Broadening the Possibilities of Sport
What can MIZUNO contribute through sport? What role do athletes have to play?
President Akihito Mizuno met Noriaki Kasai, medallist from the Winter Olympics in Sochi. They talked about the Olympics, the environment and promoting sport.
Q.A medal-winning sense of determination
Akihito Mizuno (AM):
Congratulations on winning your medals at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. I went to the games myself, so I was able to share in the inspiration and wonder of the athletes' performances. It reminded me just how amazing sport can be. Starting with the Albertville Olympics in 1992, this was your seventh appearance at the Winter Olympics. That must have been very emotional for you.
Noriaki Kasai (NK):
Thank you. Your support no doubt helped me to win my two medals, including a team bronze as well as my individual silver. The Olympics are only once every four years, and you only get two jumps, so you are under pressure unlike anything at other events. Nonetheless, I was determined to keep pushing through, and that helped me to achieve the end result.
Q.Bringing out the very best performance
The Olympics are a symbolic sporting event that athletes work towards as their goal. Seeing that is a wonderful opportunity for MIZUNO too, as a supplier of equipment and sportswear. We first supplied Japanese athletes with equipment and sportswear for the Paris Olympics back in 1924, some 90 years ago now. We provided items such as the poles for the pole vault team. Getting top athletes to use our equipment and sportswear enables us to gather various types of information, so that we can keep on improving the performance of our products, even if it's just a fraction. Our hope is that those continued improvements might help to bring out the very best performance at the Olympics. In fact, we provided the jumpsuit you yourself used at the Sochi Olympics.
That's right. Actually, all skiers wear jumpsuits made from the same material, so the difference stems from how the individual parts are cut. You've got to try various different approaches to find the cut that best fits your body. At the same time however, the rules are revised on a regular basis, so you've got to keep on modifying your suit too. It was around the start of the year during the 2013 season that I finally found a suit that felt just right. MIZUNO provides me with at least ten suits every year, so I am always eager to repay that hard work with good results.
Q.Technical innovation stemming from strict requirements
Sporting prowess depends on physical strength and technique, but we are constantly thinking that, if equipment and sportswear can help in any way and contribute to the end result, then we have to do our level best as a manufacturer. That's why we always want athletes to tell us their requirements. When athletes come to us and ask, "would this be possible?", questions like that often contain a hidden a spark for technical innovation.
With ski jumping, it's essential to control your body weight. We have to comply with precise regulations in areas such as ski length and jumpsuits. If you lose even a little bit of weight, your suit could get twisted in such a way that violates the rules. That's why I had a member of staff from MIZUNO accompany me to Sochi, so that they could make minor adjustments immediately before the event. When I finished my practice jumps, I had a member of staff waiting for me at the bottom of the run. I was impressed to receive such generous support.
Q.Caring for the environment as second nature, for companies and individuals
I got the impression that there wasn't much snow at the Sochi Olympics. I assume that must have a serious impact on winter sports, especially ski jumping as you're in an outdoor natural environment. Having competed in different countries and regions all over the world, do you feel that we are getting less snow these days?
There was no snow at all in Sochi. Virtually all the snow was artificial. Every year I notice that there is less and less snow. This season in particular, there was very little snow in Europe. Because of recent changes, the rails on ski jumps are now made from ice and then packed with artificial snow. In fact, there aren't many places where you can ski on natural snow anymore, apart from Sapporo. That's how little snow we are getting.
Climate change is a serious issue that companies need to do their bit to tackle too. In the past, it seemed like you were doing something special if you stopped to think about the environment. These days however, caring for the environment is second nature. It's been 20 years since we launched our "Crew 21" environmental conservation activities here at MIZUNO. 100% of our new products are now environmentally friendly. We also organize activities that are unique to MIZUNO. As part of sporting events such as MIZUNO Victory Clinics for instance, we get top athletes, both current and former, to talk about the environment. Children tend to listen intently because the athletes are people they really look up to. They have a tremendous influence.
Ski jumps are built into the slopes of mountains, so I know the sport does everything possible to look after the environment. Recently, I have been receiving more and more requests to give talks, so I hope to use such opportunities to actively share what I have learnt from my own experiences in the future.
Q.Encouraging people to have hopes and dreams
Japan may have an aging population and a dwindling birth rate, but if you look at it from a different angle, that means that the number of healthy people is increasing. Sport is an effective way to maintain a healthy body and mind. To enable people to enjoy sport on a more long-term basis, we organize activities that are unique to MIZUNO, such as our MIZUNO Victory Clinics, in an effort to provide facilities and opportunities for people to get more involved in sport. Having been competing for such a long time, what would you say is important in order to keep enjoying sport over the long term?
It takes more than just ability and hard work to achieve results in the sporting arena. It's also crucial to keep going for as long as possible without giving up. That's why it's so important to keep your hopes and dreams alive. The fact that I won medals at the Winter Olympics in Sochi is living proof of just how important that is. I hope I can continue to convey the importance of having dreams to future generations of children too. I would love to see lots of children being inspired to step up in the future.
Ever since MIZUNO was established, we have been committed to promoting sport, rather than just selling products. We believe that, the more people play sports, the larger the market becomes. That's how we make a profit as a company. Now that Tokyo has been selected to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, there is growing excitement and momentum behind sport throughout Japan. Here at MIZUNO, we want to make the most of this opportunity to support sport and establish it as part of our culture.
- Akihito Mizuno (President, MIZUNO Corporation)
- Born in Hyogo prefecture in 1949, Akihito Mizuno graduated from the Kwansei Gakuin University School of Business Administration and joined MIZUNO Corporation in 1975. He was appointed President in June 2006.
- Noriaki Kasai (Coach and skier, Tsuchiya Home Ski Club)
- Born in Hokkaido in 1972, Noriaki Kasai is coach and a skier at Tsuchiya Home Ski Club. Since entering his first Winter Olympics in Albertville at the age of 19, he entered his seventh Winter Olympics at the most recent games in Sochi, where he won a silver medal in the individual large hill event and a bronze in the team event.