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Snowboarder Kokubo puts aside dress scandal, finishes 8th in halfpipe

Posted by Junichi Kawagoe on 18.2010 News Out of English Newspaper   0 comments   0 trackback
Mainichi Shinbun dated Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010


VANCOUVER, Canada -- Japanese snowboarder Kazuhiro Kokubo placed 8th in the men's halfpipe event at the Winter Olympics on Feb. 17 (Feb. 18 Japan time), after putting aside calls for him not to compete at all.

Images of Kokubo's less-than-formal take on the team's official outfit -- trousers low, shirt untucked and tie hanging loose -- taken prior to the team's departure from Narita Airport cost Kokubo his place at the opening ceremony. He was later forced to hold a press conference to apologize, along with Japanese team head Seiko Hashimoto. Tokai University, where he is currently enrolled, also cancelled a cheering event for him in Japan on the day of the event.

A native of Ishikari, Hokkaido, Kokubo first fell in love with snowboarding at the age of 5, and begged his parents to buy him the gear. In his second year of junior high school, he placed fourth in the FIS World Cup in Sapporo. After he enrolled at Noboribetsu Ohtani High School, he entered a string of competitions abroad.

"While he missed a lot of school while he was out competing, he always came to school when he could," says the school's snowboarding coach Kazuhiro Miyatake, 54. "He was always reliable with his homework too."

Coach of the Tokai University skiing club Hiroyuki Aihara, 48, also praises his studiousness: "He hands in his reports properly every time."

A professional snowboarder, Kokubo has won prizes at many major competitions, including at the X Games in the United States. The snowboarder himself has repeatedly described the Olympics as "just one of a lot of competitions."

However, after a meeting with Hashimoto on Feb. 12, he reportedly said he has "the passion as a sportsman to compete at this competition."

Hashimoto described him as the "type of person who's a bit tongue-tied and not very good at conveying their ideas."

At 17, Kokubo failed to pass the first round in the 2006 Turin Olympics. After scoring highly in the preliminary round in Vancouver on Wednesday, but in the finals, although he performed well, he failed to reach the podium.

★ 国母は北米で人気の総合競技大会「Xゲーム」など、賞金大会を主戦場とするスノーボードのプロ選手。賞金面などを考えれば「選手団としての規律」まで求められる五輪にこだわる必要はない。事実、五輪への思いを問われるたび「何も考えてない。いくつかある大会のうちの一つ」と繰り返している。

 しかし国母は、12日に橋本団長と面談した際、「選手として熱い思いを持って、この大会に臨んできた」と話したという。橋本団長は国母の印象を「口下手で、うまく思いを伝えられないタイプ」と表現する。
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