All-Star Cast

10 Mar shonakamori 2 Comments »

Checked my mail today and found that I got a package from Japan.  Checked the content and realized it was a DVD full of videos and pictures from one of the Japanese coaches from when the U-21 team came to Stanford to compete (Thanks Koichi!).  Man, that was a fun time. It’s been a couple of weeks since they’ve left but I hope they’ve adjusted to their lives in Japan again.  I know most of them liked the US so much that they didn’t want to go back to their home country.

Speaking of the Japanese guys…while the team was made up of the best collegiate gymnasts from top universities, the coaching staff was an “all-star” cast as well.  For those of you that don’t know, here’s a little clip on each of them (when they were still competing).  Oh, and on a side note, I’m proud to say that all of them were at one point, my coach.  They all came to Stanford for about a year through the JOC (Japanese Olympic Committee).

Koichi Mizushima:  The first routine in this clip is of Koichi.  He was on the ’88 Olympic team that won a bronze.

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Yoshiaki Hatakeda: Yoshi won a bronze with his team in ’92 and also competed in the Atlanta Games.  He’s the current coach of World Champ: Kohei Uchimura

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Mutsumi Harada: Mutsumi was on the 2000 team in Sydney.  He was an assistant coach to the 2004 Olympic team that won gold.  He coaches at Juntendo University in Japan with former world champ, Hiroyuki Tomita

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Catching Up and More

04 Mar shonakamori No Comments »

I feel like ever since the Japanese team left  last week, I’ve been playing catch up with my work.  It was tough given that my weekend was filled up with a judging assignment.  However, I’m happy to say that I’m finally caught up (maybe even ahead)!

On the gym end, training has been going really well.  I think it was great that I got the chance to train with the Japanese guys while they were here.  It was refreshing to be able to train with some new people and I think that led to some rejuvenation in my workouts.  I can’t wait to be able to see them in future events again!

On an unrelated note, today (or yesterday in Japan) was “Girl’s Day” (it’s called “Hinamatsuri” in Japan), therefore, I decided to do a special lesson for my tutoring session for the kids that I teach Japanese to (for those of you that don’t know I’ve been a private tutor for quite some time now).  The mother of the kids, even brought home a “Girl’s Day” cake and we had a fun time!

Girl's Day Cake!

At the end of the lesson, the kids asked me an interesting question, which I could not answer.  If someone has an answer to this please let me know.  Why is there a designated girl’s day but no day to celebrate just the boys.  While May 5th generally celebrates the boys, the official holiday groups boys and girls together and calls it “Children’s Day.”

See Ya Soon Japanese Friends!

23 Feb shonakamori 2 Comments »

Although I was quite busy, being able to train and hang out with the Japanese guys over the last ten days was really fun.   I’m also glad that the younger guys on the Stanford team were able to train with them.  I’m sure that being able to observe a different type of training style was very educational for the guys.

By now, they’re probably already back in Japan or at least almost there.  Seemed like the last 10 days flew right by.  When I asked the athletes how they felt about going back to Japan, most of them told me that they wanted to stay in America.  If you’d ask me, I’d like to be in Japan.  The food is good and it’s just a fun place to be.  I guess the grass is always greener on the other side :)

Surprise birthday celebration for Hiroshi!

Since the competition ended on Saturday, the Japanese team were able to spend a couple of days to sightsee and hang out.  On Monday night we had a surprise birthday party for one of the guys on the team, and on Tuesday, we had a farewell dinner.  I’ll definitely miss them and their coaches but I hope to see them in the near future at some international competitions. Hope the athletes will continue to train hard as I’ll be doing the same!

Good Work Japan!

21 Feb shonakamori No Comments »

The Stanford Open never disappoints and is always one of the most exciting meets in the country, especially since the competition involves a good mixture of some of the top collegiate teams and junior gymnasts in the US. However, with the under-21 Japanese National Team with us this year, the competition was a lot more exciting than usual.  There were a lot of mistakes from all teams, but in the end, the Japanese team came out on top.  A huge congratulations to them!

The U-21 Japanese Team, Me, and Josh

Following the meet they told me that the atmosphere in the gym during the competition threw them slightly off their game.  It’s totally understandable since Japanese meets are oddly quiet, almost to the point where you can hear a pin drop.  I’ve experienced competing in Japan myself, and I’ve realized that I’m actually more comfortable in a loud and rowdy environment.

Anyway the Stanford team and the Japanese team got together after the meet for a little get together/party.  We’ve done this with them the past two years, and as always, we all had a blast.

The Japanese team will be in the area for a few more days before they have to head back to Japan again.  They went over to San Francisco for a little touring yesterday and went to Sacramento (State Capitol) today.  I’ve been enjoying this past week and being able to spend some time with my Japanese brothers.  It’s too bad that it was rainy the entire week so they couldn’t enjoy the nice California sun.  It  looks like the weather will be pretty clear for the next few days though.

On a slightly different note, I just got the results back from the Level-1 (the highest level) of the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) that I took a couple of months ago.  To my surprise, I had passed.  The result was a huge surprise given that I barely had the time to study.   I went in not knowing what to expect but luckily it seems like I did ok.  Definitely glad I did because I can now donate my study materials that’s been collecting dust in the corner of the room!


The Japanese Team Comes to Town

18 Feb shonakamori No Comments »

With the under-21 Japanese national team coming to train with us, the last several days have been fun and exciting.  They’ve been training at Stanford all this week as they prepare to compete at the annual Stanford Open this weekend.

As always it’s great seeing old faces.  Some of the guys I know from competing internationally and others from when I went abroad to  study in Japan last winter.  Not to mention all of the coaches that are with them were at one point, my own coaches.

