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Tuesday, 3rd July 2012
In Japan Sports News,

Japanese family competing for Olympic gold

The battle for a gold medal is always going to be fierce at the Olympics, but when sibling rivalry is a factor then the competition could be even more intense.

While the situation of two siblings competing is rare at an Olympics, three members of the same family competing at a single Games is virtually unheard of, but that is what will happen at London 2012 when the Japanese gymnastics team head to the floor.

Three members of the Tanaka family have all been selected to represent Japan at the Games, and in an interview with Reuters have happily acknowledged that there will be love lost when they compete for bragging rights.

"When it comes to competing, of course I don't want to lose to the younger two," said Kazuhito Tanaka, who at the age of 27 is the eldest brother. "I'd lose my standing as the big brother."

Yet despite his brotherly bravado, it is clear that the close-knit family are entirely supportive of one another and will be hoping each other succeed.

Kazuhito, 25-year-old sister Rie and youngest brother Yusuke, 22, grew up in a gymnasts' household – their parents were also professional gymnasts and their father was a coach - and this has created a togetherness that, in spite of the eldest's jokes, will not be easily broken.

"The bond we have through hard work is really strong. And since we were little, we all wanted to go to the Olympics," explained Rie, who will captain the women's team.

This is in part down to their laid back upbringing, which saw their father defy traditional gymnastics coaching methods and go to great lengths to mean that gymnastics was not the sole focus of his children's lives.

"Our dad even made a rule that we couldn't talk about gymnastics at home," Rie added. "It was like being in any other home in that we'd pretty much forget about gymnastics with the conversations we were having."

Hopefully Rie can build on the national title she won for the first time earlier this year with a medal in London, while Kazuhito will certainly be hoping he can captain his country to another gold medal, having had to settle for silver at Beijing following victory at Athens in 2004.

Meanwhile, another Japanese athlete, Hiroshi Hoketsu, is saddling up to become the oldest Olympian in Japanese history when he competes in the dressage aged 71.

Written by Mark Smith

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