When Fujimoto moved Okuhara to tears!

"It was not even a serious game and we were all surprised when she started crying after the match. She looked shattered,” said Fujimoto, in a chat with Sportstar, on the sidelines of the Manorama BWF World Senior Championships at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium on Wednesday.

Japanese badminton international Hosemari Fujimoto in Kochi on Wednesday.   -  Special Arrangement

She was just about 14 and playing a game against a strong male badminton player. But when Nozomi Okuhara lost to Hosemari Fujimoto at the Saitama school courts that day, she was in tears.

“It was not even a serious game and we were all surprised when she started crying after the match. She looked shattered,” said Fujimoto, in a chat with Sportstar, on the sidelines of the Manorama BWF World Senior Championships at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here on Wednesday.

“That showed how much Okuhara hated to lose, even to a man, and how strong she wanted to become. No wonder she is so strong now.”

Okuhara is no ordinary girl.

Now 22, she held her nerves in a tight thriller against P.V. Sindhu and became the first Japanese player to win the World Championship in Glasgow recently.

Incidentally Otaka Fumio, the coach who trained the two at the Saitama school, did not have much of a badminton background.

“He was an ice-hockey player, he did not show us how to play, he used to give us instructions. But he was good when it came to physical conditioning,” revealed Fujimoto who played in the 2002 Asian Games in South Korea.

The Japanese are enjoying badminton highly these days and while P. Gopichand has been doing wonders in India, there is a South Korean who is working magic there.

Park Joo Bong, the 1992 Olympic men’s doubles gold medallist and a five-time World champion, is Japan’s head coach.

“Joo Bong has been there right from 2004, starting with juniors and all the good results we are enjoying now is because of him,” said Fujimoto.

“The Chinese may not have the women’s gold at the last three Worlds or at the last Olympics but that does not mean that they are going down. They are at the same level, only the other countries, like Japan, are getting closer to them.”

Apart from setting up a strong system, which has about 20 players each in five groups (National ‘A’ and ‘B’groups, under-19, 16 and under-13) in the National Training Centre in Tokyo, Joo Bong changed the mindset of the Japanese. Earlier, they were content with picking points from small events and the Korean made them believe that they could be winners too if they believed in themselves.

“That is why you see our players doing well now, giving their all. And apart from Okuhara, we also have players like the Akane Yamaguchi in the women’s section and Kento Momota in men’s…all explosive and exciting and in their early twenties.”

Looks like the Japanese have forgotten the fear of losing!