THE NBA'S NEW EX-FACTOR
A GOLDEN TICKET FROM LONDON TO RIO
Ryosuke Irie is a dual-Olympian who went within a touch of winning gold for Japan in London. Universally considered the most graceful backstroker to hit the pool, he’s already put together a blueprint for Olympic gold in Rio.
Ryosuke, how does winning an Olympic medal change your life when you’re a Japanese swimmer?
Oh a lot. I’ve definitely noticed it. There is a lot more pressure when you become famous. Instead of just walking around the streets of the city on my own now everyone notices who I am.
Especially the ladies?
Ah yes. Haha. Sometimes. That’s no so bad. Haha.
More than anything. I feel like I’ve already prepared for three years time at the Rio Olympics. I’ve spent a few months training in Brisbane. It’s all part of the focus to win that gold medal I missed out on in London.
Why set up camp in Brisbane?
The system is excellent here in Australia. I’m hoping it will help me get to what I want to achieve. So thank you Australia for all the support. The people are so helpful.
So apart from that, what exactly are you doing differently in the lead up to Rio compared to how you prepared for London?
I’ve already changed the style of training. I’ve looked for greater challenges and tried to take my swimming to the next level. I’m definitely more focused than ever on winning gold at the Olympics.
You were once famous for practicing your stroke with a bottle of water on your head. What’s that all about?
Yeah I used to do that. Not any more. It was a training drill and I think it’s a great training style for developing your technique in backstroke. Nowadays it’s just something I do to amuse the television crews!
You have one of the more graceful techniques in world backstroke. It’s a work of swimming art. Was the bottle on the head the secret to that?
No I don’t think so. I think it’s helped with other areas though.
So what is the secret to such a beautiful backstroke technique? No one else even comes close.
It’s something I’ve always worked very hard on since I was young. Trying to come up with a perfect technique so I think that’s why.
Swimming isn’t huge in Japan. How did you end up in the sport?
I was so young I can’t really remember. I started before my first birthday. It’s getting more popular to start young in Japan but certainly not to the same extent as in Australia.
Do you feel a responsibility to build the profile and growth in the sport in Japan?
Yeah absolutely. Especially now that I am an Olympic medallist. The sport is building momentum in Japan and my success can help with that. Japan did quite well at the London Olympics and there’s been definite growth but it’s still my dream for it to get much bigger.