KUROKI Akane: Equestrian athlete and company president

Kuroki Akane of Japan riding Toots competes during the Dressage event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
Kuroki Akane of Japan riding Toots competes during the Dressage event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Away from the glitz and glamour of the Olympic Games, dozens of athletes subsidise their daily training routines by having other jobs. From farming to banking, Tokyo 2020 looks at several hopefuls aiming to make an impact next summer and what roles they have outside of competition. This week, Japan equestrian athlete - and company president - KUROKI Akane.

The deets:

  • Name: KUROKI Akane
  • Age: 42
  • Country: Japan
  • Sport: Equestrian

Her athlete life

For years, Kuroki has been shuttling back and forth every two weeks between her home in Japan and her training base as an equestrian athlete in Germany.

In Japan, instead of practicing on horseback, she continues with her daily duties at the care facility she manages while working out at a gym every day to strengthen her body and muscles.

Although two weeks away from riding is not long enough to make her lose her touch, "it does make my muscles ache when I get back on my horse," she laughed.

"In equestrianism, you use all the muscles of your body at the same time. You can’t quite get that kind of training at a gym," she said.

Kuroki was 20-years-old when she joined a riding club and 25 when she started competing, which was quite a late start. At the age of 37, she made her Olympic debut (at Rio 2016), but disappointingly ended up ranking 50th in the individual dressage and 11th in the team dressage.

However, she described her experience as "the best performance I could ever have achieved, with no errors at all."

"Before the competition started, I had felt that it was going to be the most nerve-wracking day of my life," she explained, "but after it was over, I realised it was the happiest day of my life".

Her words indicate how striking an experience it was for her to be taking part in the Olympic Games after pursuing the dream for over 12 years.

Her professional life

As well as being a dressage rider, Kuroki also runs a nursing-care facility.

She previously worked as a radiographer, but because her father had run a nursing-care-related business, she started learning about business management under his tutelage with a view to becoming his future successor.

However, over time, she realised that her father’s approach was different to hers, so she decided to start her own business and put her own ideals into practice.

She took on this new challenge in 2012, at the age of 33.

As a business owner, Kuroki upholds the company philosophy that residents should be treated with compassion, as if a family member, but encouraged to look after themselves, enabling them to live with pride and dignity.

Kuroki admits that her engagement with elderly care has inspired a sense of appreciation for life, leading her to think about her own values.

"Through my job, I catch glimpses of how people have lived their lives and what values they have upheld. I have come to hope that I am able to live a fulfilling life so that I feel grateful when my time comes."

"I think I can get by because I love everything I do - running a business, horses, sports and competitions. I also owe a lot to the support I receive from employees. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to train abroad. They also support me as an equestrian rider with encouraging warmth. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them."

Kuroki also sees similarities between her day job and career as an athlete.

"It is by no means easy to engage in sports with a living animal. Horses are both stronger and weaker than humans. In equestrian, riders essentially need to understand this point, and work with their horses to enhance and complement each other."

"In fact, the same goes for nursing care. People need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of human beings to be able to support each other. I have learned how important it is to try to comprehend the minds of all living beings, including humans, through my engagement in sport and work.

"Both are precious to me," she said.