When the young Koji Murofushi first began throwing the hammer, it seemed only natural--he hails from a family that has an inborn talent for chucking things through the air at great distances.
Koji's father is a former hammer-throwing Olympian, his Romanian-born mother was a javelin thrower for that country, and his sister, Yuka, is a talented hammer and discus thrower.
An Olympic gold medalist and reigning world champion, the hammer-throwing Koji Murofushi has become one of the most recognizable athletes in Japan.
At 37, the Shizuoka native is still going strong, and this summer he will try and strike gold again for Japan at the London Summer Olympic Games.
"I often wonder how many athletes would have excelled on the global stage if there were 10 Kojis and they all played different sports," says Koji's 66-year-old father, Shigenobu, who watched his son grow up leading the pack at whatever sport he tried.
The elder Murofushi was an instructor at Chukyo University when he let his young son try any sport he wanted. Be it swimming, baseball or kung fu, Koji was a natural at everything.
"By trying different sports, kids quickly learn how to move their bodies rhythmically," Shigenobu says. "Kids grow the most when they're between 3 and 11 years old."
By the time Koji was 9, his father showed him how to throw the javelin and discus. Initially, he couldn't throw far, but his form was excellent. His father said experiencing other sports gave his son a natural athletic sense of how his body works.
Eventually, Koji wanted to try out the hammer, his father's particular expertise. The elder Murofushi trained his son four hours a day.
"If he picks up a bad habit now, it will be an obstacle in the future," Shigenobu recalls thinking.
Under his father's tutelage, Murofushi learned the correct way to move his legs when rotating, as well as how to position his center of gravity as he throws the hammer. The fast learner improved at an impressive rate.
"I have the athletic career that I have because of my father's help when I was young," says the multiple Japanese champion and Athens Olympic gold medalist.
"I'll put everything I have into my performance," the veteran Olympian says, of what could very well be his final appearance at an Olympic Games.
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