Shiseido cross-talk “ONE on ONE” featuring actress Fumi Nikaido and famous athletes has come to its last issue. This time, we will look back at the impression Ms. Nikaido got from the four sportsmen who joined the talk – judoka Tadahiro Nomura, soccer player Homare Sawa, fencer Karin Miyakawa, and karateka Rika Usami – and hear her thoughts about the fascination of sport and the reason behind the “beautiful faces” of athletes.
Looking back at the encounters with the athletes
──The first athlete you met was Tadahiro Nomura; what kind of impression did he produce?
“He was an ultimately powerful person. I don’t only mean his strength as a judo athlete, but also a power overflowing from within; I could feel the genuine strength of his personality. He is an amusing interlocutor, yet you don’t feel any pressure coming from him; shall I say he is full of vigor? He struck me as a person filled with outstanding strength.”
──Your second guest, Homare Sawa, is someone you wanted to meet very much and had even read her book, didn’t you?
“I was really happy to meet her, and she turned out to be a wonderful person! She got married and retired from sport last year, and I was impressed by her saying then, ‘I want to live a life of a woman like everyone else.’ With someone who’s as active as she is in the Olympics or World Cup, you tend to think of her as an athlete before anything else, don’t you? I think recognition regardless of gender is great, but in fact Ms. Sawa is so feminine and charming! She made me think, “She’s indeed a newly-wed!” and I was happy to have seen that side of her.”
──Fencer Ms. Miyawaki is just nineteen years old. She was the only one among the four who was younger than you.
“That’s true, but she was so mature, she seemed totally adult to me. After all, a clearly set goal like the Olympic Games makes a huge difference, doesn’t it? She is very down-to-earth about her present position and is focused on the future beyond. Perhaps that’s what all top-level athletes are like, but she impressed me as a very vivacious person. And yes, I could feel the strength of her personality.”
──For the last issue you met Rika Usami, the world karate kata ex-champion.
“She was filled with dignified beauty. When we were just talking she produced a very gentle impression, but when asked to show a few karate postures for photographs, the atmosphere changed completely. I noticed the same about Mr. Nomura: I felt a unique “spirit” radiating from them, which is probably unique to athletes who excel in martial arts. I thought of Ms. Usami as a woman filled with integrity and style, not only in sports but also in her whole way of life.”
Unbending to anything, unyielding to anyone. Faces marked with the conviction
──Did you feel that different sports shape different personalities of athletes?
“Rather than differences I noticed similarities. Since it’s the world of sports, there’s always an opponent to compete against in the contest, but the real opponent you need to fight against is yourself. That’s what I realized after talking with the athletes.
I believe that the spirit and the body are closely connected. We can certainly feel this in our daily lives, but in sports this is tested at an ultimate level. That’s why athletes always have to confront themselves, building up not only their physical skills but also mental endurance. That’s how I think the beauty is born.”
──The theme of this series was unveiling the reasons behind the “beautiful faces” of athletes. In that sense, would you say that it’s the outer expression of their inner beauty, honed from within?
“Their faces have no trace of hesitation. Unbending to anything, unyielding to anyone. That’s the conviction you read on their faces. Going through harsh training day after day, experiencing the pressure of countless competitions, they have self-confidence in what they have accomplished by now. Facing someone like that, I could feel their strength overflowing from within, I was charged with their power and even felt like they had set me right. As if they had lighted up my way.”
──Facing the other, watching oneself. Does acting resemble sport in that sense?
“Well, I wonder... Our work involves a large number of people - directors, actors, assisting staff – all moving together to create one result without ‘win or lose’ perspective. That’s different from sport where everything is clear-cut, right? Well, I wouldn’t dare to compare in the first place, anyway.”
A beauty incomparable to anything else
──After the talks with top-level athletes, do you feel your view on sport in general has changed?
“I started watching more sport than before, and I have started appreciating the depth of it, now that I know what feelings athletes experience during competitions. I watched this year’s Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games as intently as never before, and I thought the look of athletes facing themselves as their ultimate opponents, with everything on stake, was really beautiful. Athletes from various countries – some having conflicts or other issues – all came together on the same arena, uniting the world through sport. I was deeply moved by the greatness of this.”
──Were there any scenes that particularly impressed you?
“The 400m relay where Japan won the silver medal was sensational! There were other moments when I was really moved, but what I mostly thought is, “Why do people love sports so much?” Really, why are we so much impressed by athletes whom we don’t even know, competing at the other end of the world?
Of course, I agree that victory or defeat, winning a medal – the result is important. But I was touched by something else: the very attitude of the athletes, standing up to compete. They have spent years on accomplishing their minds, skills and bodies, but they have only a few minutes – or even seconds – to manifest it. And the whole way of life of that athlete is condensed in that short period of time, it actually becomes visible. Isn’t this what moves our hearts? There’s a beauty in this that is incomparable to anything else. Such athletes who share with us these amazing moments are worth every support, and I will keep cheering them up from now on!”