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Rio Olympics 2016: The story of Kazuki Yazawa - The Japanese Buddhist priest who is gunning for gold at the Games

A Buddhist monk will be participating at the Rio Olympics and here is his story.

Kazuki Yazawa
Kazuki Yazawa in action during the 2012 Olympic Games

Kazuki Yazawa, a Buddhist monk, will be representing his country, Japan, at Rio Olympics 2016 later this year. The 27-year-old novice monk is a slalom canoer and has been competing since the mid-2000s. 

Yazawa first qualified for the K-1 event in 2008 for the Beijing Olympic games where he failed to make it through the qualifying round. Four years later at 2012 London Olympics, he improved his performance by qualifying for the final round of the K-1 event where he finished 9th. This time around, Yazawa will be hoping to come back home to Japan with a medal in his hand.

Yazawa is a novice priest at the ancient Zenkoji Daikanjin Temple in Nagano and learns his chants from the senior priests in the temple. He prays during the day and trains in the nearby Saigawa River for the Olympics in the evenings. 

In the London Olympics 2012, he made history when he finished 9th - becoming the first Japanese to do so. Despite his achievement, he could not find enough sponsors and hence he decided to take up a full-time job to support his Canoeing career. In 2013, he decided to step back from pursuing his Canoeing dream but things took a turn when he won the Japanese Canoe Slalom National Tournament in 2015. 

That put him on top among the Japanese canoes to compete at the Summer Games in Rio. “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," said Yazawa. 

His fellow priests also came out with encouraging words for him. "If you can win, nothing would surpass that; Regardless of the results, we hope you will stay healthy, avoid injuries, and complete the games," said Kansho Kayaki the Deputy Chief Priest at the Zenkoji Daikanjin Temple. 

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