Japanese U-21 Team!

Looks like they had some minor issues adjusting to the time change and American equipments, but they seem to be all settled now.  Stanford Open should be an exciting competition as some of the best collegiate teams in the US will battle it out against the Collegiate All-Stars from Japan!

On an unrelated note (or maybe it’s related…), one of the guys on the Japanese team got an infection in his wrist and I ended up having to take him to the emergency room.  Luckily after having some IVs put into him, he should be ok. I’m glad that I was able to help out as an interpreter as there was a bit of a language barrier between the hospital and the Japanese delegation.  Unfortunately, looks like he won’t be able to compete, but  on the bright side, he’ll be able to share some of his American hospital experiences with his friends once he goes back to Japan!

Poor dude in the hospital.

Bad News Bears

11 Feb shonakamori No Comments »

I’m bummed to hear that Cal Men’s Gymnastics has officially been cut and that this will be their final season.  For the last couple of months people have been pulling together with the hopes of having the five sports that were initially cut to be reinstated.  Today, the final decision was made. The university decided to bring back three of the five sports. Baseball and Men’s Gymnastics were left in the dust.

Honestly, it’s a terrible day for men’s gymnastics in this country.  Not only will the current gymnasts need to decide what to do if they want to continue with the sport, but the up and comers will have one less option when deciding which college to attend if they plan on pursuing gymnastics through college. It’s also sad to know that UC Berkeley is one of the best universities in this country.

Lastly, I thought the whole reinstatement thing was an all or nothing deal.  If they were going to reinstate, they were going to bring all teams back.  Total bummer…

One Day at a Time

09 Feb shonakamori 2 Comments »

Another competition down and it’s back to the grind once again.  Although my main focus for the Winter Cup was just to compete and test the waters again, there was definitely a thought in the back of my mind of wanting to get myself back onto the national team.  Naturally I was disappointed when I realized that I did not, but at the same time, I felt that I made some huge strides after comparing this year’s Winter Cup to USAs last August.  For one, I felt much more comfortable competing.  On the flip side, I felt very out of tune at USAs, largely due to being out of competition for a year because of the surgery I had to repair my knee.  On the physical side, I felt I handled the two days of competition much better. The knee didn’t bother me nearly as much during meet, and I’m happy that it still feels pretty good even after the adrenaline has worn off.  That said, I guess I could say that I’m making some improvements both mentally and physically.

In all, Winter Cup was a good learning experience.  It was just another hurdle that I needed to cross over on my road to comeback.  I’m now back in the gym as usual.  There are some skills on the back-burner that I didn’t use at Winter Cup so I’ll be working on those, along with cleaning up the skills that I currently have.  Definitely looking forward to competing again in the summer.  But as they say, I’m making the most out of each practice and taking it one day at a time!

Off to Vegas!

02 Feb shonakamori 2 Comments »

It’s hard to believe it’s finally competition week.  The last I competed was at USA Championships six months ago and I have to say that I feel better, both physically and mentally, for this competition.  I’ll admit that I feel that I’m still on the mend and climbing back after my knee injury but this competition will be another great opportunity to test the waters again.

Anyway, the first day of competition is Thursday.  I’ve trained hard and prepared well so honestly there’s nothing else I can do at this point than to go out and compete.  I’m grateful to be back on the competition floor!

Down to Visalia

28 Jan shonakamori 1 Comment »

After having a productive week at work and in the gym, I’m totally ready for the weekend. However, tomorrow will be rather busy.  After morning training, I’ll be heading down to a city called Visalia to judge another boy’s meet.  Visalia is in central California.  Here’s a map of my route.

From the Bay to Visalia

It’ll be about a 3.5 hour drive each way.  I don’t think I’ve ever driven that much and back in one day but I think it’ll be good to get my mind off of all the clutter and to get away from the Bay Area for the day.  I have a lot of respect for the kids and parents in that area though.  I see them coming up to the Bay Area often for competitions.  It’s definitely a long drive and takes a ton of dedication. Anyway, I’m ready to get this weekend started!

Mas Invite and More

25 Jan shonakamori 1 Comment »

Just finished another busy weekend of judging a boy’s competition.  This time it was up in Sacramento.  As always I had a great time meeting a bunch of new people, as well as reconnecting with old friends I used to compete with, judges and parents.  One of the highlights this weekend was being able to see Mas Watanabe. In fact, this annual competition held at this gym in Sacramento is named after him: The Mas Watanabe Invitational.  For those of you that don’t know who Mas is, he’s been an influential part of USA Gymnastics for a very long time.  For a while he served as the National Team Director for the men’s side and has helped with developing the Junior level as well.  In fact, he used to come to all of the Junior National Team Camps when I was younger.  It’s been way too long since I’ve last seen him (probably about 5 years?), and it was great to see him doing well!

Mas Invite!

After the meet, I had the chance to catch up with my friend, Aki, over dinner.  Like Mas, she came to the US to coach gymnastics.  She came over to the US couple of years ago.  She’s a former world championship team member for Japan in ’99, and chance had it that she landed a job in Sacramento.  It’s always inspiring to see my Japanese friends working so hard.  I know it’s not an easy thing to do in a foreign country.

On the way back from judging, I visited one of my best friends, John, near the state capitol.  He recently started working for the new governor of California so he moved out to Sacramento not so long ago.  Glad to see him doing well and situated at his new place.  He even took me on a quick tour of the capitol!

Inside the Capitol (the Rotunda)

The Senate Chamber

View of the Capitol from outside

Overall it was a great weekend of seeing good friends!  Ready to start this week though.  One more week to go until Winter Cup and I’m looking forward to it!