I won the world championship, but my happiness is fleeting. This is still a passing point, and I always want to be a hungry challenger!
Ayane Takenaka, 24, is an arm wrestler who is clad in a fresh smile and a fighting spirit. In 2010, she became the first woman ever to win the AJAF All Japan Armwrestling Championships in the men’s division (A2), and in 2011 she won the WAF World Armwrestling Championships in the senior women’s -55kg class (left and right), among many other achievements.
With her strong muscles and cute good looks, she became known as a “cute muscle girl” six years ago, and now she is an athlete of note who is active on the world stage.
She started when she was 10 years old because her father was an armwrestler. My father had many hobbies and tried guitar and karate with me, but I got bored within a year of all of them. …… The only one I got into was arm wrestling. From the moment I started competing, I started thinking about being the “best in the world,” and by the time I was 11 years old, I was declaring to my family that I was going to be the world champion.”
What is it about armwrestling that has captivated a 10-year-old girl so much?
She said, “You train and lose weight over a long period of time, but you compete by exerting all of your skill and power in that one moment. I like the fact that the process of reaching victory is complex, but the outcome is extremely simple and easy to understand.
He has competed in numerous tournaments, defeating strong men and opponents more than twice his weight. The secret of his strength, he says, lies in his character of “fighting with my brain rather than my senses.
The most important thing for me is to use my head,” he said. I try to verbalize the sensations I feel when I win or lose, and keep a training notebook. By recalling the sensations, I make that ″feeling″ my own again. Although it may seem like a competition where you are letting your strength take over, from the moment you hold hands with your opponent, you are playing games at the level of each individual …… finger and joint.
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Despite her extraordinary efforts, she is surprisingly free to eat whatever she likes, as long as she likes it.
My favorite food is sushi! But I also go out to eat MacDonald’s and Jiro Ramen. What is important is the quality and timing of my meals. In my case, it takes about two weeks after I change my diet for the weight to start falling off. So, two weeks before the weight loss starts, I change to a weight loss menu with chicken breast and vegetables as the main meals. Eating the same foods every day saves me the trouble of thinking about it, and it also makes it easier for me to recognize the waves of fatigue and tone in my training and practice. It’s more efficient because it makes peaking for competition easier.”
Her approach is to be stoic in moderation and relaxed in moderation. How does she spend her time off while she is seriously engaged in armwrestling?
I am not very attached to my personal life, and I don’t have a TV at home. Except for arm wrestling, I spend most of my time either sleeping or at karaoke. I sometimes do karaoke by myself for about five hours from 7:00 a.m. to noon. …… Favorite songs? I sing Superfly, Utada Hikaru, and Anne Lewis’ “Ah, Mujo” (laughs). My favorite type of man would be someone with a nice smile and someone I can sing along with at karaoke!”
She has accomplished many feats, and many people have proclaimed her the “world’s strongest,” but she is not satisfied. She is now concentrating on her next goal, which is to achieve it within three years.
She says, “Of course I would be happy if I won the tournament, but it’s not really happiness. …… There are a lot of times when I get anxious thinking, ‘I could win this year, but if I fight next time, I might lose. When I was in elementary school, my goal was to be the “world champion,” and when I was in junior high school, my goal changed to “win the world championship again.” Just winning once does not make you the strongest, so I want to win again and make my name known all over the world! I am still in the process of making my dream come true, so I will not forget my original intention and continue to work hard.
To continue to be greedy-that is what Ayane Takenaka believes in.
From the October 27, 2023 issue of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Takehiko Kohiyama