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Sapporo 2017 Village Mayor Emi Watanabe with mascot Ezomon.
Village Mayor’s inspiring Sapporo story

17 Feb 2017
Sapporo, Japan, February 16, 2017: Sapporo inspired Emi Watanabe in 1972; now the retired figure skater is hoping Sapporo 2017 can create a new generation of winter sports stars across Asia.Watanabe is Mayor of the Athletes’ Village at Sapporo 2017 and took part in her first Team Welcome Ceremony on Thursday by providing an inspiring speech to the athletes, coaches and officials of Kyrgyzstan.

She explained how watching the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics on TV as a wide-eyed 12-year-old schoolgirl inspired her to compete at the top level of figure skating. “That is when my dream started to be an Olympian,” said the eight-time national champion. She competed in her first World Championships aged 13 the following year, and represented Japan in the 1976 and 1980 Olympic Winter Games.

Her breakthrough moment, however, came at the 1979 World Championships in Vienna, Austria, when she won a bronze medal – the first female Japanese figure skater to win a medal at this level and thereby laying the groundwork for the star names to follow.

Returning to her welcome address, she told the delegates that the three key elements of her sporting travels were food, bed and communication – and all these contributed to her performance on the ice. “There will be many children and fans watching the Asian Winter Games Sapporo 2017 and your performance can open a dream, as it did mine in 1972,” she concluded.
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