One is a regular chatterbox, the other is the quiet type.
Both 26, Yuki Ota and Kenta Chida will represent Japan in the men's foil competition at this summer's London Olympics.
"I was born to win a gold medal at the Olympics, so I really want to get one," says the less than bashful Ota.
Chida, on the other hand, strikes a very different tone.
"The Olympics are a special thing that only come once every four years," he says. "So even if you tell me not to be nervous, there's no way I can't be."
The two fencers met each other in their third year of junior high school when they first crossed blades at the national championships.
Chida's father, Kenichi, was going to compete at the Moscow Olympics, but Japan's boycott of the 1980 Games meant that he lost his chance to compete at that level. Kenichi never pushed his son into fencing, but by his first year at junior high school, Kenta decided that he wanted to fence.
Ota's father, Yoshiaki, practically forced a foil into his son's hand when the boy was in third grade. It also took a bit of clever bargaining.
"I'll buy you a Super Nintendo if you practice (fencing)," the father told his son.
Soon, the Super Nintendo was all but forgotten as the pair spent most their time practicing, and the younger Ota has been on a tear in competitive fencing ever since.
Chida and Ota's first encounter was a memorable one.
"I had a 5-2 lead over Yuki, but after that I gave up eight straight touches and let him rally to win," Chida says.
"I figured out Kenta's strategy partway through the bout," Ota remembers. "He was just waiting for me to attack. I realized, 'Hey, this guy isn't so tough.' "
Ota then went on to secure two straight championships.
Their second encounter was in the semifinals of the high school championships when Ota was going for his third first-place finish there in a row.
"I couldn't win. He kicked my butt, 6-15," Chida says.
But Ota fell into a slump after competing at the Athens Olympics at age 18.
"I ran into a brick wall at the international level," he remembers. "When I watched the Athens final, I really thought I couldn't (ever) win that."
It was around that time that Oleg Matseichuk, a Ukrainian who had become the national team's coach, helped Chida become a better fencer. In 2006, Chida won medals at the Grand Prix in Egypt and the Prince Takamado Trophy tournament in Japan, soaring up the world rankings.
Ota had cause to worry.
"I got eliminated soon at the tournament where Kenta got to stand on the winners' podium," he says. "I couldn't help but think of him as my rival."
The turning point came at the Asian Fencing Championships in Doha. There were two slots on the Japanese team for the individual event. At the time, Japan's top-ranked fencer was Yusuke Fukuda, followed by Chida in second and Ota in third. Even so, Chida was passed over in favor of Ota, who was selected for the team because of his appearance at the Athens Olympics.
Before the tournament, Ota abandoned his typical practice routine. Instead, he humbly followed Matseichuk's instructions.
Ota saw results immediately, ending his slump and taking the gold medal.
Ota and Chida steadily improved themselves, and the two made the Japanese team for the Beijing Olympics.
At Beijing, they both lost to German Benjamin Kleibrink. Chida's score was 10-15 and Ota's was 9-15. But the big difference was that while Chida was knocked out in the second elimination round, Ota lost in the final and won the silver medal.
After the Beijing Olympics, fencing received more attention in Japan.
One stop on the two fencers' journey was the 2010 World Fencing Championships, where they won the bronze medal in the men's team foil event. It was a milestone that put the prospect of a gold medal at the London Olympics within sight.
"Kenta's a serious student," Ota says. "He's good at watching the flow of a bout to put together his tactics."
"I've gotten better by chasing after my close companion, Yuki," Chida adds. "But I can't rely on him if we're going to get the gold medal in the team event. I have to score touches, too."
The men's foil team event at the London Olympics is scheduled for Aug. 5.
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