Japanese Mogul Skiers Impress at Asian Winter Games

(ATR) The country’s strong tradition in the sport bolstered by performances in Sapporo.

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(ATR) Nagano 1998 Olympic gold medalist Tae Satoya and five-time Olympian Aiko Uemura inspire a generation of Japanese moguls skiers.

The country’s strong tradition in the sport was evident as Japanese skiers claimed four of six medals in the men’s and women’s dual moguls competition at the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo on Friday.

Japanese female skiers Arisa Murata, 26, and Miki Ito, 29, skied to silver and bronze medals in the thrilling event that pits competitors against one another side-by-side. Their performance was yet another notch in Japan’s storied moguls tradition that Satoya and Uemura began.

"I felt it was so cool when I watched the moment on TV that Tae got her gold medal at Nagano," Murata, a 2010 Olympian, recollected. "I respect everything about Tae and Aiko. I have gotten advice from them many times about mentality, technique and jumps and airs. Their best advice was don’t be nervous, just ski."

Satoya, a native of Hokkaido who is now 40, followed up her Olympic gold in Japan with a bronze medal in Salt Lake City 2002. Although Uemura never medaled in her five Olympic Games – finishing 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th and 4th – she became a double world champion on home snow in Inwashiro in 2009.

"Satoya and Uemura are so famous in Japan," Ito said. "All Japanese girls who ski are thinking about that gold medal of Satoya."

Ito, a two-time Olympian who missed Sochi 2014 due to a knee injury, is hopeful for one more shot at an Olympic medal next February.

"I still have one more chance and hope to have a medal in PyeongChang," Ito said.

In the men’s dual moguls finale, Ikuma Horishima, 19, defeated his countryman Daichi Hara, 29, as the Japanese bumps skiers claimed gold and silver medals. Horishima offered his theory as to why Japanese moguls skiers charge down the mountain at such a high level.

"The texture of this snow is quite good because we have powder snow especially in Hokkaido," said Horishima, a Hokkaido native. "Because of this we never feel scared, which is important."

Acrobatic freestyle skiers representing five countries ripped down the 235-meter mogul course, throwing their best tricks off two jumps at the Sapporo Bankei Ski Area. Course conditions were superb with loads of Hokkaido’s famed light powder snow and bright sun, at times, illuminating the 27-degree gradient slope.

In dual moguls, judges evaluate skiers based upon their turns and line, in addition to their tricks off two jumps. Speed is also factored into the equation as five judges determine the winner of each heat.

Mogul skiing made its debut at the 1992 Albertville Winter Games, but dual moguls has never part of the Olympic program.

"For sure, I’d like to see it in the Olympics – my first world championship medal was in dual moguls," Ito said. "It’s so fun and exciting for fans, but unfortunately it is not in the Olympics."

If dual moguls had been accepted as an Olympic event, you can bet your Japanese Yen that Japan’s freestyle skiing medal count would be more than it is currently.

The Japanese mogul skiers will pursue more AWG medals as competition wraps up with the men’s and women’s individual events on Sunday.

Written and reported by Brian Pinelliin Sapporo

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