When Olympians and Paralympians showcase their incredible skill, what does it look like from their point of view? Many people probably wonder as they watch in awe as their favourite athletes compete for the biggest prizes. Tokyo 2020 introduces ‘Let’s 55 Virtual Experience’, a project that provides an innovative experience of what it actually looks like to compete as a top-level athlete, covering all 55 sports on the Tokyo 2020 Games programme.
In 1984 HATTORI Michiko became the youngest champion in the history of the Japan Women’s Amateur Golf Championship, winning the title at the age of 15 years and 9 months. The following year she also won the US Women’s Amateur Golf Championship and became the top prize money earner in 1998. Today, she coaches the Japan women’s golf national team.
But what do the surroundings look like through the eyes of Hattori? Let’s find out through the 'Let’s 55 Virtual Experience' where Hattori tells us how she got into golf.
A golf champion at the age of 16
"To be honest, when I started playing golf, I wasn’t very keen about it because I had an image that golf was a sport played by older people. Most golfers were businessmen, and there were almost no girls playing golf back then. I really wanted to play team sport, like basketball or athletics, but I met my coach at that time who encouraged me [to take up the sport] and said: “You have long arms and legs so you’ll be able to hit the ball a long distance. You’ll be good enough to play overseas.” So I began to think that should be my goal. My coach had experienced playing overseas and guided me in the right direction. Eventually, I started to enjoy improving my score through trial and error. Everything that I did including my training also changed, and I found golf really fun. Consequently, and also with a bit of luck, I won the US Women’s Amateur Golf Championship title.
"I studied at a university in Texas where there were very few Japanese students. I was determined to make it on my own so instead of feeling shy, I became bold and fearless. I joined the golf team where there were students from other foreign countries such as New Zealand and South Africa, and although their native language was English, they, too, struggled to communicate. Being around people with different backgrounds and nationalities, we learned to accept each other while asserting ourselves. I also learned to have a wider outlook on things. It was important to display your own character or you’d be overlooked, so there was no time to be shy.
"The COVID-19 outbreak has suddenly changed my life in many ways. With all the golf tournaments cancelled, I found more time to reflect on myself and I realised how lucky I am to be supported by so many people. I think the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Games put the athletes in a difficult position as they prepare for the Games in 2021. I will continue to support the athletes with the hope that this postponement can be used to an advantage and the Tokyo 2020 Games will be even better than we expected."