Athletes Who Inspire Osaka

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  3. Vol. 02 Aim for victory by giving it all you have. I want people to experience the fun of climbing. Kai Harada, Pro climber (Nisshin Fire & Marine Insurance)

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!

©Suguru Saito / Red Bull Content Pool

Vol. 02

Sport climbing

Kai Harada Pro climber (Nisshin Fire & Marine Insurance)

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Pro climber Kai Harada will represent Japan at this year’s Tokyo Olympics. Kai has been generating a lot of buzz in sport climbing, an official Olympic event for the first time. He took time out during this busy and crucial pre-Olympic period to speak with us.

Note: This interview was done remotely as an anti-COVID-19 measure.

Aim for victory by giving it all you have.
I want people to experience the fun of climbing.

Kai Harada

Interview

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.

©Suguru Saito / Red Bull Content Pool

What’s your usual practice routine?

I practice about 4 or 5 times a week at a climbing gym in Tokyo. Each session is about 2 or 3 hours, but before a competition I sometimes practice for 5 to 6 hours. I make up my own training schedule. The main thing is to focus; I make sure no time is wasted. I don’t do much strength training on machines. I prefer to build up my muscles and my strength by actually climbing. Runners train by running. I’m a climber, so I train by climbing.

Of the three disciplines of sport climbing—lead, speed, and bouldering—which is your specialty?

I’d have to say bouldering. I’ve been doing it the longest, and I’m aware that it’s my strongest discipline. I also like lead climbing. However, I’m not that good at speed climbing; I started it relatively late, and there are not many facilities where I can practice it.

I understand you live alone. Are you particular about what you eat?

I make it a point to cook my own meals. I like meat, so that’s what I eat the most of. I’ve disliked vegetables since I was a child, but recently I’m making a conscious effort to eat them more often. I also keep sweets on hand so I can reward myself sometimes. (Laughs)

What do you usually do when you go back to your hometown of Kishiwada?

During the few opportunities I have to go back, I like to go shopping or dining out with my mother. I also eat out with friends, and I make it a point to get together with my mates from the climbing gym. It’s important to cherish time with people you can’t meet very often.

What do you think about the recent rise in the popularity of climbing?

Climbing has attracted growing interest since it became an official Olympic sport. I’ve seen firsthand the dramatic increase in the number of competitive climbers. Climbing gyms are springing up all over Japan.
When I first started, very few people knew about climbing, let alone recognized it as a sport, so I’m pleased with its current popularity. Acquaintances who previously knew little about climbing often talk to me about it, and many people have become supporters.

There are a lot of outstanding young climbers and a lot more people look likely to take up the sport.

I get motivated when I see all the young, talented climbers around. I’m just happy that people are getting into the sport from a young age. Compared to other sports, climbing is an easy one to get started on, and you can keep doing it for years. I hope more people discover the joy of climbing. I also hope that I can become a kind of model athlete that these youngsters can strive to emulate.

What are your goals as a climber?

Besides the Tokyo Olympics, there are other competitions coming up. I want to train for these so that I can do my very best and win them. Beyond that, I can’t say right now. But I do want to do everything I can to popularize climbing by getting the message to more people and encouraging them to take it up as a competitive sport.

©Suguru Saito / Red Bull Content Pool

Interviewed on February 8, 2021
Many thanks to Athlete Business Department, Hakuhodo DY Sports Marketing Inc.

Check out Kai Harada on social media.

Profile

Kai Harada

Born in 1999, Kai is a native of Kishiwada, Osaka. In the 2015 Japan Youth Climbing Cup, he won the bouldering event, a feat he repeated the following year. He moved to Tokyo to go to university. He made his first appearance at the IFSC Climbing World Championships in 2018, where he won the bouldering event. In the 2019 championships, he came in fourth in the combined discipline (placing second among Japanese). He will take part in the Tokyo Olympics. He is sponsored by Nisshin Fire & Marine Insurance Co., Ltd.

■ Main results
・ 1st place, bouldering, 2015 Japan Youth Climbing Cup
・ 1st place, bouldering, 2016 Japan Youth Climbing Cup
・ 1st place, bouldering, 2018 IFSC Climbing World Championships
・ 4th place, combined, 2019 IFSC Climbing World Championships
・ 1st place, 15th Bouldering Japan Cup (2020)

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