Aiko Uemura, an Olympic free-style mogul skier who is returning to the World Cup circuit for the first time in two seasons, left Japan on Jan. 15 to take part in three competitions in North America.
“I want to know how close I am to the world’s best right now,” she told reporters before boarding the flight out of Narita Airport in Chiba Prefecture.
Her first competitive action will be at an event at Lake Placid from Jan. 19.
Uemura, who got in the top 10 at four consecutive Olympics after making her debut in her hometown at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, took a break after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. She returned to competition for the first time in two seasons in December 2011, coming second in two competitions. She admitted she felt the cost of her year off.
“I’m not skiing over the bumps at a place where I can increase my speed. I’ve yet to regain my stamina, too. But I can make up for it with technique,” she said.
Uemura feels that she gained more than she lost from the break. She spent time relaxing and going alpine skiing with her husband, the Olympic skier Kentaro Minagawa.
“I was able to objectively look at myself and mature mentally. That had been a weakness,” she said.
Uemura’s goal for this season is the World Cup in Naeba, Niigata Prefecture, to be held on Feb. 18 and 19. An attempt at the 2014 Sochi Olympics is a long-term aim.
“There’s a lot I have to do, but I will be happy if I make the Olympics,” the 32-year-old said.
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