8th Place—She fell on her triple jump and had some shaky landings. She came in 8th, the same placement as the Vancouver Olympics. No medal. And yet, Suzuki smiled. “Since there was a time I couldn’t skate because of my illness, I was happy to have been able to skate. It might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I felt like I was living.” The strength to live. Being happy with her 22-year competitive career. It’s because her mother, Kei-san (63), was there.
In the summer of 2012, Suzuki was at a loss for words. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She didn’t allow it to affect her competitions. While her mother put on a brave front, she actually had to undergo surgery to have her left breast completely removed. Fortunately, the cancer had not metastasised. After one week in the hospital, she returned to her usual role as manager of a small eatery in Toyohashi City. Still, for her daughter, it was a moment that made her heart clench and to reflect on the importance of living.
It was her mother who saved her life. In her freshman year at Tohoku Fukushi U, Suzuki developed an eating disorder. She was pushed to the edge. When she returned to her hometown of Toyohashi, she weighed 32 kilos. Her mother showed strength even at night. She would brush her hand over her thin daughter’s mouth to make sure she was still breathing while she slept. If her daughter hit 30 kilos, she would be hospitalised. The mother who ran a mom-and-pop shop said, “I’ll get her better.” All so her daughter could continue skating.
Just a minute walk from the Toyohashi Station is a rented-out shop, an affiliate restaurant with an 8-seater counter was made. “When my daughter comes home, I wanted to get her to eat as soon as possible. Our other shop was just a bit further away. Also, I can see the shinkansen platform from the second floor.” After seeing her daughter off from the shop, she can’t help but worry if she would collapse at any time. So she always secretly watches the platform from the second floor to make sure her daughter gets on the shinkansen safely.
Right now Akiko trains in Nagoya City, and she eats dinner at her mother’s small shop. The 350en obanzai is worth lining up for. Her favourite is the potato salad. She is surrounded by regular customers. She is happy to eat. She is happy to be able to skate. And she confirms that life is indeed precious.
The 28 year-old veteran cannot thank her mother enough for allowing her to continue skating. “Thank you.” A thousand thoughts flow in that one phrase as she plans to leave the competitive rink at the end of this season.
—Nikkan Sports article by Abe Kengo (x)
friendly reminder that spirit animals are a sacred concept in a variety of religions worldwide (many of them being aboriginal religions that are at risk of destruction by european colonialism) and are not a way to joke about your admiration for something