Stay strong at heart
Nikaido : Long time no see! It’s been a while since we last met at a TV show after the Rio Olympics.
Tosaka : Yes, that’s right. Nice to see you again! And, to tell you the truth, I was very touched by the words you said back then. I really liked them more than any words of any other people.
Nikaido : Really?
Tosaka : Yes. You said that the Olympics were really fair and beautiful, and that you cried as you watched the games. Your words are still in my heart. At interviews, I always say that I was so happy to hear those words from you. I’ve never mentioned your name though.
Nikaido : I’m also happy to hear that! Actually I was staying abroad at that time. I was more conscious about my nationality in a foreign country as I watched you fighting, representing Japan. I really and deeply felt how beautiful the Olympics were. Well now, it’s been a while since the Rio Olympics. How do you feel now?
Tosaka : One year before the Rio Olympics, I got injured and since then, I’ve been recuperating. In fact, it’s been taking much longer than I had expected. I wanted to get back to training right after the Rio, aiming at the Tokyo Olympics, but now I cannot train enough, not as much as I wish, so in a way, I am feeling restless.
Nikaido : You are saying that you are not filled with the joy of winning a gold medal anymore?
Tosaka : I suppose not. Many of you might have an image of an Olympic medalist as of someone strong, but I feel I am not that strong, now.
Nikaido : That’s surprising. As I read your profile and other information, I thought you trained harder than anyone else.
Tosaka : In a way, I do trainings to keep myself calm and relaxed, or to distract myself from fear. So in fact I’m quite anxious as I cannot do enough training.
Nikaido : Have you been able to control such anxiety even a bit?
Tosaka : Well, I think I’ve just managed to accept this situation now, and I have a feeling of “Just do it!”
Nikaido : At the final game in the Rio, you turned around the match at the last minute, and as I watched your performance, I realized that you had such a strong mind.
Tosaka : Well, I can only rely on my strong mind to face a rival. I don’t have great reflexes or outstanding skills and killer technique like Saori Yoshida, who has a great tackle. I am just an athlete like any other.
Nikaido : That’s not true! (Laughs)
Tosaka : Yes! It’s true. My techniques are rather sloppy, not sharp enough, I guess. (Laughs) But I think I am tough-minded. I like the words “strong will”, and I’ll beat anyone in my determination to win, even if I were injured or stuck in a harsh situation.
Nikaido : That mindset is your strength, isn’t it? From now on, wrestlers all over the world will study you very thoroughly and challenge you with competitive tactics.
Tosaka : They might do so. But I should be okay even if they did. Because I know that wrestling is a sport of deception, making feints that are actually a matter of millisecond.
Nikaido : Oh, I thought that wrestling is more straightforward. The wrestlers demonstrate their power head-on, almost making the audience clench their fists. But actually it’s more like a psychological warfare, right?
Tosaka : Yes. We try to read the intention and state of mind of each other. During a match, the athletes play a lot of tricks, like staying calm and suddenly becoming very fierce. So in this sense, it could be fun to watch a game paying attention to those techniques, too.
Nikaido : Wow, that sounds interesting. I will surely do that next time.
Tokyo Olympics and Beyond
Nikaido : What kind of moment was your turning point as an athlete?
Tosaka : I would say the World Championships in 2012. It was the first time when I really aimed to be a world champion and I took it very seriously. Then I lost at the final but I felt sure that if I continued to work hard and do more training, I could become a world champion. Since then, I had no fear or anxiety and could focus on training.
Nikaido : What kinds of achievements do you think you’ve made in your life thanks to sport?
Tosaka : I think I grew as a person through wrestling, especially after the Rio, I’ve really felt that. In the past, when I watched Olympic medalists expressing their gratitude and thanking others, I thought it was all farce, they must surely think they have only themselves to thank. But once I was in their shoes, winning a gold medal, I found the words of gratitude quite naturally came out of my mouth. I could truly feel a real sense of gratitude from the bottom of my heart. So in this sense, I really appreciate the fact that I chose wrestling and continue practicing it.
