Another post I’ve been wanting to do for a while, seems fitting to go with my short absence. Hiroyuki Tomita is a guy I only got to know at this Olympics. Although he wasn’t the star of the tournament, he made a lasting impression to me. Most people may remember him (for the wrong reason) as the guy who fell of the rings, but to me, he is a fighter.
At first during the qualifications, my interest was piqued because he always seemed so tense and unsmiling, even after he’s performed well. So I sort of rooted for him for the rest of the time, because I thought, if he’s won a medal, there’d be no reason not to smile. Haha but when he won silver in the team, he didn’t really smile much at all, maybe just a little, but hardly the big, teethy grin I was hoping to see.
So then I employ the use of the Internet’s second most powerful weapon – Youtube. I found lots of footage of his past performances. His memorable Athens high bar routine, and his all-around title in the Worlds. (And it was in the year before the scoring system changed too.) From his Beijing stint I knew he was classy, but I didn’t know he was that good. Then again, he had to be experienced enough to have that degree of nonchalance and coolness about him. I also found this on the tube:
It’s an interview with him by that guy from Arashi (no wonder he looked so pretty) before the Beijing Olympics. Anyway, after watching that, all the mystery surrounding Tomita somehow disappears. I thought that would somewhat diffuse my interest in him, but it hasn’t. He’s just such a simple guy (he doesn’t even have a bookshelf or CD rack at home, just a Tv) who is so focused and so hardworking, which explains the serious look during competition. From the interview, you can really see that gymnastics is his life. He’s usually pretty quiet and doesn’t speak much, and gives really short answers when asked about personal stuff. But when asked about gymnastics or anything related to it, he just lightens up and starts talking a lot (even though I don’t really know what he’s saying, he just seems so much more animated). Oh, and he does smile when talking to people. I suppose he just finds it weird to smile at cameras during the competition.
He’s also pretty humble in the sense that, when Sakurai asked if he thought talent or practice is more important in gymnastics, he chose the latter. He then launches into a pretty lengthy (for his standards) explanation of why he thought so, which I obviously didn’t understand. Even though Japan is a pretty advanced country, I don’t think they put so much into sports like US or China. That’s why their athletes are more grounded, and gymnasts like Tomita aren’t paid to train, it’s the other way around. Tomita takes care of his own diet, and doesn’t have a special about of intake or what not like Phelps does. (Which by the way, 12000 calories seem ghastly). Well, I think a regular Japanese meal is much much healthier than a regular American meal of burger and fries anyway.
Anyway, Tomita must be really tired now after the Olympics. He actually looked relieved after his routine in the high bar finals, even though he messed up his landing a bit. But as the captain of the team, he did lead them to a silver; it’s just a little disappointing to see him without an individual medal. And he had to lose out in such heartbreaking manner too, falling off the rings. Taking a fall from the rings or high bar has to be the worst, being so far off the ground. Poor Tomita, he looked up at the rings and then at his hand guard, as if to ask “what happened?”, then he just gets up on his feet to acknowledge the crowd.
That fall really broke my heart. Even more heartbreaking is the fact that he didn’t make any excuses for his fall at all. He just said (jokingly, I think) that he was too tired to hold on to the rings. He still fought on for the rest of the apparatus, because he said he had to give his best, since his teammate Koki Sakamoto qualified higher than him but Tomita was chosen to represent instead. I was personally hoping that the fall wouldn’t have affected his performance in the high bar final, but his routine didn’t have the difficulty to match the others, and he didn’t have a perfect performance. Well, that’s just disappointment from my side. For Tomita, I think he’ll always put beauty and execution ahead of difficulty. The beauty of the sport is probably why he likes it so much, so he’s not going to go the Chinese way and up the difficulty without doing justice to the beauty of the tumbling. I really respect his principle on that, and how he works tirelessly to aim for perfection.
Word is that FIG is going to reduce the number of gymnasts in a team from six to five, meaning that in team competitions they can only send 5 gymnasts. That means that there is a very slim chance that Tomita will see action in London, even though I’ll cling on endlessly to what little hope that’s left. The least I can hope for is that he can stick around for the next two world championships, and sort of redeem himself before bowing out. And until then, I’ll just satisfy myself by watching the clips of him in action on Youtube.