Tomita sisters’ rivalry pushes each to new heights for Japan’s snowboarders

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Sisters Ruki, left, and Sena Tomita smile during the women’s halfpipe final on Thursday.

Sena Tomita took the bronze in the women’s halfpipe at the Beijing Winter Olympics. Not far behind was her younger sister Ruki.

Sena Tomita scored an 88.25 and Ruki Tomita recorded an 80.50 to place fifth. This is the second Olympics for the 22-year-old Sena, who finished eighth in the halfpipe at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. Ruki, just two years younger, is at her first Olympics.

“I didn’t expect them both to become Olympians,” said their mother, Misato, who snowboards recreationally, as does like their father, Tatsuya.

The family is from Niigata Prefecture and each of the sisters started snowboarding at age 3. Their parents thought it would be fun for the family to snowboard together.

At first, each of the sisters was tied to their father by a rope. They would walk up a slope, then snowboard down. When their father showed them how to make a turn, they started to imitate him. They had mastered turns by around the time they entered elementary school.

Sena became a professional snowboarder in her first year of middle school. Not to be outdone, Ruki obtained her pro certification when she was in the sixth grade of elementary school.

“We were saying, ‘It’s great we could compete together’ and that’s a happy feeling,” Sena said before the Beijing Olympics kicked off. “But I feel the same way as always, that I don’t want to lose to her.”