Here are some interviews with a few of our athletes who will be participating in the Games.
T H E S E I Z E N S H I M B U N
Culture and sports
The Empire of Nagakawa’s inaugural entry into the Oatland Summer Games comes as national interest in competitive sport reaches an all-time high, with a total of 15 athletes entering the Oatland Summer Games and competing in six different events. Our participation in the Oatland Summer Games comes in the wake of several high profile competitions, like the National Field Championship (NFC) and the Inter-Prefecture Kyūdō Cup (IPKC).
In the lead-up to the games, which officially begin on the 5th of July, I interviewed four of our fifteen athletes in order to gain insight into the world of competitive sports as well as the daily life of a professional athlete.
Age: 23 (born 11 January 1997)
Home: Konogura, Kaga Prefecture (華々県)
“Representing my hometown on the world stage has always been a dream of mine, but I never thought I'd actually get to do it one day.”
For a gymnast, whom one might expect to be flashy and expressive, Miho Tsugata cuts a surprisingly unassuming figure. The 23-year-old native of northern Nagakawa stands at roughly 160cm tall and, between her modest choice of fashion and her speaking in a shy yet articulate manner, comes across as an ordinary college student, for whom one might easily mistake her were it not for the large assortment of medals and trophies that line her wall, and more fascinatingly, her rack of Chinese swords and pole arms in the balcony of her apartment in uptown Inada.
"I actually did wushu (a performance sport based on Chinese martial arts) before becoming a gymnast", Tsugata explained to me over tea in her tastefully designed kitchen. "I only started doing gymnastics when I was 11, and I did both sports until I turned 18. That was about the time when I decided to give up wushu so I could try competing at a higher level in gymnastics."
The collection of awards in her living room is a testament to Tsugata's flair for the sport, which she described as her "angel wings". In the National Gymnastics Federation's 2020 Cup, held earlier this year, Tsugata competed in five events, taking home gold medals for the uneven bars and the balancing beam and silvers for the remaining three, thus cementing herself as the overall champion of the 2020 Cup, as well as one of the foremost upcoming female gymnasts in Nagakawa. With the retirement of former National Champion Kiria Inagaki, Tsugata appears set to establish herself as the next big name in Nagakawan gymnastics.
This success does not come easy, as any athlete would be more than ready to say. Tsugata's daily regime sees her waking up at 5am, meeting her coach and beginning training at 7am after a quick breakfast. In the months leading up to her competitions, she eschews any form of entertainment and recreation whatsoever, training for twelve hours a day six out of seven days a week and spending the remaining waking hours of day eating, bathing, or sleeping, with the remaining one day spent on recovery and cardio training.
"It would be disrespectful to all those who have supported me every step of the way to give anything less than my one hundred percent effort", she explains with a glimmer in her eye. "That's one big reason why I have the drive to wake up so early and haul myself to the studio, even on the off day when I don't feel like it."
Her other motivating factor, however, is a lot simpler than one might expect.
"My birthplace Konogura is a small blip on the map, with a population of barely 6,000 people, many of whom are leaving for the big cities and never coming back", she mused to me, with a look of intense homesickness in her eye. "[The renowned haiku poet] Yukio Yamamoto was from Konogura, but other than those who study his poetry, hardly anyone has heard of Konogura. Perhaps if I win something, people might take an interest in my hometown."
As for her plans for the future, Tsugata was more noncommittal. In 2019, she turned down a sportsman's scholarship offered by the Ministry of Culture, citing her unwillingness to pledge an additional five years of her life to professional gymnastics.
"I'll probably retire when I turn thirty. I want to go back to living in Konogura. City living just isn't my thing."
Age: 21 (born 11 November 1999)
Home: Yokobuchi-shi, Yokobuchi Prefecture (横潭県)
Sport: Equestrian (Dressage)
Yūya Kusanagi turns 21 in November, and to celebrate his "coming of age", he plans to crack open a bottle of Moscato his parents saved for the occasion since he was 3. Till that day, however, Kusanagi has sworn off any and all sweet and sugary drinks in favour of plain water, an oath he has kept to for the past three years, when he first began participating in competitive equestrianism.
"My horses don't drink any of that s***. Neither should I, at least not now", said Kusanagi with a highly infectious laugh.
