Archive for December, 2009

Happy New Year!!!

The last couple days have been pretty eventful.

First of all, after having our last training day before being released for winter break, I went straight to Shizuoka to my father’s side of the family.  Shizuoka is a couple prefectures to the west of where I’m currently living and it takes about an hour or so by the bullet train from Tokyo.  Speaking of which, for those of you who have never seen or ridden the bullet train, it’s pretty ridiculous how fast these things can go.  If you’re standing at the waiting area of the station, a 20 car bullet train will literally zoom past you in like 2 seconds.

The Big Bad Bullet Train Approaching!

Anyway, it was great to be able to catch up with my family and to see that everyone was well and in good health.  One of the main reasons why we went though was to pay respect to my father who passed away 6 years ago.  There is a ritual that is done every several years or so in order to make sure that the spirit is doing well in the afterlife, so we went through that ceremony during my time there.  I can’t believe how long it’s been since my dad passed away because of how busy I’ve been.  Either way, I’ve sure been lucky to have all the support to help me along the way!

On the way back from Shizuoka, I saw one of the coolest views ever.  It was of Mount Fuji, the highest point in Japan. I’ve never seen it that clear in my life!  With all the snow covered on top, it was one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen!

The Famous Mount Fuji!

Aside from all this, I’ve been able to visit my friends in Tokyo, which has been really fun.  However, it’s been several days since we were released for winter break and I’m starting to get antsy.  That said, I’ve been running around the neighborhood and climbing up and down steps to do some exercises for my knee.  The good news is it’s feeling really strong!  I’m hoping to keep this up so that I’m completely good to go when I return home to the US in a few more weeks.  I know I say this a lot but I can’t believe how fast time has flown in Japan, but I’m so glad that I was given this opportunity to come here.

It’s New Years Eve in Japan and I’m reflecting on all the things that have happened over this past year.  There have been some downs but definitely some big ups!  I think the toughest thing was going through such a big injury but it was because of this injury that I’ve been able to meet a lot of great people.  This injury has also given me the opportunity to watch and observe other athletes, and to train my mental-side.  I’ve also been able to focus on my upper-body training because of this.  The highlight of this year though was definitely winning the collegiate national championships with my team in April.  I’m no longer part of the collegiate team at Stanford but I hope this upcoming season will be a good one.

After we got it done!

To everyone else, I hope 2010 brings lots of good things.  Happy New Year from Japan!

Winter Cleaning

Yesterday was our final day in the gym before we were released for our short break for New Year’s.  However, instead of training, we did something else.  We cleaneded the gym!  We literally dusted, vacuumed, and washed every part/equipment in the gym.  Cleaning the gym (or your own house) at the end of the year is customary in Japan.  We do this with the idea of starting the new year from a fresh slate and to make sure that we feel refreshed when the new year rolls around.  There is also a big appreciation aspect involved in this whole process.  In other words. we treat the gym as if it was alive and we take the time to appreciate it by giving it a good clean for letting us have the opportunity to train throughout the year.  That being said, we literally took down every single equipment in the gym, cleaned it by hand, and placed them back in its original position.   

This is something that we don’t do enough in the States.  Often times we take things for granted so I think that having the time to show respect and appreciation for the training environment is incredibly important.  I’m learning a lot of great things in Japan and I’m so glad that  I was given this opportunity to come and train here. 

Anyway, the cleaning process took several hours, but in the end, the gym looked as if it were brand new.  However, the best thing about the whole thing was that everyone was released for the short one-week break after it was all done.  I’m sure everyone is excited to be home and that they’ll all come back after the break feeling refreshed and ready to work hard!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

24 Dec Sho 1 Comment »

Christmas in Japan is very lively, although it seems like it’s been going on forever.  Christmas lights in Omotesando, near Harajuku station brightened up the streets for the first time in 11 years (don’t know why they stopped).  There are 630,000 LED lights.  Pretty cool!

Illumination in Omotesando.

Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays!

Jumpin' Higher

Finally hit the 5 month mark since getting my ACL repaired! Things have been progressing well, and for the first time in my career, I’ve been making sure to take my time and be patient with my recovery process.  In the past, I’ve always tested the water and started to do things a little earlier than planned.  Luckily I’ve never re-injured anything but I definitely wanted to stay on the safe side this time around.  According to the doctor, I should be back to doing full gymnastics in about a month!

