KOKONA Okuno's dream is to compete and win a gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026, in the short track speed skating event.
She wants to feel the power of the Olympic Games first-hand by running through the streets of her hometown Asaka City, and use the experience to fuel her passion to become an gold medallist.
How did you feel when you heard that the Olympic torch was coming through your area and when you were selected as a torchbearer?
When I first heard that I was chosen, I was actually half asleep and could not think straight, but as time passed, the idea started to sink in. Now, I look forward to it.
What prompted you to start speed skating?
My father was a short track athlete when he was young. I found his photo as an athlete in his room and he looked so cool. I begged my parents to let me do it. I belong to a club now and do both short track and speed skating.
Do you have particular Olympians you look up to?
With short track, I admire CHOI Min-jeong who won a gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018 in the women's 1500 meter short-track speed skating event, because she is good at pacing her race. With speed skating, I admire KODAIRA Nao, because her start is quick and she keeps up the speed.
What does the Olympic Games mean to you?
Competing at the Olympic Games is the highest goal I have, and I really want to compete and win a gold medal. To achieve my goal, I train 5–6 days a week on the ground, and 3–4 days a week on ice. I also take two days rest a week to optimise my condition.
What are you most excited about being a torchbearer in Saitama?
I want more people to know about speed skating and short track speed skating. I want to show my spirit burning like the Olympic flame when I run as a torchbearer and build excitement for the Tokyo 2020 Games!