PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA – Alpine skier Momoka Muraoka wrote in her elementary school yearbook in fourth grade that her dream was to compete at the Paralympics.
And now in Pyeongchang, she has become the face of the Japanese delegation so far at the Winter Games, winning medals in the two events she competed in. She did this as her mother cheered for her every step of the way, a feat she could not do when she made her Paralympic debut four years ago in Sochi.
“I can’t believe her dream in the yearbook came true so fast. It gives me goose bumps,” Muraoka’s mother, Misao, said after Sunday’s competition at Jeongseon Alpine Centre. “She did exactly what she wrote, and she even got a medal. It’s impressive.”
The 20-year-old started off her Pyeongchang campaign by leading the Japanese delegation at Friday’s opening ceremony as flag-bearer, and she became the country’s first medalist the following day with silver in downhill skiing’s sitting category.
On Sunday, she took bronze in super-G, finishing behind Germany’s Anna Schaffelhuber and Austria’s Claudia Loesch, who captured gold and silver, respectively.
With hand-made banners and Japanese flags, Momoka’s mother and siblings cheered her on from the stands.
“I just came here to see her cross the finish line without falling. I was cheering for her because I want to see her do that,” she said. “Since she was the first one to ski, I was really nervous until the very last athlete finished.”
Misao talked with her daughter briefly on Saturday after the medal ceremony, and even got the chance to try on the silver medal.
“It was really heavy,” Misao said. “She had a really amazing smile on her face when I met her, and I’ll be able to see her smile again since she has won another medal.”
However, it has not always been all smiles for Momoka, who sustained a spinal cord injury when she fell from her bed at age four.
Four years ago, she was left disappointed when the Sochi Games closed. She fell in one of the three events she competed in, and finished no better than fifth. Since then, she moved out of her house and attends university in Saitama Prefecture, where she lives and trains with the skiing club.
“She always works really hard, and once she has a goal, she just keeps going. She doesn’t stop,” Misao said. “A gold medal? All I want her to do is ski without getting an injury. All I ask for is for her to come down the course without anything happening to her.”
However, Muraoka is gunning for the gold medal now that she has found her rhythm.
“There’s only one medal I don’t have now. I need to win against myself, to surpass my limits,” she said.
The young skier’s campaign in the cold mountains is not even at the halfway point. She will have more chances for bigger smiles as she competes in three more events — slalom, giant slalom and super combined — before the games close on March 18.
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