‘Connect mind and body, then thinking becomes doing.’ Yoshitaku Nagasako – Olympic athletes interviewed Episode 6

In this interview, Yoshitaku Nagasako Olympian 2016, outlines the long process he went through to find a sponsor and how he learned the best practice to find sponsors are.

Why he would advise his younger self to have a broader view, and he shares his interesting morning routine, that shows him, if he will have a good day or a more difficult day.

Yoshi discusses

Christian: Today I am joined by Yoshitaku Nagasako. For the sake of simplicity, I will call him Yoshi from this point forward. Yoshi is a BMX Supercross Rider from Japan, 2016 Olympian and Asian Games Champion 2018.

Twan van Gendt nominated you in Episode 1 because the Olympic Games will be in your home country, Japan, in Tokyo 2020. How do you feel about the Olympics being held in your own country?

Yoshi: I feel good. I feel that BMX is not popular in Japan, so this is a big chance to show the Japanese what I do. And I hope it is going to be a more major sport in Japan.

Christian: What are the popular sports in Japan?

Yoshi: Baseball, Soccer, Table tennis, Judo, those are the popular ones.

Yoshi’s darkest moment

Christian: Yoshi, what was your darkest moment?

Yoshi: My darkest moment was when I tried to get sponsorship from a company in Japan so that I could race outside of Japan. The Federation didn’t help that much at that time, so I needed sponsors, and my family could only help to a certain extent.

This was after the 2012 Olympics in London, where I didn’t qualify. Trying to find sponsors was so hard, and I couldn’t find any. I called and visited maybe 400 companies, but nobody wanted to sponsor me. That was my darkest point.

I called and visited 400 companies, but nobody wanted to sponsor me.

Christian: How long does it take to call and visit 400 companies?

Yoshi: It took me maybe half a year, every day I was working on it, searching for companies on the internet. I eventually felt like I couldn’t find any more companies, so I went to the supermarket and got products that had addresses and telephone numbers of companies on the package. I call them, like, “I’m doing BMX and if you’re interested in me I can send you my profile, and you can contact my manager.” It took a long time.

Now I think I was stupid doing those things because to know someone from the company and having a connection with someone in the company is a better way to do things. I tried it that way once and it worked, I got sponsored and then I could go to training and racing in Europe in 2017.

Christian: While calling those 400 companies, did you feel like giving up at any point in time? How did you stay motivated and kept going?

Yoshi: Actually, I was giving up, but I still did it because you never know what’s going to happen. At the beginning, I was scared they would say no, but I tried, and I got used to them saying no, so then I thought maybe they would eventually say yes. Then at the end, I just contacted a friend.

But one company was so close, it was one of the major companies in Japan. I called them, and they were interested, they wanted me to email my profile, which I did. We were corresponding by email, so I thought maybe things were getting better, then they asked me, “Why did you choose us?” And I was like, “I don’t have any reason why.” I didn’t say anything, so they said, “Maybe not this time.” I learned at that moment that it’s always good to have a reason for doing things.

I was literally giving up, but I continued, because you never know what’s going to happen. At the beginning I was scared they would say ‘No’, but I tried so many times and I got used to them saying ‘No’, so I thought at some point they will eventually say ‘Yes’.

Christian: Lessons learned.

Yoshi: Yes. That was my darkest point.

Yoshi’s best moment

Christian: What was your best moment?

Yoshi: Of course, winning races is always great, but one of my best moments was outside of competitions. When I was 10 years old I did my first world championship for that age group. I went there with my dad and I didn’t even qualify. I was sad, but he was even sadder, because he paid a lot of money for it and I didn’t do well, he was kind of angry.

Over time I was racing in the top levels and finally, I qualified for the Rio Olympics 2016 and I invited my parents to the Olympic Games, that was the best moment for me.

After seeing that performance when I was 10, maybe my father didn’t believe that I might be going to the Olympics one day. But I made it to the Olympics, so I gave them something back when I did that. That was my best moment.

My father didn’t believe that I might be going to the Olympics one day. But I made it to the Rio Olympics, and invited them to come. So I was happy I could give them something back.

Christian: How did they like it?

Yoshi: I think they were so stressed I think from watching the Olympics in Brazil because they don’t travel that much, even in Japan they don’t travel. Brazil is literally on the other side of the world from Japan. The different languages and different people, everything was surprising to them.

If I was a dad and my son was racing in the Olympics in BMX Supercross, I think I would be scared to watch it. But I think it was nice when I am looking back at it right now.

Christian: I also remember the 2016 Olympics in Rio were quite stressful for BMX because there were so many crashes.

