Senior’s First Japan Win at Age 26: Twists and Turns of a Short-Distance Queen Regenerated by the Trifecta | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Senior’s First Japan Win at Age 26: Twists and Turns of a Short-Distance Queen Regenerated by the Trifecta

The life of Airisa Kimishima, winner of the "ANG Athlete Night Games Fukui 2022" held in Fukui Prefecture on August 20.

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Airisa Kimishima, queen of the women’s 100m track and field event at the Japan Championships, dressed in her everyday clothes (photo courtesy of the Civil Engineering Management Test Center).

She set a new record in junior high school, but cried over an injury in high school.

She wears a sequined hat and black boots and shows her white teeth. Who would recognize this woman, who for a moment reminds one of a singer, as the queen of short-distance track and field? The woman’s name is Airisa Kimishima. Yes, she is a super top athlete who won her first Japan Championships in the women’s 100m in June and participated in the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon, USA, in July as a member of the 4x100m relay, helping to break the Japanese relay record.

I’ve finally made it this far,” he said. It would be ideal to be at the top all the time, but that is not the case for me. But I think the good thing about me is that I have many stories that are different from others.
 If I can break the Japanese record, if I can make it to the world stage, I think many girls will think that if I represent Japan, I might be able to compete in the finals. I want to show the many athletes who will follow in my footsteps that it is possible.”

This year, at the age of 26, was the first time for a senior athlete to win the coveted title of “Japan’s number one. He is one of the late bloomers in the track and field world to become Japan’s No. 1 at this age for the first time. Right now, the Japanese sports world is focused daily on Shohei Otani, who plays a dual role in Major League Baseball, but in Kimishima’s case, he took three paths to surpass Otani in grabbing the crown.

Born to an American father and Japanese mother, Kimishima grew up in Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, from the age of three. He began running track in junior high school and came in third place at his first prefectural competition, and won the Chugoku Championships in his freshman year. In his second year of junior high school, he competed in the All-Japan Junior High School Track and Field Championships in the 200m and set a new junior high school record (at the time) of 24.36 seconds.

To be honest, I wasn’t aiming for it at all, so I didn’t even know what the new junior high school record meant. I was just surprised.

After his freshman season, he underwent a medical examination, which revealed a fatigue fracture of the navicular bone. He continued his rehabilitation until the summer of his junior year in high school.

I left my hometown because I wanted to compete, but I couldn’t compete,” he said. I wondered, ‘Was there any point in going?’ It was the toughest time for me emotionally,” he recalls.

After the qualifying round of the women’s 400-meter relay at the World Championships in Oregon, U.S.A., in July. From left: Midori Mikase, Mei Kodama, Airisa Kimishima, Masumi Aoki (photo by Kyodo News)
The moment in June when she became the first senior 100m queen. Her well-trained muscles were beautifully displayed.

Poster,” a turning point in her life

He went on to NITSUTSUDAI and competed in the Kanto Intercollegiate Athletic Meet from his freshman year, but was unable to achieve the results he had hoped for. An unexpected turning point came in the summer of his junior year. The “Bobsleigh Athlete Discovery Project” was posted at the university’s sports center. Masuhiko Mizuno, then general manager of the track and field team, suggested that he take the test because of his power and speed. He had no connection to winter sports and had no intention of competing in them, but he said, “I thought that if I didn’t try, I wouldn’t be able to draw out my potential. I thought, “It would be better for me to draw out more from myself,” so I decided to try out. The result was a pass. He immediately went to Germany, where the training camp of the Japanese national team was being held.

The speed of bobsledding, which he saw for the first time, was beyond his imagination. While overcoming his fear, he practiced hard, and in his first competition, the Europa Cup, he suddenly won the championship. He also placed 7th at the World Championships, becoming the first Japanese male and female bobsledder to win a prize. In her senior year of college, she was aiming to compete in the Pyeongchang Olympics, but was unable to gain the necessary points to do so.

