Olympics / Winter Olympics / Freestyle skiing

Junko Hoshino aims for medal at 2019 world championships

Kyodo, Staff Report

Moguls skier Junko Hoshino, who failed to make the national team for the Pyeongchang Olympics, is determined to get back into the spotlight and is eyeing a medal at a future world championships.

“I haven’t achieved my goal of getting a medal at the Olympics and the world championships,” said Hoshino. “I can still do it.”

The 29-year-old Hoshino was left of the national team after she finished in 20th in a World Cup event just before the Olympics. When the national team competed in the Pyeongchang Games in February, she was watching on TV.

“I couldn’t watch the women’s moguls . . . I was too vexed,” said Hoshino, an Olympian at the 2014 Sochi Games.

A native of Niigata Prefecture, Hoshino suffered a severe injury — a ruptured ligament in her left knee — in 2016. She made a comeback in February 2017 in time for a trial competition ahead of the Pyeongchang Olympics, but the results weren’t satisfying.

Feeling she hasn’t been able to do her best in the last season, Hoshino started reviewing her training program to improve her strength and technique.

“I want to catch up,” Hoshino commented.

In May, she underwent surgery to remove a bolt from her knee injury despite being advised against it from her doctor, in hopes her knees will be more flexible.

“I felt I was able to do the turns more easily,” she said.

Hoshino, who started moguls skiing after she saw Aiko Uemura perform, also brushed up her air jumps at a water jump ramp in Miyagi Prefecture.

“I want to do my best in each and every (event),” said Hoshino, the oldest member of the moguls national team.

Hoshino is not the only moguls skier who is hoping to regain the limelight. Ikuma Horishima is as well.

Despite winning moguls and dual moguls competition at the world championships in 2017, Horishima of Chukyo University ended up in 11th place in Pyeongchang.

“I’m not going to let anyone else win in the two categories” in the worlds slated for February 2019 in Park City, Utah, he said.

Horishima, 20, trained in Australia in August and in Switzerland in September and October. And the good news is Finnish Janne Lahtela, who had been the head coach for the Japan national team from 2006 to 2014, became Horishima’s coach.

“He knows how to communicate with Japanese athletes,” said Horishima, adding that Lahtela is well aware of his weak points.

Horishima aims to ski like Lahtela, known for his carving turns which allows the skier to ski without slowing down.

With his idol Lahtela at his side, Horishima, a native of Gifu Prefecture, appears to be enjoying every moment of his ski training.

After he returned to Japan in October, Horishima started practicing air jumps. He even succeeded in a new jump — a triple jump while grabbing his skis.

“It’s still not perfect but it’ll wow” the audience, he said.

This season’s World Cup will kick off on Dec. 7 in Ruka, Finland.