It was in the women's 200m breaststroke at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games that KANETO Rie not only became the first Japanese female swimmer in 44 years to win a gold medal but also the first woman from Hiroshima Prefecture.
She retired from swimming in March 2018. Kaneto now lectures and coaches swimming in both Hiroshima and throughout Japan.
During the torch relay, she will run in her home city of Shobara to express her feelings towards sport and people of the city so that she can be an inspiration, especially to the next generation.
You are the first woman from Hiroshima Prefecture to have won an Olympic gold medal. Did anything change for you after you won?
It gave me more opportunities to tell people of my experiences but I think that at the same time, it made me feel that I had to be more responsible about what I said.
How do you feel as a medallist about the Olympic Games being held in Japan, and that the flame will pass through your hometown?
It’s amazing that the Olympic Games are going to be held in my country, and I feel it’s going to be even more amazing that the flame is passing through my hometown. I think that this will help the people of the region to experience the Olympic Games in a more personal way.
What do you teach or emphasise during lectures, coaching, and contributing to your local community?
I tell people that what I teach is not the perfect method, but rather one method of many that I want them to test, and that they need to listen to all kinds of people and find what works for them at the time.
What memories of Shobara would you like to share with people outside the prefecture?
When the town held a victory parade for me after the Olympic Games, I couldn’t help but be delighted at the sight of an elderly person who brought a chair to sit on to watch the parade. I think that it wasn’t only because I had won a gold medal, but because I felt a sense of connection with my family and the people in my community.
What do you want to tell the world as a torchbearer, and what are you excited about?
I want people everywhere to feel the Olympic Games personally. It would be nice if the Games inspires more people to learn about the history of the Olympics and take interest in future Olympics. I want to do my best to make it an event that passes the baton of history from the old to the young, and becomes a bridge to connects the past with the future.