Yoshi: I think the Olympics is very special, it seems like you crash for no reason. You usually don’t crash in the World Cup or World Championships that much, but with the Olympics, you crash everywhere. Just because this event is so special, athletes risk everything.

You usually don’t crash in the World Cup or World Championships that much, but with the Olympics you crash everywhere. Just because this event is so special, athletes risk everything.

Yoshi’s advise to a younger Yoshitaku Nagasako

Christian: If you could travel back 10 years, 15 years in time and you meet yourself as a youngster, what advice would you give your younger self?

Yoshi: I was enjoying BMX, and it is good to enjoy it, but I should have done a little bit more training. I was doing the techniques on the bike, but not much physical training. I would tell my younger self to do more physical training and maybe have more wide views. Then maybe I could have been better in the Juniors, and then if the Juniors were better maybe the Elites would have been better.

I would tell my younger self to do more physical training and maybe have more wide views.

Christian: What do you mean by having more wide views?

Yoshi: Wider views refer to knowing what an athlete actually does, everything, that comes with the sport, that is not evident on first sight. I didn’t know anything and I didn’t see any good athletes in Japan for BMX, so I was just riding, riding, riding. But to understand, what sport is, and what athletes have to do is really important.

I didn’t know anything about sport, and what it means to be an athletes, so I was just riding, riding, riding. But to understand, what sport is, and what athletes have to do is really important.

Christian: This is a very common pattern, we also see over here with our athletes; the younger ones are always focused on riding, racing and competing. It’s very common in every sport that young athletes focus on competition. But as soon as you grow older you realize there needs to be more work done in order to be better.

Yoshi’s success habits

Christian: What are the habits that make you a successful person or athlete?

Yoshi: Just believing, I’m trying to believe in myself that I can do it. But at some points, I have negative thoughts, because something is scary or I think someone is better than me.

BMX is about being fast or slow also, but the main thing is being strong or weak mentally. Pretty much everyone is riding kind of the same, but on the gate drops and in the sprinting, that takes a strong mind. So, the thing is to believe in yourself and then don’t think too hard.

I am trying to believe in myself that I can do it. Pretty much everyone is riding kind of the same, but when the gate drops and during the sprinting, that takes a strong mind.

Christian: How do you do that, believe in yourself?

Yoshi: That is a hard thing, I am still searching for it. But to think about nothing is the hardest thing.

Yoshi’s morning routine

Christian: Do you have a morning routine? How do you get ready for the day?

Yoshi: I have one little thing that I do. In the morning, the first thing I do is go to the sink and take a protein shake bottle and fill it with water, 200 milliliters. I don’t look at it, I just fill it by feeling, and then put it down to see, whether I made the 200 milliliters. If it wasn’t 200 milliliters I try again and again until I get it.

You will feel sensitive things, like, if you feel good or not. If you get it in one try, you know your feeling and sensitivity is good. But if you don’t, maybe you won’t have good feelings and sensitivity, so you have to be careful and not focus too much on that. If I am over the 200 milliliters, maybe I will feel light and not do my best at training.

Christian: That’s really interesting. How did you come up with that?

Yoshi: There is a top Japanese athlete, he is playing baseball in the US and he eats curry and rice every morning. His wife makes that same recipe every day, and he feels different after eating it each day, he feels it’s yummy, it’s good or, “I’m full” or this is kind of spicy, but it is the exact same curry. It makes you feel something different and might affect your mood.

So, I thought that maybe I could do something with water, that can be done easily everywhere I go. I don’t know if it works, but that’s one of the things I do in the mornings.

It’s the exact same curry, but he tastes it different every day, so I thought, I could do something with water, that can be done easily everywhere I go.

Christian: That’s pretty interesting. It’s kind of a mindfulness thing also, right?

Yoshi: Yes. Like you can see the other sides of you, these things you do maybe they put you more in touch with yourself.

Also, drinking water at the beginning of the day is healthy, so I do that as well.

How to prepare for important moments

Christian: How do you prepare yourself for important moments?

Yoshi: I try to relax, because I know I can do it, so I just try to relax as much as I can.

Christian: How do you relax?

Yoshi: Listening to music, talking with my friends in the competitions. I try not to show, that I’m scared, I try to be very positive with the other competitors. If you show that you are afraid maybe they will cut you off at the start or something, so I try not to do that.

I think sometimes I am afraid, that’s why I haven’t done that well in the races yet. I have done well in some races, but I am not very consistent, so I need to work on that as well.

I think sometimes I am afraid, that’s why I haven’t done that well in the races yet. I know I can do it, so I just try to relax as much as I can.

How Yoshi overcomes setbacks

Christian: How do you overcome setbacks? If things don’t go your way, how do you bounce back?