When thinking about his career path, he decided to go to graduate school to study coaching and conditioning in order to balance his desire to become a leader, which he had long envisioned, with his desire to still achieve results in track and field. At this time, he also tried his hand at skeleton, drawing on his experience in bobsledding in winter competitions. Although his track and field results were poor, he did not feel the need to “call it quits” after graduating from graduate school.

I was out of high school, I was still competing for a short time compared to other people, and I had no reason to believe that I could do it,” he said. I thought I could do it.

Using JOC’s athlete employment support program “Asnavi,” he joined the Civil Engineering Management Testing Laboratory as an athlete employee. He wanted to become a “three-sport athlete” (track and field, bobsledding, and skeleton), but due to the COVID-19 crisis, he was almost out of competitions and overseas tours for the two winter sports, so he decided to concentrate on track and field first.

In his first year as an adult in 2020, he lost in the semifinals of the Japan Championships in the 100 m. In his second year, he won the Mikio Oda Memorial in April 2009 with a time of 11.64, his best in four years; in the Japan Championships in June, he set a personal best of 11.51 in the preliminary round but finished fifth in the final.

He said, “I was finally getting in shape to run, but my engine was running so thin that my body and my senses were not up to the task.

This year was his third year as an employee. He has been training steadily since winter without injury, and won the 100m final of the Japan Championships in 11.36 seconds, the fourth fastest time in Japan’s history.

At the moment I crossed the finish line, I was in a state of blankness, so I didn’t know if I had won or not. When I saw my reflection on the screen, I thought, ‘Yay! ‘” he said.

He was also selected to represent Japan in the World Championships in Athletics, the first time he had worn the national team uniform in an athletics event.

I thought, “I finally made it this far! I thought. I knew that in order to go to a new stage, I needed to become the best in Japan, and I also needed to become a representative of Japan. It took a long time, but I finally achieved it.

Kimishima at the time she started bobsleigh

A “dream” that the late-blooming queen has cherished

She was the second runner in the 4x100m relay at the World Championships in Athletics. The British runner in the next lane seemed “of a different dimension,” but his lap time was only 0.1 second faster than the other runners. I felt that I was getting good enough to be able to compete.

This was his first time on the world stage in track and field, but he was not nervous. This was due to his experience in bobsledding, the World Championships, and overseas expeditions. That is why he had a strong desire to “stand on the world stage in individual events as well. To do so, he needs to break the Japanese record of 11.21 seconds and set another record. Incidentally, seven of the eight runners in the 100m final at this year’s World Championships in Athletics were in the 10-second mark.

I believe that I cannot become a finalist unless I can break 11.08 seconds (the participation standard for the World Championships in Athletics) and run in the 10-second range many times.

Her life goal is to become someone who can do something for others.

There are many athletes from poor families in the world. I want to be a person who can provide support and activities for those in need. I hope to find that through athletics. When I was lost, I was helped a lot by coaches and people around me.

 When I was in high school, I lived alone away from my parents, and the parents of my classmates cooked for me and told me that I could stay over, and they took care of me like a daughter. I was helped so much at that time that I wanted to help others in the same way.

 I think that Japanese athletes are still lacking in the area of doing something for someone else, so I hope to be a pioneer in this area.

I am very blessed to be able to compete in Japan. I want to tell people that there are things they can do for themselves apart from the joy and pleasure of setting records. I believe that if we do this, the value of sports will expand even further.

As I indicated at the beginning of this article, Kimishima, who has risen to the top through many twists and turns, is aware that he has many stories of his own.

I think that’s one of the reasons people pay attention to me. It is better to have many different drawers. I am now in an environment where I can make many different kinds of drawers, so I want to be able to make use of them whenever something comes up.

Kimishima, who also won the race on January 20, continues to dream of the Paris Olympics. Her dream continues to the Paris Olympics.
  • Interview and text by Misa Fujii

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