Athletes Who Inspire Osaka

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  3. Vol. 03 You’ve got to keep trying, without ever losing sight of your goals. I want to keep forging ahead!

This page features interviews with illustrious Osaka athletes
talking about everything from their community to their dreams.
We’ll read about their sport, their experiences, and what they do for fun.
Exclusively on Sports Osaka!

Vol. 03


Ayaka Asahina [Shimada Hospital]


Let’s meet BMX rider Ayaka Asahina. BMX (bicycle motocross) became an official Olympic sport at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and now is a popular, high-profile global sport. Ayaka is based in Sakai, Osaka and is aiming to become a world-class BMX rider.

You’ve got to keep trying, without ever losing sight of your goals.
I want to keep forging ahead!

Ayaka Asahina


How did you get involved in BMX?

When I was 10, I went with my family to watch a race at Oizumi Ryokuchi Park in Sakai, near my home. My father had wanted to do BMX when he was a boy, so he figured he’d get his kids into it by taking them to watch a race! (Laughs) He actually wanted my younger brother to take it up, but I was the one who said “I want to do it!” So the next day, we went to buy a bike and all the necessary riding gear.

How did you feel when you watched a race for the first time?

I couldn’t believe how fast the racers were riding and jumping along the course. The excitement immediately mesmerized me! As a child I wasn’t good at physical activity, so I never imagined I’d ever become interested in sports. That’s how big an impact my first BMX encounter had on me.

When did you decide to really get into BMX?

The first time I tried the race course, I immediately crashed on the double jump. It hurt, but it was fun! About two or three months later, I entered a race as a novice, the lowest category—and I won! (Laughs) My parents were also thrilled. In my first year, I simply enjoyed riding, but in my second year I decided to take it more seriously and started entering BMX races around the country.

How did you feel when you heard BMX would become an official Olympic sport?

I never thought it would become an Olympic sport. Of course it was great that I could now aim for the Olympics, but I was also happy that suddenly BMX had the opportunity to garner more attention and attract far more participants.

Did your awareness change once the Olympics became a target?

The first time I entered the BMX World Championships, I realized that there are some really good riders in other countries! It taught me that I didn’t yet have near the physical strength and technique necessary to compete on the world stage. During the next year, I threw myself into training and built up my strength, and at my second BMX World Championships I made it to the semi-finals. Although I didn’t win, I was now confident I could compete at the world level and I vowed to keep forging ahead.

In 2015, you had a serious accident that threatened your riding career. What made you decide to continue BMX?

Just after the accident, I didn’t think I could ride a bike again and couldn’t imagine a future for myself in BMX. But about two months later when things had settled down, some BMX friends came to wish me a speedy recovery. That’s when I started thinking about riding again.
The biggest contributing factor was something a more experienced female rider said to me. “Next year’s Japan National BMX Championships will be in Osaka. You’re competing, right? You’ve got to. It’s in Osaka!” (Laughs) So I thought, she’s right, I have to ride again. Thanks to her pushing me, I was once more able to start thinking about my future.

About how long was it before you were able to start riding again?

The Japan National BMX Championships were in July, so in January of that year I went to Shimada Hospital for the first time. I knew of this hospital because many athletes, some of them BMX riders, had done rehab here. I really wanted to give BMX riding another shot, so I began going to Shimada Hospital. I started by doing rehab as an outpatient, but once I realized that this would not get me ready in time for the championships, I decided to admit myself to the hospital. As a result, I was able to start riding in May of that year.

How did you feel when you realized you could start riding again?

I never thought I would ride a bike again, so my feeling was more one of surprise than joy. I gradually began riding more often, and managed to complete a full circuit of the course. I got so emotional when it hit me that here I was at the starting line again!
Before the injury, because I was constantly practicing and pushing myself to get better, I had no time to enjoy riding. But after the injury, I realized that I have to have fun riding; otherwise there’s no reason for doing it. I now make it a point to always approach every race with this philosophy.

You’re aiming for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, right?

