Kento Sakuyama: "I want to make it into the Top 30"
In our series "FIS Ski Jumping-Talk" we present interviews with ski jumping athletes and officials. Today: Kento Sakuyama (25).
At age 25, Kento Sakuyama is not one of the youngest athletes in the field, but still many fans considered him a newcomer this summer. After sporadic appearances in the World Cup in the past years, he seized the opportunity in the FIS Grand Prix and took the first win of his career in Hakuba. With winning the overall title of the Grand Prix, Sakuyama also secured his place on the Japanese World Cup team, but he failed to qualify for the individual competition of the World Cup opening in Klingenthal.
FIS Ski Jumping: Kento, after a very successful summer the start of the World Cup season didn't go as you would have wished. How satisfied are you with the team competition in Klingenthal and why couldn't you qualify of the individual event?
Kento Sakuyama: I think that I did my job in the team competition. I made no big mistakes in both jumps, that's good. In the qualification I had very bad conditions. There's nothing you can do about that. I try not to worry too much about it. Hopefully I can jump with better conditions next time.
FIS Ski Jumping: How do you spend days, on which you can't jump at all, like in Ruka?
Sakuyama: I go running a bit and try to have some peace and quiet. Doing the laundry is very good for that (laughs).
FIS Ski Jumping: With winning the FIS Grand Prix you had a very good summer. How do you want to confirm this success?
Sakuyama: In summer I was very strict with myself and I put a lot of pressure on myself. It's important that I get more relaxed. I was working on that. Of course I have to be disciplined, but I need to find the right mix.
FIS Ski Jumping: Were you surprised by your very good results in summer?
Sakuyama: I was very surprised, I didn't expect it. But this success, of course, also raised the expectations, especially my own. This can also make it more difficult.
FIS Ski Jumping: How exactly do you try to handle this pressure? You also have very strong competition within your team.
Sakuyama: For sure Noriaki Kasai, Taku Takeuchi and Daiki Ito are the best jumpers of our team. They are almost always competing in the team events, the fourth guy is often changing. Sometimes I was competing as well. I try not to think about it too much. We want to be strong as a team, there's no competition. If I would feel like that it would hold me back.
FIS Ski Jumping: Can such an experienced athlete like Noriaki Kasai also help the younger jumpers?
Sakuyama: Of course Noriaki gives us advice, but also the younger athletes are getting older. I also try to help the younger jumpers. You should not depend on anybody, it's important to gain your own experiences.
FIS Ski Jumping: Did the Japanese team spend the last weeks before the start of the World Cup at home or did you come to Europe earlier?
Sakuyama: We spent the last weeks of training in my home town Nagano and did a lot of physical training there. We traveled to Europe right before Klingenthal.
FIS Ski Jumping: Could you jump on snow in Japan already?
Sakuyama: We couldn't land on snow, but we trained on the ice track in Sapporo for a week.
FIS Ski Jumping: What's your goal for the new season?
Sakuyama: My goal is to improve my performance compared the last year. I want to try to score points constantly, that I can make it into the Top 30, even if my jumps are not perfect. At the end of the season I want to be among the best 30. Of course I want to achieve new career-best results in the individual competitions. So far my best result in the World Cup was an 18th place.
FIS Ski Jumping: How special was it for your to win the FIS Grand Prix in Hakuba?
Sakuyama: It was very special. My family was there and also my girlfriend. I received a lot of congratulations. It was a great experience.
FIS Ski Jumping: The most important team competition this season will be the one at the Ski Flying World Championships. How high are the chances for the Japanese team to win a medal?
Sakuyama: Of course I don't know who will be on the team, but I would like to be a part of it. I try to train well enough to get a chance to compete there. I would like to do my part so that our team can fight for a medal.
FIS Ski Jumping: Thank you very much for the interview and all the best for the season.