Be open and keep learning, says Murofushi

Koji Murofushi and his wife Tomomi taking selfies at yesterday's Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship ceremony.
Koji Murofushi and his wife Tomomi taking selfies at yesterday's Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship ceremony.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Koji Murofushi and Joseph Schooling belong to different sports in different eras, but they share a common trait.

In their respective sports of athletics and swimming, where size does matter, both Asians have beaten taller and bigger-sized opponents to win the gold medal at the Olympic Games.

Schooling, the butterfly prince, toppled the king and legend Michael Phelps at Rio 2016 to win the 100 metres fly gold.

Japanese Murofushi flung his hammer 82.91 metres across the field at the Athens 2004 Games to clinch the gold.

Yesterday, both men - guests at the Singapore Olympic Foundation-Peter Lim Scholarship ceremony - shared their experiences with the 269 recipients and their family members at the ITE College Central.

Asked how he overcame his size disadvantage - he was 10-15kg lighter than his peers - to achieve Olympic success, the 43-year-old Murofushi said: "The most important thing is to look at yourself objectively and really analyse yourself; you cannot waste your time, you have to know your goals precisely every time.

"You have to observe anything that can work for you. You have to be open and learn from everywhere you can."

Murofushi - currently the sports director for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics - had the luxury of learning the ropes of the sport from age 10 from his father Shigenobu, who threw the hammer for Japan in three Olympic Games. His mother Seraphina was an Olympic javelin thrower for Romania.

But Murofushi built on that by enrolling in the Chukyo University Graduate School of Physical Education in 1997 to master the rotational theory and technique of hammer throwing, and earned a doctorate degree in biomechanics in 2007.

"Don't just sleep on the massage table and leave everything to the therapist," the London 2012 bronze medallist advised the recipients.

"Learn all the time... become the owner of yourself."

Schooling's success story is one well-known to Singaporeans, but his path to success was not without potholes and pitfalls.

The 22-year-old said: "I have definitely thought about quitting... There are times when I ask myself, 'Why am I doing this?', but you think about the sacrifices you've made to get to this point.

"The most important questions to ask yourself are, 'What have I given up to get to this point? Do I love it still? Do I still have passion for this sport?'.

"Be patient with it, don't make rash decisions. Confide in your parents or your best friends."

Lim Say Heng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2018, with the headline 'Be open and keep learning, says Murofushi'. Print Edition | Subscribe