Born in Yokobuchi Prefecture's capital, Yokobuchi City, Kusanagi is something of a local celebrity there, and though he was reluctant to say much about his childhood, he was more than happy to talk about his horse, Koba.
Standing at just 15.3 hands tall, Koba is a pure black 11-year-old Sverigen Warmblood who, like Kusanagi, was also born in Yokobuchi Prefecture, in the city of Yagami. Kusanagi first met Koba in 2014, training with him ever since then.
"I'd share a picture of him with you, but I don't know if they [Koba's team] would allow it."
When asked to talk about his most challenging experience, Kusanagi, surprisingly, explained that it was not the training or the regimentation one might expect in the life of a pro-athlete, but rather, his parents' objections. Both of Kusanagi's parents are judges, and as Kusanagi shared, they disapproved of him choosing to be a rider, insisting instead that he study law.
"I told them one day that I had no interest in studying law, but they wouldn't have any of it. I had to get my grandmother, who's also a horse lover, to talk to the both of them before they finally agreed to let me take a few years off to compete before then going to university." Kusanagi hopes however that by competing in the Oatland Summer Games, his first international competition, he can convince his parents to let him continue on as a rider even after university.
"There's no shortage of lawyers, but as far as Koba is concerned, there's only one Yūya. I'm his first rider, and I think he would be very sad to see me go."
Age: 26 (born 26 March 1994)
Home: Azusamachi, Shikiyoru Prefecture (四季夜県)
When Hiromi Sakaguchi lost her father to the sea at the age of 4, she was still too young to process what exactly had happened.
Now, however, the 26-year-old, sitting across the table with a gigantic fruit smoothie in hand, believes that her becoming a competitive sailor is, oddly enough, her method of coming to grips with her past and with her father's death.
"My father loved the sea. He would spend night after night writing poetry about it and gazing out into the expanse", she explained between sips of her violently-coloured smoothie. "And though it was the sea that took his life, I hold no grudges whatsoever. The sea is alive. It is a sentient being. It is capricious. And if anyone understood that, more than anyone else, it was my father."
Sakaguchi picked up sailing at the age of 13, after being approached by her middle school sailing team's captain, Yūri Yumizuru, himself also now an accomplished sailor (though he declined to participate in the upcoming Oatland Games due to a shoulder injury). Her hometown Azusamachi is a scenic little fishing village wedged between the Northern Ocean to the north, the lush greenery of the Furugamori forest to the south and the west, and the Himeyama mountain range to the east, and though it is connected to the rest of Nagakawa only by a single train line and a single highway, it is fast becoming a highly popular tourist destination thanks to its unspoiled scenery and, increasingly, the growing presence of a professional sailing sector.
"I would say that growing up in such a beautiful, unspoiled place has given me the clarity of mind that I need to focus on my goals", Sakaguchi says. "When I feel dejected or stressed, I look out into the distance, and I am reminded that whether I win or not, the world goes on. Sometimes, when I lose focus and fall off my yacht, the water catches me and wakes me up. It reminds me, I need to live to try another day."
In her blog, WaterFernweh, which Sakaguchi runs independently of her sailing club, she details her struggle with depression and panic attacks. When she was 17, she suffered from a particularly bad episode of paranoia, and as a result, lost 7kg and was put on Ativan for a month. Still, even in her lowest points, she continued going out sailing.
"I will say without any hesitation that it was sailing that saved my life", she says, with a twinkle in her eye. "I owe my life to the sea."
Though she considers herself to be slightly on the older end compared to most other athletes, Sakaguchi has no intention of quitting sailing anytime soon.
"As far as I'm concerned, I've still got most of my life ahead of me."
Age: 25 (born 19 June 1995)
Home: Hakujira, Heigo Prefecture (平呉県)
Kyūdō is Nagakawa's national sport. For Toshiyuki Murakami, having the opportunity to train under both the kyūdō masters of Nagakawa as well as acclaimed teachers of international recurve archery is the greatest honour of his life.
"I'm not a particularly good student, so having the chance to excel in a discipline that few people even consider choosing as a career is, for me, the one thing I am most grateful for", said Murakami, 25, over coffee. He has a rather eccentric manner to him, speaking with a slight lisp and jittery from the large amounts of caffeine he says he drinks- skirting the urine test limit for caffeine, he jokes, is the other sport he truly enjoys.
