JAKARTA - Veteran decathlon athlete Keisuke Ushiro acknowledged his exhaustion after capturing the gold medal for the second straight time at the Asian Games on Sunday.
Yet he still had more than enough energy to flash a big smile to the press.
At age 32, Ushiro might not be as fresh as he used to be. But he still has the burning desire to improve.
Another Asiad gold meant had a different meaning for Ushiro this time, because after all those years, in which he coped with injuries, he proved he is still in control in Asia.
“I’ve had tough times because of injuries in the last four years,” Ushiro said. “But I’ve continued to do this while retirement crossed my mind.”
Ushiro is a decathlon pioneer in his homeland. No Japanese had accumulated more than 8,000 points in a competition before he accomplished the feat in 2011.
At the 2012 London Games, he became the nation’s first Olympic decathlete since Akira Suzuki at the 1964 Tokyo Games.
Ushiro finished 20th overall in London. Four years later, he placed 20th again at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
And now, Ushiro wants to elevate his performance to the next level. He wants to finish in the top eight or even earn a medal on the global stage.
“Instead of thinking if I’ve declined or not, I feel like I still have a lot of areas that I’m unrefined,” said Ushiro. “So I would like to rebuild my physicality while I try to not get injured in the next two years and hopefully I will be in a position that I can compete on par at the world stage (at the Tokyo Olympics).”
Ushiro said that he is taking extra steps to improve his performance, such as having his teeth realigned by a dentist earlier this year.
“I am trying to do a lot of other things, imagining how they could improve my performance,” said Ushiro, an eight-time national champion, including six straight titles from 2010. “I’m also thinking of training overseas longer going forward.”
The 2020 Tokyo Games are a big target for the Hokkaido native, but it might not be Ushiro’s final competition.
“I intend to continue to do what I’m doing until I feel I want to quit,” he said. “Perhaps I won’t bag it until I get a top-eight finish or a medal (at a global tourney).”