Yazawai cracks the code for absorbing pressure: become a monk!

Four years is a long time for anyone, and Japanese canoe slalom athlete Kazuki Yazawa is living proof a lot can change during an Olympic cycle.

Heading into London in 2012, his life was all about paddling. Heading to Rio things were a lot more complicated, but also a lot more peaceful.

Because Kazuki Yazawa has answered his calling, of sorts, and become a Buddhist Monk.

“London Olympics I was a professional athlete, now I am not,” Yazawa said after qualifying for the semi-finals of the K1 in Rio.

“London was big pressure for me, now is not so much.

“Before London I was thinking about my future, I can’t do just sport. So I had to choose a job. I focussed on a job, and not on the next Olympics.”

It’s a problem confronting almost all Olympic athletes; how to prepare for life post-Games, and how to land a line of work that allows you to keep preparing for your number one task, representing your country at an Olympics.

After much contemplation, and after consulting with a close friend and mentor, Yazawa decided to turn to the Priesthood.

“Before the London Olympics I had one sponsor, a friend who was an artist,” he said.

“I wanted to be like him, so I chose to be a monk.”

To put it plainly, the decision has turned Yazawa’s life on its head. Before the sun rises every morning, he heads to a temple in Nagano to pray.

This takes up most of his day. Not until 3pm can he finally slip into the waterproofs and head to the river to train.

“Because I have a job, I don’t have enough time for training,” he said.

“Every job is the same I think, but after the job I am already tired and training is hard.”

And unlike most Olympians, Yazawa now rates his job as more important than his career as an athlete.

Rio is his third Olympics. In four years’ time the Games will be coming to Japan. But if you think the lure of competing in front of his home crowd would be enough to entice him to continue his punishing routine, you are likely to be mistaken.

“I am focussed on my job, and not only paddling,” he said.

“I will keep paddling in the future, but I do not know about Olympic or World Championships.

“I did relaxing in the start today, but this is not from my learnings as a Monk, it was just from not feeling pressure.”

An athlete not feeling pressure on the starting line of an Olympic event? Maybe Kazuki Yazawa is on to something.

The Kakay Single (K1) semifinals start Wednesday at 1.30pm local time.

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