閲覧支援ボタン
Font Size
Color Contrast
Language
ATHLETE
選手を知ろう

Ryoichi Akamatsu, Athletics – The “Three-Way” High Jumper Soars on the World Stage

2024.02.24

At the Twilight Games held in July 2023, high jumper Ryoichi Akamatsu broke his personal best with a jump of 2m30cm, becoming the 8th Japanese athlete to make the "big jump". The following month, he reached the final of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23. He became the second Japanese to finish in 8th place. Akamatsu-san not only competes, but also works as an IT engineer and is a research student at the Gifu University School of Medicine. We interviewed the high jumper, who is active in a wide range of fields as a "Three-Way," about how he faces the competition and his thoughts on the World Athletics Championships Tokyo 25.

Ryoichi Akamatsu
Born in 1995 in Gifu Prefecture. Men’s high jump (2m30|6th in Japan’s history *as of January 2024).

After graduating from Kano High School in Gifu Prefecture and Gifu University, he went on to graduate from the graduate school of Gifu University.
Currently, he is a member of hrs, where he balances competition and research. He learns from academic papers and other sources what training methods can be employed to improve jumping technique, and he develops training plans and modifies techniques based on those evidence. As a researcher, he has written papers on gait balance and falls, and his goal is to obtain an M.D. degree.
He is training daily with the goal of competing in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and the World Athletics Championships Tokyo 25.

 

Sensation Similar to a Basketball Layup Shot

–How did you get started in high jump?

I played basketball until junior high school. I tried out for the high school club, but the practices seemed too hard, so I decided to look around at other clubs. The track and field club looked interesting and had a good atmosphere, so I decided to join. At first, I practiced short distance running and long jump, but when I tried high jump, my advisor told me, “You should do high jump”. I had always played basketball, so the feeling of stepping out of the curve of a layup shot was similar, and the sensation of floating was fun, so I decided to “give it a try”.

–What aspects of yourself do you feel make you a good high jumper?

If you gain too much muscle mass, you will become too heavy and will not be able to jump in the high jump. I think I have a body shape (183 cm, 61 kg) that is suited for competition, including my body weight, because I can easily exert great power even with a small amount of muscle mass. This is one of my strengths.

Encountering the High Jump in High School: Describing Himself as Having the ‘Ideal Physique for the High Jump

–When did you decide to aim for the world in the high jump?

In my second year at university, I won the Japan National University Championships with a jump of 2m25cm. I was also able to participate in the Japan National Championships, and I guess it was around that time that I set my sights on competing on the world stage.

Triple Identity: High Jumper, IT Engineer, and Medical School Researcher

–You went on to Gifu University, but I think you also had invitations from other strong universities. Why did you choose Gifu University?

I was invited by other universities, but I believe that track and field is an individual sport, so basically, practice is something you build up alone. So I was wondering if I could do it anywhere. There were strong athletes at Gifu University, and I am from Gifu, so I took the general entrance examination. I also thought about other things besides athletics when I made my choice. I had always liked teaching, so I was interested in the teaching profession. One of the reasons was that I wanted to enter the Faculty of Education and obtain a teaching license in physical education, so that I could switch to teaching after quitting athletics.

–You are currently a high jumper in competition, an IT engineer by trade, and a research student at Gifu University’s Faculty of Medicine. What are your plans for this?

First of all, I am an IT engineer, which is a job I am involved in at the company I belong to, and I coordinate between programmers and customers to facilitate proposals and associated communication. As for research students at the medical school, I am a member of the orthopedic surgery laboratory because our company is also involved in the medical business. What I am researching there is the relationship between “walking and falls”. I would like to create a system to prevent falls, and when I study the medical part of it, I find it useful as an athlete, so in that sense it is related to many other things.
In addition, I am also thinking about my career after I retire, and I want to try different things so that I can develop my knowledge more broadly outside of competition. The vaulting events do not require long hours of practice every day, so I am working daily to find things that will benefit me in my spare time.

One of the Three Faces: “IT Engineer”

Instead of Feeling Down After a Loss, Reflecting on the Reasons

–The Japanese record is 2m35cm, held by Naoto Tobe. What do you think you need to improve in order to surpass it?

