Just one thought was running through the mind of Japanese Alpine skier Kimishima Ohra as he stood in the start gates at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games: what would Lionel Messi do?
The man from Tochigi, just north of Tokyo, is a huge fan of the Argentinian superstar and tries to take a flavour of the six-time world footballer of the year’s genius on to the slopes every time he skies.
“I love Messi, the way he always wants to attack, he is always thinking about scoring, he is passionate about it and I do the same thing when I ski,” Kimishima said. “I always try to attack. I just want to ski like he plays football.”
The 17-year-old watches Messi play for his club FC Barcelona on TV as “often as possible” and if there is no live action available, he is often found trawling YouTube for videos of his hero in action.
And while Kimishima has not yet produced the performances he wants at Les Diablerets Alpine Centre, he is proud of the way he has stayed true to his hero’s never-changing mantra.
“I feel bad about today because my skis crossed so I fell but I was trying to attack,” Kimishima said after failing to finish the first run of the men’s giant slalom on Monday. “I did my best.”
The only time Kimishima has been upset with himself is when he felt he was too cautious in the opening Super-G event, in which he finished 42nd. In the aftermath of that the teenager berated himself but promised he would come back the next day and “ski like Messi”.
He certainly got closer to his aim, producing the 23rd-best slalom time of the day to climb to 26th in the combined. While he laughed at the idea that Messi would be proud of such a comeback, Kimishima did acknowledge that it was a display to savour.
The chances of Messi making the trip to Tokyo to play in the 2020 Olympic Games may be slight but both Kimishima and his Alpine skiing teammate Wakatsuki Yuka are drawing great inspiration from the prospect of their nation hosting the world’s biggest sporting spectacle.
“Everything in Japan is about the Olympics right now,” said Wakatsuki, who finished 26th in the women’s giant slalom and 28th in the combined. “It’s so cool and it makes me want to be at Beijing 2022 (Olympic Winter Games).”
Kimishima feels if he can dig deep, commit to full-time training and, most importantly, channel his inner Messi, he has a chance of joining her there.