Interviews Justine Villena Okayama University Sports

Interview with one of Japan’s Strongest – Okada Kana

One of the things GDP does not find itself in a shortage of is sports talent. Our students are found in various sports clubs such as cheerleading, kyūdō, and weightlifting. This time, we’re pointing our microphone for an interview with a champion powerlifter, Okada Kana!

Written by Justine Ariola Villena

One of the things GDP does not find itself in a shortage of is sports talent. Our students are found in various sports clubs such as cheerleading, kyūdō (弓道), and weightlifting. This time, we’re pointing our microphone for an interview with a champion powerlifter, Okada Kana!  

Kana is a 3rd year GDP student who is part of Okadai’s Weight Training Club and Japan Powerlifting Federation competing in the 63kg weight class. In powerlifting, athletes get three attempts to lift their weights in three different lifting positions. “We have squats, deadlifts, and bench press,” she explains. In last year’s November, Kana bagged the gold medal for the Japan Classic Powerlifting Championship. In December of the same year, she participated in the West Japan Full Championship. In this interview, Kana tells us about that and her experience in weightlifting in general.

Polyphony: Could you tell us how your latest competition went?

Kana: “I got first place for that one too. I’ve only earned one silver medal, in my very, very first competition in my freshman year. It’s only been getting gold medals after that.”

Kana earning 1st place in 63kg class

P: Wow! We can only imagine the time and devotion it takes to get there. What are your record heaviest lifts for each category?

K: “The official record that I have are the ones that I have in the National Japanese Championship, the one that leads to the world championship. For squats, I lifted up to 150kg; bench press, 70kg; for deadlifts, I missed my third attempt, so I have to count my second attempt, which is at 147.5kg.”

P: You get three attempts to lift in each position. Which one do you find the least and most difficult?

K: I really don’t like the bench press because it makes me exert a lot of power in a position that is not easy to breathe in. I like the squats most, and deadlifts are neither a like or love for me.

P: What does your preparation exercise look like?

K: If it’s still 2 or 3 months before the competition, I gradually reduce the weight that I use in practice. In this particular sport, unlike track and field or any other active sport, I have to store my energy and get back from my fatigue. I need to rest as much as possible. I have to get the muscle memory of handling the heavy weight.

P: Who are the people with you when you train? Do you train in your free time as well?

K: I actually don’t like team practice very much. Y’know, because there’s not many machines I can use; there are too many people and I have to wait in line. I also don’t like people talking to me during my training. I go to team practice about once a week to be in the team. Usually, I do practice with my coach about 2 to 3 times a week in between classes.

As per Okadai tradition, alumni of the Weight Training Club serve as the coaches for new team members. Kana’s case is no different as she is coached personally by a graduate of Okayama University. She prefers training solo, focusing on her training rather than spending club activity time to socialize.

P: Since you’ve been winning golds ever since, how do you feel each time you see your name appear on the 1st place?

K: I honestly feel like it’s become normal for me, but I have to keep training hard because if I start seeing myself at 2nd, I would be feeling disappointed in myself. I like the feeling of being at the top. I know when I win, there were a lot of people who trained to beat me, but I think I practiced harder than them so I gained my victory. My “inner body” enjoys it. Plus, my parents are pretty attentive of my progress. Also because of them, I feel the need to win. I actually think that the pressure is good for me; I can turn all of it into my motivation and power.

You have to get used to it. When you compete, you get nervous before your event. Many people who don’t know how to control their nervousness will think “I might still be weak”, “I don’t know if I can win this.” If you know how to get your nerves under control, you can turn it into your own motivation.

P: While we have the opportunity to hear from someone as experienced as you, what can you advise to people thinking of getting into weightlifting?

K: Well that’s a sudden difficult question [laughter]. I personally do it as my stress relief, and I like getting the gold. I guess, for people who want to get into powerlifting, you have to have the motivation to keep training and going to the gym. A lot of my teammates start out, but they quit after they lose once. Sports isn’t about getting gold all the time; it’s about competing with yourself and improving—becoming a better version of yourself than the past. It’s not something you should do only if you feel like you *have* to do it.

With those valuable words of experience said, we end the interview with a message that Kana wants to extend for people who wish to strive and are striving to be athletes.

Kana: For people interested in sports, but do not have the motivation to start or feel like they can’t keep up [with everyone else], try to enjoy it as much as possible. Enjoy the slow process of progressing towards the achievement you aim to get. Enjoy the people around you who support you and tell you “you’re doing a good job” and encouraging words like that.

The photo in this article belongs to Kana Okada.

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