Fukushima swimmer Izumi Kato qualified for Japan’s squad for the London Olympics with a win in the women's 200-meter individual medley at the national championships on April 5.
The 22-year-old will be the first swimmer registered with the Fukushima Swimming Federation to ever compete at the Olympics.
She said she had been motivated in the final race by a wish to bring attention to efforts to build indoor 50-meter pools in Fukushima Prefecture to replace outdoor swimming pools closed because of radiation concerns following last year’s accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Kato lived in Fukushima before transferring from Sakura no Seibo Junior College in Fukushima city to Yamanashi Gakuin University in Yamanashi Prefecture. She said she felt helpless when the March 11 earthquake ravaged her home prefecture.
The nuclear disaster forced her grandmother to evacuate from Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, to Fukushima city.
Kato failed to make the qualifying standard for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and admits to struggling with motivation following the setback.
“I’m still weak, but I’m getting stronger because of the many experiences I’ve had,” she said.
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