Interestingly, none of this jitteriness is present when Mr Murakami draws his bowstring. Archival footage of past competitions shows Murakami calmly setting his eyes on his target, his elegant fingers pinching the string just the right amount as he calibrates the trajectory of his arrow.
"There's a technique to it", Murakami claims. "You have to consciously direct the caffeine out of your muscles and to your mind, where it helps you to concentrate. I'm not quite sure how to explain it, but it works for me."
Prior to his entering the Oatland Summer Games, Murakami competed in several high-profile national competitions, the latest of which was the Kyūdō Nationals in November 2019. It was there, says Murakami, where he met his now boyfriend, fellow kyūdōka Hiroki Yamagata.
The pair are currently engaged, though Murakami declined to reveal more details.
"It was Hiroki's dream to compete internationally, but because of carpal tunnel syndrome, he's had to retire early. In a way, I'm living out his dream for him."
Murakami will be competing in the Oatland Summer Games' archery event alongside two national scions- Masanobu Ninagawa, son of former Prime Minister Takumi Ninagawa, and Crown Prince Ayahito of Kamishiro, the son of the Emperor. (Neither Ninagawa nor HIH Prince Kamishiro wished to be interviewed). As the only "commoner" among the trio, Murakami believes it highly likely that the public will view him in a certain manner, but chooses not to care."
"My friends and family support me all the way, and that's all I need", he says with an endearingly toothy grin.
"Welcome to ANN's Coverage of the 2020 Oatland Summer Games, After last years good resultes, and unfortunate controversy's We have returned . Most Of our athletes have returned with some new ones here and there. We have left lasts year scandal involving Red Inglewood, a foreign reporter, and a random hotel broom closet all behind us, and look into the future. We will resume coverage when the Opening Ceremonies, here in the Anacin National Network,"
"This program is brought to you by Old Chattanooga Beer, pour yourself a mug of southern hospitality, And Costington's, Getting More with Less."
I think we made it just in time to apply for the games albeit drowning in 50 gallons of sweat. :3
*July 3rd, 2020, 2:17 - Lord Nanfoodle is sitting at his desk, clammy, AC blasting in his office in the executive mansion of The Onigiri Enclave, Subarashī Koya, when...*
"Oh right, those are coming up again. Ah, can't wait to relax a little and enjoy some biathlon..."
"Hey folks!! Oatland time again, but this time they're cursed, because it's the games they play when it's stupid hot outside!!"
"That's right, it's the 2020 Oatland Summer Games!! Summer!! That season we love, love, LOVE so much!!"
"Why am I here again?"
"Well, we're on a serious time crunch to put this announcement out to the folks, so we need some help on this, plus you'll be going with our athletes as The Onigiri Enclave's head representitive this go around. I mean, you're a weirdo that doesn't hate the sun and stuff, so you'll be at home doing this."
"Also, <bleep> you, that's why."
"That was rude, Yujimei."
"Well, as Yujimei pointed out, I have no desire to go back, and she's on a travel ban list, so we need someone new to go in our stead."
*completely ignored Nanfoodle* "Before we discuss the athletes in detail, let's get a quick primer for those of you at home that may be too busy to watch the entire press junket, or just aren't interested in the all the schmaltz like I am."
Events We Will Be Participating In:
Penny Neuworth (♀) returns to head our diving team, joined by newcomer Splash Mountain (♀)(¬).
Our rifle shooting team shrank by one this year, but the two that are repping us are familiar faces from last year, Melissa Edgeworth (♀) and Deidre Pall (♀).
Just like last year, we couldn't find a single Riceball crazy enough to want to schvitz under the hot sun in the middle of the day doing ten different track and field events, not for a lack of asking. Trust us, when we explained the Oatland Games schedule, we got plenty of colorful comments and gestures, and one recruiter was straight up shot in the foot when she heard the news. I told you, we Onigiri and sun... we don't get along.
In gymnastics, the other half of the Neuworth sibling duo returns as well, Kiki Neuworth (♀), along with her fellow 2019 teammates Desiree Jenkins (♀), Lotus Free Water (♀), and sole male gymnast Horse Renoit (♂).
Weightlifting sees two familiar faces from last year, Jonah Fawkes (♂) and Lena Papadapolis (♀), joined by fresh face and up-and-comer Poko Taru (♀)(բ)(₡).