Nikaido : You must have also felt that many people around you were supporting you, right?
Tosaka : It was very nice to know that so many people supported me and were excited about my victory more than I had expected. It was amazing.
Nikaido : Are you happy that Tokyo will host the next Olympic Games?
Tosaka : Yes, I am very excited about it. I’d love to take part in the Tokyo Olympics as a Japan representative and I think this is a great opportunity for everyone to watch the games live. Not everyone has such a chance. Support and encouragement are a source of power for athletes.
Nikaido : I assume that you have already set various targets toward the Tokyo Olympics.
Tosaka : Since I had to go on diet many times, I want to try different weight classes. In my view, I should recover from the injury as soon as possible and become a champion in my ideal weight class before setting for the Tokyo. Speaking of techniques, I want to improve defense and pinning techniques. Although I know it is important to gain points through tackles, I am not strong at these two techniques, so I want to master them preferably a year before the Tokyo Olympics.
Nikaido : This is a long way off but do you have any plans after the Tokyo Olympics?
Tosaka : I’d love to go and study abroad. People who have done it often say that it changed their way of thinking and worldview. I’ve been focusing on wrestling and had little experience in other things so I’d love to visit many other countries.
Nikaido : Wow, that sounds wonderful. What would you be doing if you hadn’t started wrestling?
Tosaka : What would I be doing? I wanted to play football once before though.
Nikaido : Really?
Tosaka : Well, I cannot imagine that at all. But I have met so many people through wrestling so I am very happy that I chose this sport.
A moment of happiness
Nikaido : Since we are about the same age, I’d love to know you from other perspectives than wrestling, as a young lady of my age.
Tosaka : I think I am quite an ordinary person. I can do almost everything I want to do, and I can eat anything I like. Well, I really enjoy eating, actually eat too much and have often been told off by a nutritionist. (Laughs)
Nikaido : Wow! You also like drinking, don’t you?
Tosaka : Yes, I like drinking too. Quite a lot.
Nikaido : You eat a lot and drink a lot.
Tosaka : Yes, indeed. Eat, drink, laugh and sleep… That sounds very much like a human life, right? (Laughs)
Nikaido : But you must go on diet before a competition, right?
Tosaka : Yes, I try to lose about six kg in ten days.
Nikaido : What?!
Tosaka : During that period, I look gaunt. I cannot eat but if I don’t eat, I cannot perform fully. I’m torn between the two, get stressed out, then fret about it…
Nikaido : So eating itself is a kind of stress release.
Tosaka : That’s right. But I often get too relaxed. (Laughs) That is not good, I know that.
Nikaido : Well, I hope you will find your best way of balancing between stress release and training.
Tosaka : Yes! I will train hard, too. I’ll eat and push myself. (Laughs)
Nikaido : By the way, how do you change your mood when you are feeling down?
Tosaka : Actually I hardly ever feel down. I could’ve been so depressed if I had been defeated at the Rio. But basically, I am a kind of person who always thinks about the next goal, even when defeated. I can think like this; defeat is not the goal but a means, and I try to make most out of a defeat to win next time. In my everyday life too, I don’t think that I feel depressed so often.
Nikaido : So are you a positive person?
Tosaka : Well, I can be very negative in certain situations, which is just my personal opinion though. (Laughs) Am I positive…? Well, I must say that if I see a junior member cutting corners at training, I get emotional and tell them off. And afterwards, I regret it feeling like, “Did I have to speak to them in such a nasty way?” This is the case when I feel down. Otherwise, I don’t get depressed.
Nikaido : What makes you feel happy?
Tosaka : Until the Rio, I was always with my family focusing on wrestling, so I wanted to win and please my family. But after the Rio, I want to deliver some kind of message to everyone who supports me. That makes me feel fulfilled and happy.
Nikaido : You are so cool.