PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA - Sara Takanashi found inspiration for the Pyeongchang Olympics from an unlikely source — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Takanashi, vying for her first Olympic medal in women’s ski jumping, said Saturday that she spoke at the athletes’ village with Abe, who attended the games’ opening ceremony on Friday, when he also met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Takanashi, who was also at the ceremony, genuinely appeared to be in awe of her meeting with Abe, saying it gave her a lift.
“He asked me if I was ready and wished me well,” Takanashi said. “I wouldn’t have met him if I weren’t here. I’m proud to have met him, and want to use that as inspiration.
“I attended the opening ceremony for my first time, but it felt good to be on that stage, representing my country. It took a lot of support from a lot of different people for me to get here, and I hope I can repay them by producing a good result.”
Takanashi seems far more relaxed for Monday’s competition than she was four years ago in Sochi, where she missed the podium with a fourth-place finish despite being the outstanding gold-medal favorite. The pressure got to her.
On Saturday, the 21-year-old topped the field in practice with jumps of 103.0 and 106.5 meters the first two rounds, but slipped to third (98.0) in her third attempt.
Takanashi beat herself up over the last jump, saying slips like that cannot happen if she wants to win a medal at these games.
“Mentally, I came here feeling like I was 90 percent ready, but I screwed up today,” she said. “I can’t allow that to happen. I need to learn from this and make it count in tomorrow’s training.
“It’s my fault. I didn’t have a good view of the start and I couldn’t tell if I got the sign or not to go. I went out there after I hesitated, which wasn’t good.”
“For me to have a good competition, I have to take care of the things I need to do on a day-to-day basis. So the focus right now is on tomorrow’s training, where I hope to make the adjustments I need to make.”