I believe that two points: trying to make the run-up a little smoother, and trying to strengthen the impact of the step off. What affects the leap is the speed before stepping off and the initial speed when jumping upward. In order to increase these two factors, we need to generate a good horizontal speed when we enter the run-up phase, and how to convert it into an initial speed for the upward jump when we step off. In order to improve the efficiency of this process, I believe that if we can shorten the ground contact time as much as possible and make the step-off such that the athlete catches the ground below and pushes upward, the record will be further improved.

–What specific training will you be doing to strengthen your stepping?

During the winter months, I will do power training to increase muscle mass. The time it takes to get off the ground is about 0.18 seconds, but I will be doing plyometric training and drop jumps to increase muscle mass and make the muscles usable in the movements during that time.

–I think that facing the records can be painful. How do you take care of your own mental health?

I don’t get so depressed when I fail in a game. Instead, I immediately think about why I failed. I believe that I need to be in perfect condition to aim for my best at any time in a game, and there is always some reason when things go wrong. I think about that, and when I find something, I reflect it in my next training plan. I believe that without repeating such a cycle, better performance will not be created.

Even During Practice, Shows a Bright and Gentle Expression

The World Championships is the Most Important and Biggest Goal

–You became the second Japanese athlete to finish in 8th place at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23. What did you feel after experiencing the final stage?

I felt that the athletes in the top ranks have been focusing on the finals. The schedule for the finals was one day after the qualifying round, but many of the competitors were in a higher gear compared to the qualifying round. It was my first final, so I put all my energy into qualifying. Of course, it was not a stage where I could cut corners, so I had to give it my all from the qualifying rounds, but I needed to think about each and every jump with an eye to what would happen after that.

–What kind of place do you feel World Championships for you?

I think it is the most important and major goal of athletics. Every year when the World Championships or the Olympics are held, my goal is to participate in the games and perform well in it, and I practice every day while thinking about what I should do to achieve good results.

World Athletics Championships Budapest 23: Impressive Top Qualifying Jump in a Packed Venue
© Getty Images for World Athletics

–Where do you set your goals for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and the World Athletics Championships Tokyo 25?

In order to compete in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, you must either be ranked high in the world rankings or break the entry standard record. I would like to jump 2m33cm and go into the competition with confidence that I have the ability to finish in the top ranks. The participation standard record is set at 2m33cm, which is high, but it will change my mind whether I break it or get picked up in the rankings to compete. I would like to jump 2m33cm and go into the competition with confidence that I have the ability to finish in the top ranks.
I want to surpass my 8th place finish at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 and aim for a medal in Paris. I think my goals for next year will change depending on this year’s results, but at the World Athletics Championships Tokyo 25, I would like to surpass my Paris 2024 Olympics result.

–What are you looking forward to or hoping for in the World Athletics Championships Tokyo 25?

For me, it is very significant that the World Championships will be held in Japan since I was not able to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The fact that it will be held in my home country will make me work even harder, and I want to prepare well for the event. There will be a large Japanese audience, and I want to give a performance that will get everyone’s attention when I ask for applause.

Quickly Analyzing the ‘Reason’ and Iterating Improvements to Soar Higher

Enjoying Conversations Around a Bonfire

-From here, we would like to ask you about your personal side. How do you often spend your holidays?

Recently, I often go camping. I bought a tent, and there are many campsites in Gifu, so I go to various places. At home, I play games and I also have a piano, so I play that. I always try to play some songs (laughs).

–Where do you mainly camp?

In Meiho (in Gifu Prefecture). It is on top of a mountain, so it is cool and comfortable even in summer. It was so cold at night that I slept in a sleeping bag.

–Do you go camping with your friends?

Yes, I do. I have never gone alone, I always go with someone. Sometimes I go with friends who were on the track team at Kano High School (where I am from), and sometimes with friends who have nothing to do with track and field.

–What do you enjoy about camping?

In Gifu, there is nothing to do but camp (laughs). It was a joke. It is fun to get together and talk around a bonfire at night. I find that more interesting than talking at a bar.

 

The Song I Want to Play on the Piano is King Gnu’s “Hakujitsu”

–You also like games, right? I saw that you play Pokemon Go on SNS.

