Japan’s Koji Murofushi is undoubtedly the best male hammer thrower the continent has ever produced.
The 41-year-old, who won two Olympic medals — gold in Athens (2004) and bronze in London (2012) — remains the only Asian athlete to have achieved the feat.
The gentle giant, who stands at 187cm (6ft 2in) tall, is on a new mission as Chairman of the Asian Athletics Association’s (AAA) Athletes Commission.
Saudi Arabia’s Hadi Soaan Somayli, India’s PT Usha, China’s Wang Yu and Kazakhstan’s Nikita Filippov are the commission’s other members. All will be in Doha to attend the 7th Asian Indoor Championships.
Murofushi, relaxing after a particularly busy day filled with back-to-back meetings, said he expected an exciting weekend of competitions in Doha.
“I’m thrilled because this is the largest turnout an Asian indoor meet has ever witnessed. I spoke to several athletes, from different countries, and they all sounded excited and ready for action. I’m confident that come Friday, we’ll witness some extraordinary performances under the Aspire Academy dome,” he said, during an informal chat.
The Shizuoka native was happy with his new job profile and promised to approach it the same way he did major competitions.
“I would like to thank AAA President Dahlan Al Hamad for setting up an Athletes Commission for the first time. It’s an important step forward. It’ll help raise athletes’ voice to the highest levels during decision-making processes. I promise to do my best to serve the athletes’ best interests,” he said.
But the 2011 IAAF World Championship gold medallist acknowledged it would not be an easy task.
“The biggest challenge we face is the enormity of our continent. It is vast and houses so many different, unique cultures. The sheer number of athletes in Asia makes development work very hard.
“But having said that, Asia has great potential. With better training facilities in place, I’m confident we can do much better in the coming days. I truly believe our sport’s future lies in Asia. We’ll do everything possible to realise the true potential,” he said.
The hammer thrower, who won 20 Japanese national titles without a break between 1995 and 2015, credited his success to coaching by his father Shigenobu, a champion thrower himself.
In fact, Shigenobu held the Japanese national record for 23 years until Koji bettered it. Sure enough, he was a tad emotional while speaking about the long journey.
“Thanks to my father, I was lucky enough to be introduced to the sport at a fairly young age. To be successful, you should have a good coach who can teach you about the philosophy of life and sport. My father guided me and I was able to manage my personal life well. He was the reason for my long reign in the sport. I can’t thank him enough,” he said.
“Hammer throw has undergone massive changes and improved a lot from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. I consider Dilshod Nazarov, who’s also president of the Athletics Federation of the Republic of Tajikistan, as my successor. I’m counting on him to do well at the Rio Olympics this year,” said Murofushi.
Looking back at history, Murofushi is the lone Asian hammer thrower to have won an Olympic medal. While some argue that physical inferiority has cost Asian men success at top events, Murofushi did not sound convinced.
“If a thrower has a good coach, then physique ceases to become a deciding factor in how good they ultimately become. I don’t think Asian athletes are inferior. For example, during my peak competitive years, the heaviest I had become was 97kg. In comparison, almost all my opponents weighed between 100 and 120kg. For me, the key was to maximise my abilities,” he said.
“Sport isn’t just about power. What’s power? It’s speed multiplied by force. If you’re very strong, you lose speed. If you’ve too much speed, you lose strength. Look at a car. When you shift from low gear to top gear, you don’t need as much power to operate because you’re moving really fast. Similarly, you’ve got to identify your strengths and use your potential wisely,” he signed off.
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