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Kōhei Uchimura, the world champion gymnast who won the gold medal at the men's all-around event at the London Olympics on Wednesday, credited the manga Ganba! Fly High with helping to inspire him in the sport.
Ganba! Fly High launched in Shogakukan's Weekly Shonen Sunday magazine in 1994, when five-year-old Uchimura was taking up gymnastics in his parents' sports club in Nagasaki Prefecture. The manga (and the Ganbarist! Shun anime it inspired) follows a boy named Shun who starts gymnastics in middle school. Over the course of six years, Shun rises through the ranks to win gold at the Olympics.
The story is not entirely the stuff of fiction; Shinji Morisue co-created the manga based on his own real-life experiences in winning the gold in horizontal bar in the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. Morisue said he created the manga because he wanted to inspire more kids to try gymnastics themselves.
In fact, the manga did have a huge impact on Uchimura, and one of its lessons in particular resonated with him. The manga told him the secret to "sticking a landing" properly:
"Your body will stop on its own if you just stick to what you envision in your mind."
On Wednesday, Uchimura applied that lesson and became the first Japanese to win the Olympic gold medal in the individual all-around competition in 28 years — since 1984, the same year that Morisue won the gold medal that inspired Ganba! Fly High.
Source: Mainichi Shimbun
Update: Shinji Morisue won the gold in horizontal bar, won the silver in vault, and shared a bronze with the rest of the Japanese team. Thanks, zensunni.
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