I do it because I can do it in the five minutes to get from the company parking lot to my office. It’s great that I can do it in my spare time. When I participated in the 19th Asian Games Hangzhou 2022, I saw 110m hurdler Shunya Takayama and Shuhei Ishikawa playing Pokemon cards at the hotel, and that’s how I got into the Pokemon world (laughs).

–When did you start playing the piano?

Since I was 3 years old. My older sister was taking piano lessons, and I said, “I want to go, too!” I took piano lessons until I was in junior high school. Now I just find cool songs and play them. The genres are all over the place, and every time I learn to play I forget more and more, so there are only a few songs I can play all the time (laughs). I find songs on YouTube and try to play them. My father plays jazz drums, so I also play jazz. Then there is classical music and game music. It could be anything.

–Is there a song you’ve been wanting to play recently?

I would like to try “Hakujitsu” by King Gnu. I saw a cool piano arrangement of it on YouTube and thought, “I’d like to play this!”

–It’s impossible, but are you playing by ear?

Most of the time it is. I can’t read sheet music very well (laughs). I tend to play by ear and watch the hand movements. It’s much faster to learn by ear than by looking at sheet music. But if I want to memorize a song, I have to practice for about 10 hours, so it’s not easy.

Playing the Piano: Is He Now a Four-Way Player?

I Want to Go Watch the Games of the Athlete I Met at the Asian Games

–Who would you recommend as an athlete other than yourself?

Naoto Tobe and Takashi Eto have led the Japanese high jump for a long time. Tobe-san has a doctorate degree, which is what I am aiming for, and I would like to follow in his footsteps. Both of them have said that they will return from injury this year and aim to compete in the Olympics, so I think they will be strong rivals.

–How do you analyze your own personality?

I was shy when I was little, but since I have been in contact with more people, I have learned to enjoy it, and I think I have become more interested in things. Even in other sports besides track and field, I am curious about people I know and want to go watch their games. I want to know more about things that interest me, so my vector is directed outward.

–Are there any other sports that you are interested in?

I recently got acquainted with squash player Risa Sugimoto, and I am planning to go see her play a match. Sugimoto-san also competed in the Asian Games, and I happened to have a chance to talk to her. She also came to see me at the Japan Nationals, where I was competing, and I wanted to go see her play squash. Sugimoto-san is a top-level squash player, so I would like to learn from her, including the rules.

-The range of interests and concerns is really wide, isn’t it?

That’s right (laughs). I think that by being exposed to a variety of people and things, not only do you find more things you enjoy, but you also have more options in the way you think and the way you live. This kind of awareness is also reflected in my competitions, and I think it enriches my life.

–Lastly, could you give a message to our readers who are looking forward to the World Athletics Championships Tokyo 25?

I am very much looking forward to participating in the World Athletics Championships Tokyo 25. I would like to turn your support into power and show you a great performance, so I would be very happy if you could support me at the National Stadium!

X:@Ryo1_Akama2
Instagram:ryo1_akama2

text by Moritaka Ohashi
photographs by HARUKI OMAE

New Post

Nagisa Takahashi, Athletics – Challenging “Women’s oldest record” Enjoyment of building up record of “1cm”

2024.05.23

Japanese record of 1m96cm for the women’s high jump is the “oldest” record which hasn’t been updated since 2001. Many years have passed since many players have tried and hampered to break the record. 24 year old Nagisa Takahashi is the most closest to breaking the record. She won her second consecutive world championship titles. With her impressive tall height of 173cm, she has achieved her personal best of 1m88cm this May. The hope of high jump athlete with a remarkable growth is continuing to challenge herself by facing challenges while having fun.

Nagisa Takahashi, Athletics – Challenging “Women’s oldest record” Enjoyment of building up record of “1cm”

2023.08.18

Nagisa Takahashi, Athletics – Challenging “Women’s oldest record” Enjoyment of building up record of “1cm”

2024.05.23

Japanese record of 1m96cm for the women’s high jump is the “oldest” record which hasn’t been updated since 2001. Many years have passed since many players have tried and hampered to break the record. 24 year old Nagisa Takahashi is the most closest to breaking the record. She won her second consecutive world championship titles. With her impressive tall height of 173cm, she has achieved her personal best of 1m88cm this May. The hope of high jump athlete with a remarkable growth is continuing to challenge herself by facing challenges while having fun.