I’ve been continuing to do things that are safe though, and every day, I’m doing more and more gymnastics-related movements.  As far as my physical therapy goes, I can finally do a single leg squat on the side that I got the surgery on.  I’ve been running a lot more and doing more advanced jumping exercises onto higher surface.  It’s been a long process but there’s still a little (lot?) more to go.  There’s a lot to be thankful for though.  I’m in a great environment, and I’ve been able to train with some of the best guys in Japan (and in the world).  Even being able to watch these guys has been a good learning experience during my recovery process.  I’ve never considered this injury to be completely negative.  In fact, it’s been incredibly valuable and I feel like I have gained (and continue to gain) so much out of it.

Madness at A&F!

After another week of training, I finally got the day off yesterday so I went to go visit my friend and former national teammate, at his job in Ginza, Tokyo.  He is currently working at the newly opened Abercrombie & Fitch, the first one to be opened in Asia.  I don’t know if there is a bigger, but it’s definitely the biggest one that I’ve seen.  The store was 11 stories!  That said, the line to get into the store was absolutely ridiculous!  The store clerk did a head count and apparently  there were 600 people waiting to get into the store.  Good thing I knew someone that worked there. I was let in through a secret entrance that went straight to the store.  Otherwise the wait would have taken forever, and plus it was freezing cold today.  I’m curious to know if this craze will last!

First A&F in Asia!

The line to get into the store extended several blocks!

After that, I went and saw another Cirque show, “Corteo,” which was playing in Harajuku, Tokyo.  This was actually the second time I saw the show because it came to San Francisco several years ago.  Anyway, after the show, I had a chance to visit a friend after who I used to compete with.  He used to be on the Brazilian national team but is now retired and is performing in Cirque shows around the world.  When he took me backstage, I was surprised to see several other familiar faces that I’ve met through the gymnastics community.  It’s always cool seeing people you know on the complete opposite side of the world! It’s times like these that I feel very appreciative for having been in this sport and for all the friendships I’ve made through being a gymnast.


Anyway, it’s back to training again.  I have a couple more days until we’re released for winter break so I’m trying to make the next few days of training as productive as possible!

Visit to NSSU

The last few days have been really busy for me. I came back from Aichi prefecture on Monday and the very next day, I went to Nippon Sports Science University (Nittaidai) to train and visit my friends there. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see Kohei as he was out of the gym (some press conference stuff?) but I did get to train with the other guys.  Plus, I saw him a couple of days ago at the Toyota Cup.  Nevertheless, I did get to spend some time with my old coach Yoshi Hatakeda.

Entrance to the University

I was amazed when I saw the training facility.  It was probably the biggest gym that I’ve ever been in, and there were multiple equipments for every event!  There were also an army of guys on the collegiate team (I think at least 50 on the men’s side) so it was a very different but fun environment to be in.  There are no colleges in the US with that many members on the gymnastics team.  I think it would be awesome to be training with that many people though.  Lots of things to see all at once!

That night, a couple of my friends from the Konami Sports Center came and visited me when they heard that I was going to be training there.  Recently the Konami team won the Japanese Championships so I had a chance to talk to them about that.  It’s always great seeing old friends and catching up.

On my way back from Nittaidai the next day, I stopped by to see some of my family and had dinner with them.  We went out for yakiniku, which is when we cook different kinds of meat on a grill (basically a Japanese style barbecue?).  I’ve been eating a lot of good food since I got here, but that was definitely one of the best meals I’ve had so far!  Let me know if you guys know of any good restaurants (reasonable price) that I should visit in the Tokyo area!

Where'd My Shoes Go?

I’m finally home after a 5.5 hour car ride back from Toyota City.  It was a long trip but definitely worth it!

Overall, I thought that the level of competition was really high.  It was especially exciting to see the three world champions from China compete on their specialties, and the Japanese guys do their thing.  In the end, the Chinese and the Japanese gymnasts split the golds (pommel horse, rings, parallel bars – China; floor, vault, high bar – Japan).  These two teams are deep and they are definitely the teams I look up to in terms of the level of difficulty and the artistic aspect of gymnastics.  There were some notable mistakes on each event, but I figured that some of the gymnasts took some time off after the World Championships and are not yet back in 100% shape.  Regardless, it was a good opportunity for me to be able to watch a high-level competition and I left the arena feeling really motivated!

