Kaori Sakamoto: “My focus lies in the quality of everyday practice. When you reach a state “I’m not afraid because I’ve practiced this much,” things usually go well in competitions.”
Interview with Kaori Sakamoto for Adidas. About sports wear, confidence in competitions and future challenges.
source: media.alpen-group.jp dd. 26th May 2023
Rest is important for athletes who experience more physical and mental stress than one can imagine. How do you spend your off-time?
Kaori Sakamoto: it depends on my physical condition and mood of the day, but usually, I hang out with friends, watch movies alone, or go for a drive. Some days I’m so tired that I sleep all day.
I was a bit surprised to hear that you watch movies alone. Have you always enjoyed doing things like that?
Kaori Sakamoto: I am the type of person who is action-oriented and can make decisions quickly. For example, if I wake up in the morning and feel like watching a movie, I will go immediately. That’s the kind of lifestyle I have, so my way of spending my days off varies depending on what I feel like doing at that moment. I enjoy watching movies, especially ones that touch my heart, and I don’t hesitate to cry. So, I sometimes go to the movies alone and shed tears by myself (laughs).
In those moments, do you feel like it’s a time to relax and detach yourself from your sport?
Kaori Sakamoto: I am the type of person who clearly separates my on-ice and off-ice time, so when I’m not on the ice, I don’t think too much about skating. But of course, I try to enjoy my time off in a way that will be a good inspiration for my training the next day, without affecting my practice.
You mentioned that there are days when you’re tired and sleep all day. Is that during periods of consecutive competitions or overseas trips?
Kaori Sakamoto: Yes, that’s right. During overseas competitions, we have competitions almost every week or once every two weeks, so when I come back home, I’m tired and end up sleeping the next day. The long travel time also takes a toll, so sometimes I go home and just sleep without setting an alarm. Lately, I’ve been making sure to rest properly, so when I wake up, I pack my things, do laundry, and tidy up my room. Once my house is clean, it’s become a routine for me to go back to sleep (laughs).
When you spend your days off like that, do you wear sportswear?
Kaori Sakamoto: On my days off, I change my clothes depending on my mood. For example, when I go out in my hometown, I often dress casually. But when I’m alone and don’t have any plans to meet anyone, I sometimes wear sportswear to give the impression that I just finished training (laughs). I’m used to wearing it, and it’s comfortable to move.
How was your first encounter with Adidas, Sakamoto-san?
Kaori Sakamoto: Since I was in elementary school, I realized that I had been wearing Adidas shoes without even noticing. I also wore a lot of Adidas clothing, so people around me started calling me “Adidas” (laughs). When it was time for training camps, I would go to the store to look for new clothes, and even then, I would mainly check out the Adidas section.
My mom really liked Adidas. There was a sports store nearby, so we would go there to buy Adidas clothes and shoes. From elementary school to high school, I have been loyal to Adidas, spending most of my life with Adidas by my side.
Do you have any fashion preferences or things that you consider important?
Kaori Sakamoto: Not only the design but also ease of movement is something I particularly value. I enjoy wearing comfortable outfits, especially when I’ll be walking around for a long time. Since I was a child, I always wore clothes that suited my taste. Even in elementary school, I had a clear preference, so I only wore clothes that I liked. Even now, when I go window shopping and see myself in an outfit that catches my eye, I instantly fall in love and make an impulse purchase.
Shop assistants often ask me, “Would you like to try it on?” but I often end up buying it immediately, saying, “It’s alright, I’ll take it.” Since I make the purchase as soon as I enter the store, it can be embarrassing to say, “I decided just a minute ago,” so sometimes I try to evade the question by saying, “I’ve been thinking about it for a while” while laughing (laughs).
I’d like to ask about figure skating as well. Through figure skating, what message or feeling do you most want to convey or have people experience?
Kaori Sakamoto: I think figure skating can be perceived differently by each viewer. So, I would be happy if each person who watches my performances can feel something in their own way. Whether it’s positive or negative feedback, how they interpret it is up to them. In the midst of that, I believe it would be wonderful if the audience could empathize with and understand the feelings and messages I wanted to convey through my performances and programs.
You have achieved remarkable successes such as winning consecutive titles at the World Figure Skating Championships. What is important to you when performing on the world stage?
Kaori Sakamoto: I approach every competition with the mindset of having done everything I possibly could. I go through countless failures, successes, and gaining confidence through daily practice. I repeat this process multiple times, so that I can perform with confidence in competitions. I believe that the practice I have been consistently doing all along is the most important aspect. I truly feel that what I have done in practice always translates into the competition.
From accomplished athletes, we often hear about the importance of having confidence. How do you personally perceive the importance of having confidence?
Kaori Sakamoto: When I was young, I may not have felt the difference between practice and competitions as much, but as I progressed in my career, I began to sense that distinction. What I couldn’t do in practice, I couldn’t do in competitions. Conversely, what I could do in practice, I could do in competitions.
With that mindset, the focus lies in the quality of everyday practice. When you reach a state where you think, “I’m not afraid because I’ve practiced this much,” things usually go well in most competitions. Believing that if you can achieve a score of 120 in practice, you can deliver a performance worth 100 points in competitions, I push myself in practice. I have experienced this in multiple competitions, not just one or two. For me, the importance of having confidence is not about trying to have confidence, but rather dedicating oneself to daily practice with the goal of performing at a level beyond practice, and naturally gaining confidence as a result.
If you were to imagine your ideal as 100, where do you see yourself currently? Also, what skills would you like to improve in the future?
Kaori Sakamoto: If I were to consider the ideal state as 100, I would say I am currently around 65 to 70. However, as my skating has started to be recognized, I perceive it positively as gradually getting closer to 100.
As for future challenges, the foremost is expressive ability. I want to be able to convey a delicate and gentle atmosphere that is opposite to the “powerful” quality I have showed so far. If I can achieve all of that, I might become the 100 version of myself. I want to continue challenging myself and enhancing my expressive ability.
This will be the final question. With the weather getting better, there will be more opportunities to wear sportswear. How would you like people to wear sportswear?
Kaori Sakamoto: I hope people wear sportswear in a way that suits their personal style and makes them feel comfortable. Sportswear can be versatile, whether it’s for actual sports activities or as a fashion statement. I believe that when people feel confident and comfortable in what they wear, it enhances their overall performance and enjoyment. So, I encourage individuals to express their unique fashion sense while incorporating sportswear into their wardrobe.
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