Olympic Medallist on Cultural Adventure
05 October 2012
Japanese London 2012 silver and bronze medallist Ryosuke Irie paid a special visit to Surrey Sports Park earlier this week to meet members of Guildford City Swimming Club, while enjoying several traditional British delights!
Irie was joined by a camera crew from his homeland to film a documentary based around the Asian star visiting the UK to experience various cultural norms and traditions, including a trip to the seaside for a fish and chip dinner and taking in a Manchester United fixture at Old Trafford, which he was too busy for while in London for the Games: “I focused just on the competition. I did not have time to see anything from the country, and therefore I came back to experience other thinks such as sightseeing or food.”
London 2012 was a successful Games for Irie, bagging silver medals in the 200m and 4x100m medley relay events and a bronze in the 100m final for the same stroke. Despite this, he left the Games initially disheartened with the haul which was missing his target gold: “at first there was a little disappointment; however in the end I got 3 medals so I am really proud and happy.”
The highlight of the Games for Irie was during the final of the 200m backstroke, in which he pipped 5-times Olympic gold medallist Ryan Lochte to 2nd place, leaving the American with a shock bronze medal despite out swimming Irie in the 2011 World Championships. Even after this feat he was not satisfied and was still looking for more from his performances.
It wasn’t until his final event, the 4x100m medley, which Irie really felt satisfied and would produce his fondest memories of the Games: “Thanks to that [silver medal] the team was in really good mood. That was an incredible moment, which I will never forget.”
Part of Irie’s visit to the country was to experience sports facilities in the UK and he was appreciative of how they differ from those he is used to in Japan, including Surrey Sports Park: “Of course the pool side is beautiful and fantastic, but you have also the other facilities. It is all combined together here at Surrey Sports Park. In Japan we don’t have so many places like that.
“That might be one of the reasons why UK is very strong in certain sports.”
Swimming was not initially an obvious talent for Irie, who at first fell behind his siblings in the pool. Lacking enthusiasm for the sport, it was his mother who encouraged him to continue working hard. This coupled with inspiration from his hero Kosuke Kitajima, a double Japanese Olympic medallist, was what pushed him to the levels of success that Irie experienced at London 2012.
Talking from his own experience as a child, Irie says that young swimmers should be realistic and steady in their dreams towards Olympic success: “I think it is better for the youngsters to concentrate on something in front of them – like a regional or borough competition. They should try to go step by step. Then without a notice they might reach to the top.”
Irie’s failure to achieve his dream gold medal at these Games will push him harder for Rio 2016, but he recognises that a change of location might be required in order for him to train to the required standard: “Of course there are the next Olympic Games in 4 years from now and I would like to get a gold medal. In order to do so, I am thinking about moving to a different country to Japan, where I have trained all my life. Or I might just try and get more training abroad, which would help me to get more experience and probably even inspiration.”
Despite wanting to give archery a go at London 2012, it is clear that Irie will not be hanging up his goggles any time soon!