Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Kaori and Shiori Morita, Twin Sisters Dreaming of 2020


translated by Brett Larner

Yokohama natives and graduates of the city's Eda H.S. where they made a major impact on the distance events at last year's National High School Track and Field Championships, 18-year-old identical twin sisters Kaori and Shiori Morita joined the Yokohama-residing Panasonic women's corporate team this spring with the shared dream of making the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  While working office jobs in the same division at Panasonic, the pair are pouring their sweat and tears into their training, preparing themselves with a solid base.

The sisters began to run seriously their first year of junior high school and, both showing exceptional coordination and ability, together qualified for the 800 m and 1500 m at Nationals just a year later.  At home they studied running form by trying to copy what they saw in videos, devoting themselves more and more to the world of competition.

At Eda H.S. they were also part of the school track and field team.  Kaori suffered from lower back pain and often had to take leaves of absence from the team, but by quietly training in the pool she continued to develop and strengthen her cardiovascular system.  As a senior, she ran a Kanagawa prefecture high school 1500 m record 4:17.59 at last summer's National High School Championships.

Shiori has a reputation for mental toughness.  "She has her off days, but when it comes to races nobody can match her focus," says Kaori of her sister.  Alongside Kaori, Shiori ran last summer's National High School Championships as a senior, finishing 15th in the 3000 m final.

At last January's National Women's Ekiden, the twins were selected to run the Sixth and Seventh Stages.  Kaori was 2nd on her stage and Shiori 3rd on hers, both making major contributions to the Kanagawa prefecture team's overall 5th-place podium finish.  "Recently they've started to realize that when they do well together their happiness is multiplied many times over," said their mother Chiharu Morita, 49, taking pleasure in her daughters' growth.

Post-graduation the sisters chose to follow their fellow Eda H.S. graduate Mika Yoshikawa, a London Olympian at 5000 m and 10000 m, to the Panasonic women's corporate team.  Every day from the morning until 3:30 p.m. they work desk jobs, heading to a track in Kawasaki after work for practice.  "At first they were indistinguishable," smiled head coach Toshiaki Kurabayashi, 49, but, he said, "they're both honest people, and with good futures as local stars they're enjoying themselves."

In May the twins made their corporate league debuts at the East Japan Corporate Track and Field Championships.  In the 3000 m Kaori was 4th and Shiori 11th, while in the 1500 m Kaori took 5th and Shiori 7th.  Six years remain until their Olympic goal.  They haven't decided yet which event they will target, but, both said, "We want to develop into athletes people can cheer for."  "Having a familiar rival nearby will be a big driving force," Kaori continued.  "I want us to train and race together all the way there," added Shiori.  With each giving the other a steady push in the back, the twins hope to chase their dream together.

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