is not just for myself but something to share with others.

Sports made me a very happy person. Thanks to it, I have many good friends. We hammer throwers all eat at the same table and at the end of the competition, we go out and celebrate.

Stadiums need to get into better shape. Today they are not proper for the hammer throw because the spectators can’t see well what we are doing.

Cats are great teachers. I learned to be flexible and a little selfish from my two cats. They have a selfish streak in them, which makes them cute and quite human.

Grandmas are great. Mine was born in 1920, was a sprinter and worked at an office in Tokyo’s Marunouchi area. I love listening to her stories. Her hands are as big as mine. Every time I go out, she says, “It’s cold outside, you should wear a coat.” I just say, “That’s OK, thank you.” I love her.

Family is the toughest competition and for me, it’s grandma. Her name, Yatsuyo, is written with the kanji characters for eight and four, so it looks like 84, my record throw. The distance I throw has gone up with her age, too: In 1998, she was 78 and I threw 78.57; when I hit 80 meters for the first time in 2000, she was 80. In 2003 she was 83, and I won by throwing 84.86. If I can keep up with her, I’ll be OK.

If you love someone, you do anything to make sure they live longer. My grandma likes old movies, so I always buy her DVDs. I want her to be happy and to live long. With every movie, I feel I’m buying time. We just saw “Shane” (1953), “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1956) and “Waterloo Bridge” (1940).

I’m not a macho guy. I’m afraid of everything! Just kidding, but I am sensitive. I talk a lot with my sister and my friends. They have the answers.

I have a lot more room to improve. I haven’t done a 100-percent throw yet.

Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK’s “Out & About.” Learn more at: juditfan.blog58.fc2.com/