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Moment that mattered: Tokyo is awarded the 2020 Olympics

Even though it was 5.20am in Japan when the Olympic committee announced the result, I was in front of the television watching and waiting. It was incredibly tense, I had thought of nothing else all day, all week really. And then they announced the host city was going to be Tokyo. Seeing everyone celebrating confirmed that I need to keep dedicating myself to my goal – to represent Japan at our Olympics.

I’ll be 22 when the games begin and I’ll spend the next seven years doing everything I can to compete at my home games and to win a medal. My journey began when I was discovered as an athlete in Fukuoka, after which I left my parents’ home to attend the Japanese Olympic Committee Elite Academy in April 2011 when I was 13. About two years after I started fencing, I won the gold medal at the Asian Youth Games held in August of this year.

I think a home crowd really makes a difference. Competing in Tokyo I will be in a familiar environment, so I can adjust more easily. What makes me happier than anything is the fact that it will give me an opportunity to compete in front of all the people who have supported me so far. Hopefully this could end up having an effect on the number of medals I win.

I believe that Tokyo will make a good host because the 1964 Olympics [also held in Tokyo] were a big success, and a lot of the competition venues are still there as well. What they are planning on doing – mixing the old and the new venues, but having them together in a very compact area – is very exciting. From the athletes’ point of view, only having to travel short distances is an important factor in maintaining concentration, but the real benefit is for the fans. We saw the pictures from London of the Olympic park and everyone coming together and having a good time, and I think Tokyo wants to create the same atmosphere.

Since we announced our bid [in September 2011] I had been wishing and hoping for the Olympics to come to Tokyo, and now they are, the hard work begins. Everyone wants a successful Games and I believe the country has the dedication to make that happen, and I hope I can repay them by winning a medal. Do I feel sorry for the people in Madrid and Istanbul who missed out on getting the games? Honestly, I don’t. Having the Olympics in Tokyo is a huge chance for me, and I won’t waste it.”

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