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Saturday, Aug. 28, 2004

JAPAN LITE

Hammer throwing for the whole family


Every time I turn on the TV, the Japanese are winning Olympic medals -- mostly the same ones -- over and over again. But this is Japan, where repetition is highly prized as a way to impress upon us the vital importance of repetition. Practice, practice, practice and you will succeed.

Although I would never call myself a great athlete, I particularly enjoy the Olympics because, having competed throughout childhood in a variety of sports, I can identify with the pressure and stress that goes with competition. At 27, I was still competing -- as a "veteran" -- in freestyle skiing. But the great thing about a sport such as skiing is that you can take it with you all the way through life. I've been skiing with my parents since I was 3 years old, and I still ski with my father, who is 73. I have fond memories of the whole family packing into the station wagon and driving all day to the mountains on family ski vacations, stopping every hour or so for the kids to visit the toilet.

It seems to me that if you're going to dedicate years of your life to a sport, you should choose a sport you can later apply to other parts of your adult life.

Cycling silver medalists Toshiaki Fushimi, Masaki Inoue and Tomohiro Nagatsuka and sailing bronze medalists Kenjiro Todoroki and Kazuto Seki can look forward to family cycling outings and sailing trips. For judo gold medalists such as Ryoko Tani and Tadahiro Nomura, judo may prove to be a handy parenting skill.

But I wonder, for example, how silver medalist Koji Murofushi will pass on his love for the hammer throw to his children.

Child: Mom, where has Dad been all day?

Mom: Koji's still out throwing hammers.

Child: Can I help him?

Mom: No, you're not old enough yet.

Child: But I've been practicing hard. I still get a little dizzy winding up at the beginning, but my form has improved and I think I'm ready. Besides, I'm tired of practicing throwing cats.

And how will gymnastics medalists Hiroyuki Tomita, Isao Yoneda and Takehiro Kashima figure the parallel bars, horizontal bar and pommel horse into family life? It might be easier to incorporate floor exercises into daily life. You know, take the family out for a tumble to the mall:

Tomita: Taro, you cartwheel over to the information booth to ask where the sporting goods store is while your mother and I do the splits here on the floor and wait for you. And remember, no smiling! Hiro-kun will be right back, as he just did a triple back handspring over to the little boys' room. By the way, where's Chibi-chan?

Chibi-chan: Hey, Dad, I'm up here! Watch me do a front flip from the top of this vending machine!

Even running is an exercise that can be incorporated into family life, although if you're taking a family vacation to Europe and your mother is gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi, she might opt for running through Europe rather than getting a Eurail Pass.

Imagine swimming gold medalist Kosuke Kitajima taking his family on a swimming vacation:

Kitajima: OK, kids, this year we're going to swim across the English Channel!

Kids: The English Channel? We did that two years ago. Let's swim across the Black Sea this year.

At which point they'd be glad their mother wasn't either Miho Takeda or Miya Tachibana, silver medalists in synchronized swimming. Swimming across the Black Sea is tough enough without a sequenced swimming suit and having to remember to smile the whole way.

In fact, the only advantage I can think of in taking a family swimming vacation is that there wouldn't be many toilet stops along the way.

Get Amy's "Guidebook to Japan: What the other guidebooks won't tell you" at the Dollar Book Store: www.mooooshop.com/MooooBooks/order/index.htm


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