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    Athlete profile: Kazuyoshi Funaki

    Posted: Tue February 3, 1998 at 5:00 PM ET

    Athlete information
    NameKazuyoshi Funaki
    Pronouncedkah-ZOO-yoh-shee, FOO-nah-kee
    BirthplaceYoichi, Japan
    ResidenceSapporo, Japan
    Height/Weight5'11", 147
    EventsNormal Hill, Large Hill, Team

    Athlete notes

    The youngest member of the Japanese team is Kazuyoshi Funaki...many remember his shocking World Cup debut in the 1994-1995 season, when he opened the season with a victory and Eventsually finished at fourth place overall...since then Funaki has been a regular Japanese team member, as the age of 22 is hardly young in this sport...Funaki is another Japanese gold medal threat...at his best, Funaki has a flight style that is arguably the best in the world, as he routinely receives a full 60 points for style...going into the Olympic season, Funaki could not be jumping better..."In the summer camp in July, Funaki already seemed to have built up his jump to the competition form," says a Ichiro Morita of the Japanese magazine Olympian's. "A low take-off to a really steady flight form. I can't believe he is only 22 years old, he has so much confidence in his ability"...last season Funaki won four World Cup events and passed Noriaki Kasai for most World Cup victories by a Japanese jumper (six overall as of press time)..."I still have my up and downs," says Funaki. "[Takanobu] Okabe-san or [Masahiko] Harada-san do not change their style at all, except for tiny adjustments here and there, but I change pretty drastically both on the inrun and in the flight"... Funaki showed some signs of instability as he has finished lower than 30th place in several competitions that followed podium finishes...Funaki's jumps are characterized by the low take-off, like Okabe..."I am shooting for somewhere in between jumping and falling"...in between falling and soaring, there seems to be a very delicate balance and that is probably why even when Funaki is jumping so well, he never lets his guards down..."I admit that it's a bit risky style," says Funaki. "Maybe there can be more margin of error, but I think if I do that, I won't be jumping too far. That's why I think I should just perfect the technique that I use now"...but he is not afraid to make a few changes to improve his jumps..."It's a try and error," says Funaki. "They are subtle changes that an average fan might not notice. But I have to try to know if something works. If it doesn't, then I just go back to what I had"..."His strength is that he a style of his own that he can always go back to," says Japanese head coach Manabu Ono. "That allows him to sort of gamble"...Ono says Funaki, like many other Japanese jumpers, was affected by teammate Harada's high arching style, but was quicker to recover after messing up his own rhythm...interestingly, when Harada was in a slump, he tried to imitate Funaki's low take-off and also ended up even worse that before...Harada is back now with his old high flying style...among the veterans of the Japanese team, Funaki could be the only one without previous Olympic experience..."In 1994, I wasn't so interested in the Olympics in Lillehammer, and I didn't know what Olympics really meant," says Funaki. "Right now it is like if I have two persons inside me; one wants to just concentrate on Nagano, and the other wants to look at the Olympic as just one of many competitions"...he looks forward to finally see some Japanese fans at nordic skiing events..."The best thing about Nagano will probably be the spectators," says Funaki. "I really want to see the kind of crowd we get in Norway, in Japan. If that happens, I don't think I will be nervous, I will just enjoy it as much as I can"...Hirokazu Yagi, the last Japanese to win an individual medal in the Olympic ski jumping (normal hill silver medal in Lake Placid, 1980), coaches Funaki at Descente Ski Club on Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido...

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