January 21, 2023 | at the FISU Winter University Games
Behind the glittering medals and cheerful celebrations, countless people are working tirelessly to help the student-athletes competing at the FISU World University Games in Lake Placid 2023 get into the spotlight.
At the skating events, Yoshiko Kobayashi was one of the many people who contributed to the success of the Japanese team.
Kobayashi is one of the members of Team Japan who decide which skaters are sent to international events such as the FISU Games, the World Championships and the Four Continents Championships, as well as summer camps where the best skaters from overseas are invited.
Among her many tasks is also keeping the athletes on schedule and where they should be. If athletes don’t have enough time to train, he finds ways to schedule them at the rink before competitions.
For Lake Placid 2023, her responsibilities changed as the team leader fell ill before the Games and asked her to take over her job as well, which is mainly taking care of everything the athletes need.
“When I started, I didn’t understand what to do. For example, skaters always want to blow their noses, but there is no trash can, so I have it ready,” she said, showing off the kit she carries with her every time she goes to the competition.
It’s an “all-inclusive-ready for any emergency” tool, including a sewing kit, tissues, garbage bags and much more. It was so helpful that even though he works for Team Japan, he helps skaters from other countries when needed.
With so many great athletes on one team, including champions, medalists and underdogs, Kobayashi says it’s imperative to take care of them all after the event, but makes sure he adjusts his approach to them.
“I try to be natural and devote even more time to weaker athletes. This is very important because high-profile skaters are very busy. I also take care of the best skaters on the podium because there are so many rules.”
These include making sure that skaters are dressed appropriately for medal ceremonies. However, after making sure that the best skaters are taken care of, he returns to his other skaters.
The level of competition at FISU Games figure skating events continues to rise with the participation of elite athletes such as world champion and Olympic medalist Kaori Sakamoto, as well as FISU winner Mai Mihara. It would be easy to ignore the college games because they are less known in the figure skating world, but that is not the case with Kobayashi.
“It’s important to attend this event because it’s only for special skaters who go to university, and not many skaters do both after high school.”
Unfortunately, many elite figure skaters fail to pursue higher education due to the stereotype that they quit the sport after graduation to “focus on their studies”.
Kobayashi spends a lot of time in the arena, which leaves her less time with her family. On her phone, most of the photos are of skaters or anything related to figure skating.
“It’s a funny story. My family and I have a calendar and we’re putting together our schedule for the year, and I’m putting Lake Placid and the rest of the events off for the season, and I’m barely home,” he chuckles.
However, last summer she visited a friend in Los Angeles with her family, so she was able to add more family photos to her album. She was proud of how beautiful her daughter is.
Her motivation for work is her passion for sport. She was a housewife before she became fully involved in the Japanese world of figure skating. She was even a judge for the International Skating Union before her current job became too busy.
Even though figure skating takes up a lot of time in her daily schedule, she loves her job. He not only enjoys the good performance of his skaters, but also enjoys watching figure skating.
Kobayashi adds that the success of her skaters comes from the coaches.
“I appreciate the coaches because they work so hard for the skaters and even if the season is not good, they compete with each other in a sporty way,” he says with a smile.
Following a successful 2023 Lake Placid event that saw gold and silver wins in the men’s and women’s free skating, Kobayashi and Team Japan are hoping for more glory at the upcoming world championships, which will be held on home soil in Saitama from March 20 to 26 .