A new face takes the reins in our equestrian division, Violet Gold (♀)(Ԅ).
Swimming finds our roster rather unchanged as both Hilde Crouse (♀) and Hyacinth Zestango (♀)(Ԅ) return for one more go.
When we sent out requests for archery tryouts, needless to say this outdoor event got some... savory responses. In other words, no takers.
For our new event, sailing we have a couple of... *video is released by Aclion of the event mid-news junket* wait... what is that? We're getting texts from our applicants? They said in a joint statement, "Wait, they expect them to <bleep> all what in the <bleep> <bleep> hot ass sun?! <bleep> that." Hmmm... Guess we don't have a sailing team then either.
(♂) = Male
(♀) = Female
(Ԅ) = Mermaid
(բ) = Nekomimi
(¬) = Pegasus Pony
(₡) = Cyborg
(Ɽ) = Robot
Sport Name listed in this color is our national specialty.
The Onigiri Enclave's Uniforms:
Our National Anthem is still "Progenies of the Great Apocalypse"
...and finally, of course, this is our Team Logo and our National Flag:
"Sometimes, with how much the typical Riceball hates heat and sunlight, I wonder why we even bother with the summer games at all?"
"Now that we have that settled, who do we have?"
"Well, my notes show that 23 year old Penny Neuworth from Lapis Lazuli has qualified again for these year's games, though she did decline an interview for some reason. However, the big news is our newcomer Splash Mountain, a 27 year-old pegasus mare out of Shimmering Shoots that..."
We're ready to resume our friendly rivalry with Anacin this year, however, from our side of things we considered the whole Red Inglewood/Peri North tryst a bit of levity given our poor run last year and then that total surprise disaster at the pool. Speaking of which, we'd like to introduce our own reporter, on assignment from the sports desk of FAWN, Fishy Apples World News, lead sports correspondent Delphi Bergit, who will begin their in-depth coverage when the games get underway.
Dang, Elberstan CTEd.
Bonus: The Camera pans around a trailing train, full of fans covered in red, green and gold. The Reporter is wearing a blue 3-piece suit
"And here we are, one on of the major fan transports of Anacinian Supporters of the team. "
The Crowd starts cheering
"And there is a great deal of patriotism radiating off these fan's and were excited to see what happens, This is Gladys Remainton, back to you guys at ANN"
Gladys Remainton, ANN Sports On Scene Reporter. Reaches out for a Handshake
Please rise for the anthem of the regional games https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGpYsnjKfWk
The Oatland Summer Games have officially begun, with almost 300 athletes competing; representing nineteen nations across eight regions, the most participants ever (unless you count the winter games in which nations produce like 30 athletes just by sending a hockey team :p).
We wish the best of luck to you all and hope that you will all compete in the spirit of fair play and common brotherhood.
"This Coverage of the Opening Ceremonies is brought to you by Costington's, Getting More with Less, and SuperVolt Batteries, Long Lasting, Forever Batteries"
The Reporter on screen is an older fella, with graying red hair and deep voice, his cohort is the young, previously introduced female reporter
"Welcome Back to the coverage of the Opening Ceremonies., my names, Pierre Edelson and Coming up Next is the message and start of the games"
"And there you have it, the games have begun. Join Gladys Tomorrow, with after coverage of the diving events, here on ANN"
The opening ceremony of the Oatland Summer Games is being attended by Nagakawa's Foreign Minister Reiko Hattori, Nagakawan Ambassador to the World Assembly Manabu Horibe, and former National Marksmanship Cup gold medalist Nobuhisa Taninaka.
Nagakawa's team wishes all other participating nations' athletes the very best of luck in the events to come, and offers a toast to the success of the Games.
"In recent news in the Hospean stands, a fan is being escorted out for bringing a live Black Panther to the Opening ceremony. This would be perfectly legal in Hospe but now a fist fight has broken out."
Reporter for the Hospean Sports Mail.
~A Carolina Blue-haired mermaid with shimmering burgundy scales on her tail in an English Violet colored suit consisting of a vest, necktie, blazer, and pencil skirt reciprocates Gladys' handshake~
Howdy!! Delphi Bergit, Chief Sports Correspondent for FAWN. Nice to meet you!!"
