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Japanese Buddhist priest sets sights on canoe gold at 2016 Rio Olympics

We bet that was a headline you thought you’d never be reading? Well this is in fact, not fiction, and 27-year-old Kazuki Yazawa is set to represent Japan in the canoe slalom at the Rio Olympics, which gets underway in just over a week’s time.

The Buddhist and canoeing athlete is hoping that he can utilise his mental toughness and skill to help bring home a medal for his country.

Yazawa, who is a devout Buddhist wakes before dawn each day to pray as part of his ‘training’ as a novice priest at the ancient Zenkoji Daikanjin Temple in Nagano prefecture.

However, his day does not end there. At 3pm every day Yazawa’s duties switch to something that couldn’t possibly be a more polar opposite to his regular life, when he turns his attentions to training on the Saigawa River to practise for the upcoming Olympic Games.

Yazawa was present at the 2012 Olympic Games but following a struggle with tying down sponsorship deals and funding, his second calling came in the form of training to become a priest.

Yazawa recently said of his double life: “I never had the intention of balancing the two”. “When I started as a Buddhist priest, I had decided that my main job would be as a priest and that my life as a canoeist would be done in my spare time.”

Things changed for Yazawa though, after winning the Japanese canoe slalom national tournament last year, which placed him as one of the top Japanese contenders to compete in Rio.

His practise time has been reduced significantly, on average it is less than half of what he did leading up to the London Olympics, but this man is not swayed by this as he strives for the gold medal.

“I hope to give my best performance that I can on the grand stage of the Olympics, and come back to Japan with a good feeling” Yazawa said.

What an inspiration for us all to buy canoes and get out on the water, don’t you think?

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