Yes. But first I want to prove myself on the Japanese race circuit and get back on the national team. Then I can take part in races in other countries with the goal of making the Japanese Olympic team.

It was 2015, the year before the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Ayaka went to compete at the Japan National BMX Championships. The day before the race, she was riding her bicycle along a road when suddenly a car sped out and struck her. This horrific accident broke both her legs, an injury so severe she might need an amputation. She was told she probably wouldn’t ride again. But her doctor told her she could ride again someday, and she herself was determined to get back on a bike and ride faster than ever. This indomitable spirit got her through more than 10 major operations and the rehabilitation process. Just one year later, Ayaka entered the 2016 Japan National BMX Championships. This gave hope and courage to countless other athletes.

How did you come to start working at Shimada Hospital?

I was a patient at the hospital training and undergoing rehabilitation. I was still a university student and was looking for a part-time job. I applied to an affiliated training facility called Vigorus. Surprisingly, they hired me! (Laughs) When I graduated, I inquired whether Shimada Hospital would sponsor me, which they did.
It’s very important to me personally to be in an environment where, as an athlete who has been injured, I can get the full support I constantly need.

Tell us about your day-to-day life.

I balance my job at the hospital with time for riding practice and fitness training. On my days off, I watch videos of movies and anime. I also go out with friends. It’s important to sometimes forget about BMX and re-energize yourself.

Give us your thoughts about your hometown of Sakai, and Osaka too.

I still live at my parents’ house in Sakai, because I think it’s the ideal environment for doing BMX. Osaka Prefecture has two BMX courses, in Oizumi Ryokuchi Park and in Kishiwada, and both are easily accessible from where I live. It’s one of the best places to be for a BMX rider; in fact, many riders come to this area from other parts of Japan.
Personally, I really want to take on challenges together with my family, so this is the ideal place. My parents tell me that I should live on my own soon, but I’m not going to move out of Sakai! (Laughs)

Tell us what BMX means to you.

It’s an indispensable part of my life. Whenever I face a big decision in my life, the first factor I think about is BMX. Riding is what I’ve spent most of my life doing. Even once I retire from competition, I’ll still be interested in it—I want to make it a lifelong relationship.
BMX is a sport where not only are the riders having fun but so are those watching the races. I urge people to go and watch a race to experience the thrills firsthand. And I’d love it if those watching get to like it and want to try it themselves.

Do you have any words of encouragement for our readers?

From my own experience, even if you hit rock bottom, you can turn things around if you make the effort. I can say this because I have done it myself. It’s always been important to me to never lose sight of my target. You should have a goal and forge ahead towards it. Even if you feel like quitting, or if your enthusiasm starts to dwindle, never lose your desire to work hard and keep looking to the future.

Interviewed on July 14, 2021
Many thanks to Shimada Hospital, Heartful Group Medical Corporation

Check out Ayaka Asahina on social media.


Ayaka Asahina

Born in 1996, Ayaka is a native of Sakai, Osaka. She began riding at 10 years of age and has competed in many races in Japan and other countries. In 2015, a year before the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, she had a horrific accident that threatened her BMX career, but she recovered and just one year later competed in the Japan National BMX Championships. She is currently training hard with an eye to earning a spot on the Japan team for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. She is sponsored by Shimada Hospital and works at Eudynamics Vigorus.

■ Main results
• Best 16, 2012 BMX World Championships, U.K.
• 2nd place, 2012 Japan National BMX Championships
• 1st place, 2013 JBMXF Series
• 2nd place, 2013 Asian BMX Championships, Singapore
• 3rd place, 2013 Japan National BMX Championships
• 3rd place, 2014 Japan National BMX Championships
• 2nd place, 2014 BMX Thailand Open
• 4th place, 2014 Asian BMX Championships, Indonesia
• 3rd place, 2016 Japan National BMX Championships
• 3rd place, 2017 Japan National BMX Championships
• 5th place, 2017 Hitachinaka BMX International Convention

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