When did you first start climbing?
When I was 10 years old, in grade 5, there was an old climbing gym near my home in Kishiwada. It looked like a lot of fun so I started going. It just looked like fun climbing to high places. I was also playing sports like soccer and baseball, but climbing interested me because I wanted to try a sport you can’t experience often.
When did you decide to really get serious about climbing?
I was going to the same climbing gym for more than 10 years, but I didn’t enter competitions until I was in high school. I asked my gym friends to tell me about upcoming competitions, which I entered myself. In my first time at the IFSC World Youth Championships (2015), I came in second, so I started thinking about becoming a sport climber.
Was your victory in bouldering at the 2018 IFSC Climbing World Championships a turning point for you?
I was still going to university at that time and hadn’t yet thought of turning pro. I was entering competitions but my focus was always just on winning each one. When sport climbing became an official Olympic sport in 2016, making the Japanese team became one of my goals, but going to the Olympics wasn’t the be-all and end-all for me.
You were recently named to the Japanese Olympic team. How do you feel?
To be honest, I was relieved when I heard. Although I still feel that the Olympics isn’t my sole purpose in life, I of course want to win and get a medal. If I’m at my best at the Olympics, I’m confident I can do it.