"This is Delphi Bergit, live from Oatland, where the 2020 Oatland Summer Games have begun!! Athletes are from eight regions are doing their best for glory and excellence here in Oatland in ten different events, nine of which Fishy Apples is participating in. Last night, the Opening Ceremonies took place to much fanfare. As usual, member nations of Oatland did presentations to showcase the region and excite the fans who came from all over, including an amazing musical number portraying the founding of Oatland performed by theater actors from Lennia, a massive dance number done by performers from Aclion showcasing their diverse culture, and a concert spearheaded by The Howling Barge of Dying Babies that was... rather interesting, to say the least.
Interspersed with these spectacles were the main draw of these games, the reason for the season, the why to why we are here, the team processions. Each nation's team marched out, led by their nation's team captain, carrying their nation's standard and waving to the crowd, each in alphabetical order. As such, that meant Fishy Apples would come out sixth right after longtime Oatland Games mainstay Finmany. For the most part, the Opening Ceremonies was a jovial event for all, although there was a noted ruckus in the stands in the section where much of the Hospe delegation resided as they dealt with a fan who brought with them a Black Panther. There is still some misinformation as to whether they were referring to an actual panther, a member of the nationalist organization of the same name, or the king of Wakanda.
About the only other major disturbance, besides The Onigiri Enclave simply being the The Onigiri Enclave, was something we ourselves missed at first and had to be made aware thanks to our partners at the Anacin News Network and media outlets from The Onigiri Enclave who were also to spot this development thanks to their higher definition camera relative to ours, but it seemed during our team's turn to march around the stadium, swimmer Lily Normande unzipped her tracksuit jacket to reveal not her uniform but what appeared to be a graphic t-shirt depicting Aclionian President Sébastien Larousse & Vice President Barbara Mace as a big game hunter and zookeeper, respectively, in a Victorian big game trophy room, Sébastien holding various Oatland Game medals in one hand just out of reach of a mermaid he's also using as a foot stool, while in the corner of the room is a taxidermied nekomimi dressed like a maid posed to look ferocious. This action comes as no surprise from Normande, who has been vocal on her belief the games have a heavy pro-human bias in judging. It was a theory that had a modicum of traction in some circles just after the 2019 games, but has largely been debunked after talking with Oatland officials and reviewing game footage. A recent The Bunny Fire poll conducted online across Fishy Apples, The Onigiri Enclave, and by leaflets returned by message in a bottle from Zephyr Island in Windiria, only 6% of those polled believe there is preferential treatment towards human competitors and/or prejudicious treatment of non-humans in the Oatland Games.
In response, the office of the queen has prepared a statement saying that Ms. Normande's actions are not the views and opinions of Fishy Apples officially, and deeply apologizes to President Larousse and Vice President Mace, and I have a feeling Ms. Normande will not be the most popular face in Bastiet for the next three and a half weeks."
"Turning to news of today's events, Fishy Apples made their mark right away with a big splash by netting diving gold!! This is Faruk Nor's first medal at the Oatland Games, and he is quite excited, thanking his mother, his high school swimming coach, the dark lord Cthulhu, and his girlfriend Kaguya Nishitami, whom he proposed to on camera immediately after the medal ceremony. We also salute silver medalist Marc Gérald of Aclion, who almost bested our Faruk today with an amazing 355B, and bronze medal winner Jane McCafree of Procrastra Nation, already winning her nation their first medal in their rookie outing at these 2020 games.
Anyways, that's all news out of Oatland for now. This has been Delphi Bergit, FAWN Sports!!"
Former Nagakawan Prime Minister Takumi Ninagawa has been spotted in Aclion’s capital city Bastiat, along with his wife Noriko Ninagawa.
It is understood that Mr Ninagawa’s son, Masanobu Ninagawa, will be competing in the archery event of the Oatland Summer Games, alongside none other than Crown Prince Ayahito, the eldest son of the Emperor. While the Emperor has made public his intention of flying to Bastiat in an official capacity on the 11th of July, Mr Ninagawa’s visit appears to be unplanned and independent of any dignitary function.
Mr Ninagawa, 45, was the youngest Prime Minister in Nagakawa’s history, and holds the distinction of being the only Prime Minister to have left office with higher approval ratings than when he first took office.
Political analyst Yukiko Hirota, when asked about any possible significance of Mr Ninagawa’s being in Bastiat, simply said, “The man probably just wants to support his son and have a nice holiday. We should leave him alone.”