While the entire Japanese team is very proud of winning the bronze medal at the team ski jumping event at the Sochi Winter Olympics, one member is probably the most emotional among the four-man team. 26-year-old Taku Takeuchi almost did not make it to Russia after he was hospitalized a few weeks before the Winter Games, but ended up helping Japan win their first ski jumping medal since Nagano in 1998.
What they thought was just a simple asthma attack may be something more serious: doctors think he may be suffering from Churg-Strauss syndrome, which resembles the symptoms of asthma but can become more deadly. But after two weeks at the hospital, while his teammates were competing in World Cup events before the Olympics, he was finally able to go home and then went on to win the medal with his team in Sochi. While speaking to the media after the competition, he started tearing up when he remembered that he thought he was going to die. “I thought I wouldn’t even be able to come to these Olympics honestly, but with support from my family and support from people at the hospital, I was able to come,” he said.
He said that he would have or should have quit his dream of going to the Olympics, but his father was there to encourage him and even though his mother was worried about his condition, she was also just as supportive. His father brought to the hospital an enlarged picture of him winning the silver last December in Lillehammer, and wrote the word “Gold”. And even though they failed to defeat defending champions Austria (who earned silver) and gold medal winners Germany, his teammates were all praises for Takeuchi. “He clawed his way back to the top, he’s a very strong person,” said teammate Daiki Ito. Noriaki Kasai, a veteran of the sport, said that their teammate’s condition was a source of inspiration for them to do their best on the ski jumping hill. “It chokes me up, I tear up thinking of his sickness, so I really wanted him to get a medal,” he said.
[ via AFP ]