Yoshi: That is something I am working on as well. In the last practice race, I was feeling good, I was next to one of the fastest guys in the world, but at one point I wasn’t doing well anymore, and I kept thinking, “It’s not good, it’s not good.”

I tried my best, but I didn’t go well. And then in the official race, the World Cup, that happened again, and the race didn’t go well. So I am still working on that, I have to learn not to think and just do.

Christian: That was eight days ago I think. You came back to training, so somehow you have recovered from that moment to keep going, right?

Yoshi: Yes. Actually, two weekends ago at the World Cup in Papendal here, at the gates I was like yes or no. A fast guy was next to me and I was like, “Maybe yes, but maybe no.” I was in-between being positive and negative. I got a negative result in that race, I didn’t qualify for the next round. Then I was like, “Maybe I need to do other things, not only the physical but on the racing as well, those are the things I need to improve.”

And I was in the gym a couple days after that race, I was on the platform and when I was close to my PB I felt the same thing, I started thinking, “The bar is heavy, maybe I can’t do it.” And then I couldn’t lift it.

So, mental things like that, because that weight wasn’t that much, like only an extra 5 kilos. I did 3 reps, then I tried 5 kilos more. Usually, I can do at least one, but I couldn’t even do one that day, so I know it’s only a mind thing.

I did 3 reps, then I tried 5 kilos more. Usually I can do at least 1 rep, but I couldn’t even do 1 rep that day, so I know it’s only a mind thing.

Yoshi’s role model

Christian: Who is your role model, and why?

Yoshi: I used to have one when I was young, I don’t remember who it was. For right now, Niek Kimmann. He is a good athlete but I would like to see more from him on social media, I would like to see what he is doing in like a vlog on YouTube. He is on social media and he’s famous as well, so I want to know how he does things, and he is great on the BMX bike.

I would like to do more stuff on social media as well because I want to make BMX more popular in Japan, I want people to know more about BMX in Japan before the Olympics 2020. I want to tell them what BMX is, I want to explain what BMX racing is all about. They think BMX is just jumping in the air and doing tricks, they don’t think that BMX is racing.

I used to have a role model, when I was young, but I don’t remember who it was. For right now, Niek Kimmann, he is good athlete and he is great on the BMX bike.

Christian: I was the same when I started here. I had never worked with BMX before and I heard I was going to work with BMX, so I thought BMX was like freestyle jumping, I had no clue what it was.

Yoshi: Actually, I think the BMX athlete is one of the best physically. So, maybe people think that BMX is for young people in gangs or something, and it’s not something a smart guy would do. But we are athletes and we take it very seriously, so that’s what I want to show them.

I think the BMX athletes are amongst the best physically. People think that BMX is for young people in gangs or something, and it’s not something a smart guy would do. But we are athletes and we take it very seriously,

Christian: I can fully attest to that. The guys I’m working with are definitely athletes and professionals 24/7.

The best advice he ever received

Christian: What is the best advice you received and who gave it to you?

Yoshi: I started to do Track Cycling two years ago and my coach told me, “Think nothing, just go, don’t care about anybody. If you are next to the Olympic champion or whoever, they might make a mistake, you never know, so it’s better to go. Don’t think that he is better than you.” Those are things that he told me.

But I don’t think my body and my brain are connecting yet. I am thinking and I am doing but they’re two different things. I need to connect them so that I am doing as I am thinking.

My body and my brain are not connecting yet. I am thinking and I am doing but they’re two different things. I need to connect them so that I am doing as I am thinking.

A typical training day in the life of a BMX rider 

Christian: What does a typical training day look like?

Yoshi: I wake in the morning, some days I have gym, some days I just relax in the morning and in the afternoon I have track or sprints. It’s very normal and basic. I don’t do anything special.

Christian: How many days a week do you train?

Yoshi: It depends, five or six days. Sometimes I have mornings off, sometimes afternoons off, so in total maybe five days.

Some days I go to the gym in the mornings, some days I just relax in the mornings. In the afternoon I have track or sprints. I don’t do anything special.

Yoshi’s interview nomination

Christian: Do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?

Yoshi: He came from BMX to Track Cycling, he is World Champion now, his name is Harrie, I don’t know his last name. I want to nominate him to know more about him.

Christian: Harrie Lavreysen, Harrie for sure has some interesting things to share. One of the most committed guys I have ever worked with.

Where can you find Yoshitaku Nagasako

Christian: Where can people find you?

Yoshi: They can find me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and I started my own YouTube channel a few months ago. You can search my name I think, and you’ll find it.

Christian: And we will see you in Tokyo 2020 for sure.

Yoshi: Yes. I will see you there. Thank you very much.

Christian: Thanks, Yoshi!

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