I love watching sports, but I do not watch much of the national sport of my homeland. When I first saw the players in action, I did not recognize it to be a sport – what I saw was bulked up men pairing up, putting their arms around each other, and doing the twist-and-turn on a 360-degree-view stage. I used to call it (and I know this is going to upset its fans, but I hope I will be forgiven, I was just a child!) “fatties’ dance.”
I now know that it IS a sport, requiring hard training both physically and mentally. But by now I have been completely Westernized in my preferences on which sports to watch, and it did not help that it had been smeared with scandals and corruption in recent years. So, it had remained at the bottom of my view list.
Until this year, that is. Starting this New Year Tournament, I am devoted to cheering a player who has just made it to the major tier-two division. He is not the bulkiest (in fact, I believe he is one of the smallest in the league) and he is not the most talented, but he appears to be one of the most determined. It took him seven years to get to where he is now, but he never once thought of giving up. It will only get tougher for him now that he is in the big league, but I have good reasons to believe I will be seeing a lot more of him in the future.
Maybe because he has been a fighter ever since he was born, on this day twenty-two years ago, just a few hours after his place of birth was hit severely by an earthquake.
Maybe because he has all hopes of his hometown people, and perhaps our entire nation, on his shoulders to be a symbol of recovery and rejuvenation from devastation.
Maybe because he himself hopes he can answer to their hopes and give back pride and joy for the support and courage they have given him.
And maybe because he promises to do his best to live up to his ring name “Shine Strong [my translation].”
He is one of the growing population in the affected region who has no memory of the destructive and debilitating disaster. But he says he remembers well how hard the people around him worked hand in hand, arm in arm to reconstruct their towns and regenerate their everyday lives. It must be the unified devotion and perseverance he witnessed growing up that has made him so dedicated.
So, maybe he stands alone in the ring and surely does not dance hand in hand, arm in arm with his opponents.
But maybe he always has his supporters with him in spirit, hand in hand, arm in arm – giving him a pat on the back when he wins and putting arms around him to console when he loses.
Maybe in the end, we get through the hardest times by bringing each other together, hand in hand, arm in arm.
Two tiny “Hold My Hand Heart” motifs, arm in arm
I wish him all the best, and I wish to congratulate his hometown supporters for getting him to where he is today… I hope you will all keep on shining strong!