Exclusive: Youth Olympic mixed relay champion MIYATA Shogo eyes Beijing 2022. "Short track is my ‘ikigai’.”

MIYATA, a member of the short track speed skating mixed relay team that won gold in Lausanne 2020, is just announced to officially secure a place for Beijing 2022 yesterday. The rising star of short track spoke exclusively to Olympics.com about how he applied the Japanese philosophy of ikigai to his sport, his Youth Olympics experience, and his aspirations for and beyond Beijing 2022.

By Yukifumi Tanaka
Picture by © 2020 / Comité International Olympique (CIO)

Twenty-three nations earned quotas for Beijing 2022 at the end of the four Short Track Speed Skating World Cups held over the last two months.

Japan earned eight quotas in total - four places for men, three for women, and one spot in the mixed relay making its debut in Beijing 2022.

MIYATA Shogo highlighted his status as a rising star making a valuable contribution to Japan's quotas while winning the gold medal in the mixed NOC relay at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games. Furthermore, Miyata is chosen by the National Federation as a representing skater to go to Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games yesterday (15 December).

No one knows until the very end

“My cousin invited me to the discovery programme for short track,” Miyata said about how he got into the sport.

At the age of six, Miyata first encountered short track unaware that he would be involved in the sport for the next 13 years. The Japanese athlete does not remember how scared he was at the beginning but said he was “completely hooked”.

“The dynamic intensity makes short track more fascinating than other sports. No one knows what happens until the very end at the finishing line," he said.

Last September, Miyata won the 500m and 1,000m events, and finished second in the 1,500m at the national trials. Thanks to these results, he was selected as the number-one athlete for the Japanese delegation to the four World Cup competitions to gain as many Beijing 2022 quotas as possible. The teenage hopeful said he particularly enjoys the 1,500m race.

“(In the longer distance) I am good at judging the position and timing to watch the opponents before moving ahead,” Miyata said.

“I wanted to win at the 1,500m too for consecutive victories but now I am positive because I know what was lacking.”

Once-in-a-lifetime experience

Less than two years ago, Miyata was in Lausanne, Switzerland representing his country in short track speed skating at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.

Although he regrets not delivering the results in the 500m and 1,000m individual events, he finished on a high note on the last day of the Games.

The NOC short track speed skating mixed relay took place on the closing day of the showpiece. Days earlier, he formed a mixed relay with three athletes from the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, and the United States. Teams were formed by athletes from different NOCs (National Olympic Committees), with the group called Team B winning the gold medal.

The newly formed team took the spoils, with Miyata crossing the finish line first. Miyata shared the top step of the podium with his new teammates wearing smiles as they held their gold medals.

MIYATA Shogo (centre) shares the joy to win gold medals of mixed NOC relay with his teammates at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games
Picture by © 2020 / Comité International Olympique (CIO)

“After the announcement of team members, we trained together and discussed the tactics in a short period,” Miyata recalled.

“I cannot speak English well, but I could communicate with short words and my passion!”

Despite the language barrier, the youngster made new friends as the cherry on top of the Youth Olympic Games experience.

“Even now, I stay in touch with the teammates. I could meet them at the World Cups the other day,” he said.

“The Youth Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Moreover, we may never again be able to participate in a relay team with athletes from other countries. I feel it was a really great experience at the Youth Olympic Games.”

Miyata spoke of his experience playing table tennis with other athletes in the Olympic Village and collecting pins. He also shared some advice for the next generation of athletes that will go to the Youth Winter Olympics in Gangwon 2024.

“I know you may aim for gold medals, but I hope you will enjoy the vibe and the Games itself by making friends with foreign athletes,” said Miyata.

Gold-winning team of short track speed skating - Mixed NOC relay at Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games
Picture by © 2020 / Comité International Olympique (CIO)

Getting back to competition

Shortly after Lausanne 2020, the global COVID-19 pandemic struck, also affecting the world of sport. Last season’s Short Track Speed Skating World Cups were cancelled due to the pandemic.

Owing to stricter quarantine regulations in Japan, most Japanese skaters, including Miyata, missed out on competitions such as the world championships.

“The hardest thing was not being able to take part in overseas competitions,” said Miyata, who failed to step onto the podium at the last four World Cups.

“Two years ago (before the pandemic), I made my debut at the World Cups. Without knowing how much I could compete, I was excited about every race all the time. But now, I know where I am against international skaters. I could not win any medals and also lost to opponents I defeated before.”

“It was difficult to compete for the Olympic quotas because I was too cautious.”

The teenage skater had the added pressure of representing his country in an Olympic season which would hold him in good stead.

Finding inspiration

Miyata is inspired by rival skaters like Italy’s Pietro Sighel and Summer Olympians such as Tokyo2020 table tennis bronze medallist HARIMOTO Tomokazu, also born in 2003.

“When I see the athletes from the same generation reaching great heights in the world, I am very excited,” he said.

The 18-year-old said he could not wait for Beijing 2022 and witness the renovated Capital Indoor Stadium that will stage the figure skating and short track speed skating competitions. The Olympic test event and the first leg of the World Cup were held at the venue last October.

“Before the final competition, there was the special announcement of finalists. It looked super cool to me. Brand new facilities and brilliant lighting. I just want to go for the line-up there,” said Miyata.

“I am really, really looking forward to the race at Olympic Games.”

Ikigai – a reason for being

This weekend’s (18 and 19 December) national championships will serve as the final trials for Beijing 2022, where the Japanese team will be announced for the upcoming Winter Olympic Games. In spite of the results at the trials, Miyata is officially selected to go to Beijing Olympics. But he admits he needs to improve, but he knew what he needed to do.

“From the World Cups, I learned that I have to improve my conditioning to be at my best for each race. For that, I need to understand my body further and look after my health.”

The youngster views Beijing 2022 as a stepping-stone towards success at the next edition in Milano-Cortina 2026.

“The Beijing Olympics is necessary for me, aiming for medals. Then, I can be more mature and in better condition going into the next Olympics,” he said.

Miyata spoke about the Japanese philosophy of ikigai and how it related to his passion for short track speed skating.

“So far, there is only this to me…short track is my ‘IKIGAI’, to win and to train for victory. That is super fun!”

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