Japan ski jumper Kobayashi first took flight in family garden

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ryoyu Kobayashi competes in the men’s large hill individual event at the Zhangjiakou National Ski Jumping Centre in Zhangjiakou, China, on Saturday.-

Ever since he was a child, Japanese ski jumper Ryoyu Kobayashi has been driven by his desire to “fly long distances,” a passion that began with a snow mountain his father built in the family garden.

When Kobayashi was just 3 years old, his father Hironori, a junior high school teacher, built him a snow mountain several meters high.

“No. 1, from Iwate Prefecture …” Hironori would call out Kobayashi’s name like a competition announcer and blow a whistle. Kobayashi slid down on his skis and jumped off from a short height above the ground. He and his older brother Junshiro loved this kind of jumping game.

Kobayashi started competing in earnest in the third year of elementary school. His older sister and younger brother were also ski jumpers, so they were called the “four Kobayashi siblings.”

Courtesy of Tsuchiya Home co.
Ryoyu Kobayashi, center, skies in his garden as a child.

When he was in his fifth year, Kobayashi participated in several sports as part of an athlete discovery program run by the Iwate prefectural government. In just two hours, he mastered a throwing technique in wrestling that takes high school students a month to get right, and was told by an instructor, “you could be world champion.”

Kobayashi was also approached by people involved in boxing and skating.

He played soccer at junior high school, but his favorite sport was skiing, because it was fun for him to “fly in the sky.” In his third year of junior high school, Kobyashi won two national championships, one in jumping and the other in combined skiing.

“I want to perform big jumps,” Kobayashi usually says before competitions. His desire remains unchanged — competing with rivals is important, but it’s flying far that gives him the best feeling of all.

His excellent takeoffs and stable aerial position have contributed to his wins, but Kobayashi says the real secret to his success is that he’s able, “in a good way,” to forget his victories. It took him a while to remember how many World Cup wins he has, but he could immediately recall the number of sneakers in his collection — more than 80.

Now that Kobayashi is a leading figure in the world of ski jumping, he feels that “I have to make things more exciting.” On YouTube, he shows videos of his jumps with a small camera attached to his head, and answers questions from viewers.

After winning the normal hill, Kobayashi said, “The Olympic stage has helped me grow.” He made a big jump into his favorite sky in the large hill final on Saturday, just as he did when he was a child.

Masahiko Harada, a gold medalist at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, is impressed with Kobayashi’s performance. “Japan is set to lead the world,” Harada said.

Kobayashi will likely continue to make history, flying high into the sky as Japan’s top jumper.