The venue for the Toyota Cup

"Toyota International Gymnastics Competition"

Me and my teammates from the US

Me and the US girls, Kytra and Mackenzie

Outside of the competition arena, I had a great time seeing my friends.  I had the chance to spend some time with my teammates from the US, as well as my friends on the Japanese team.  On the last day, all of us had the chance to get together at the farewell banquet.  The great thing about gymnastics, or sports in general is that while we are competitive on the competition floor, once the competition finishes, we are all good friends!

Me and some of the guys on the Japanese team

I guess the only bad thing about the trip was that I got my shoe taken (or stolen, however you want to look at it) at a restaraunt on the second to last day I was there.  That night, I went to a traditional Japanese restaurant with some of the Japanese coaches where you have to take off your shoes before entering the room (zashiki style room – 座敷).  When we were leaving the restaurant after finishing eating, I looked into the shoe box, only to realize that my shoes were gone.  The only conclusion we could come up with was that someone from the other table that left before us, took my shoe by accident as they all seemed incredibly drunk.  Anyway accidents happen but I DO need new shoes!

Tomorrow, I’m leaving to go to Yokohama to train and visit my friends at Japan Sports Science University (Nittaidai).  This is the university where Kohei Uchimura trains, so I’ll get to see him again even though I just saw him over the weekend at the Toyota Cup.  I’m excited to go and see how everyone is doing and to be able to train with my old coach, Yoshi Hatakeda.

There Sure Are A Lot of Toyotas Here…

After a 5 hour car ride from Chiba (would’ve been much quicker if traffic wasn’t so congested through Tokyo), I got into Aichi prefecture late last night.  Big thanks to my coach, Mutusmi for driving because I don’t have a driver’s license in Japan.

You’re probably wondering what I’m doing here.  Well, first of all Aichi is home to the world’s number one car manufacturer, Toyota.  I love Toyota cars (Lexus also) so I’m hoping to visit their show room.  Second of all, and probably the more important reason I’m here, is that it’s also hosting the annual Toyota International Championships this weekend.  I came down here to help the meet as an interpreter (if they need me), and to root on my teammates from the US team, as well as my friends on the Japanese team.  My old teammates from Stanford, Tim and Alex, who just made the US senior team this year are here along with my buddy, Alex Artemev.  Another good friend that I’ve been training with since I got to Japan, Koki Sakamoto will be representing Japan.

It’ll be a fun and exciting weekend.  Four champions from the London Worlds are here, including the three Chinese guys (pommels, rings, and parallel bars champions), as well as Kohei, who won the all-around.  This will be another opportunity for me to watch and learn from the best during my recovery phase!

Stay tuned for highlights and impressions from the meet!

Making Progress!

Just got back from my weekly rehab at the hospital and things are looking good.  Had the chance to speak with the doc and it seems like the ligament is strong and I’m starting to gain more volume in my leg.  As for power output, my left leg is obviously still weaker than the right but they said that it should get stronger as I start to add some new exercises to my training regimen.

That being said, we worked on some new jumping and landing drills.  One involved jumping off of a block and rebounding back.  The PT also had me jump up and do half turns in mid-air.  Both exercises seem rather boring  to a normal athlete (or even a normal person) but I was having a ball, given that I was only able to do some simple squatting exercises over the last several months.  I bet the PT thought I was nuts because I kept wanting to do more!

Anyway, I have to remember to work smart and not over-do.  I’m nearing my 5 month post-surgery mark, where things should start to feel pretty good again.  I can’t wait to see more improvements and to be able to be back in the gym 100%!

Some Encouragement

Just read an awesome article written by my old teammate at Stanford.  Tim was on the team in the mid-90s and was on the national team for many years. I believe he just got his Ph.D from Harvard and is also working there now.

I don’t consider myself to be religious (I’m very spiritual though) but his article gave me some encouragement during my comeback process from my knee injury.  While this injury has been frustrating to deal with, I’m realizing everyday that there’s been a lot of positives and opportunities attached to it.  I’ve also met a lot of supportive people throughout this whole process.

I’m definitely making my way back.  I know that there will be some struggles along the way but it only helps me appreciate all the good things in life, no matter how small, and to not take things for granted.

Anyway please take a look at Tim’s article here: The Olympic Promised Land

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