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Nagano Group Takes World Youth Aerobics Title
A team of five Japanese school kids from Nagano won the international youth aerobics championship for 8 to 10 year olds, held in Florida in the United States in July 1998.
The five are fourth grader Mai Eda and four third graders: Rino Honda, Ayako Nakazawa, Nao Okubo, and Yohei Takemoto. They attend different schools in Nagano City, but all take aerobics lessons at a studio run by professional aerobics instructors Shinji and Harue Takemoto--Yohei's parents.
The five were selected in an audition at the studio in February. They started training intensively in April and competed in the national aerobics championships in June.
The children practiced more than an hour every day, six days a week, under the stern guidance of their instructors, who made them master such difficult moves as "toe touches" and repeated push ups.
Shinji was responsible for choreographing the dance sequence. He chose a Russian folk song around two minutes long, and built the moves on the theme of "love and peace." Even after the kids mastered the steps, they continued to practice so that they could move to the music in perfect harmony.
"Once we were in the studio, we made no distinction between our son and the other kids," recall Shinji and Harue. "And we had him speak to us as teachers, not parents."
Despite the hard training, the children say they loved every minute of it. "We all just love dancing to the music," Rino said.
The hard training paid off, as the five not only won the national title in June but also a ticket to compete in Orlando at the world youth championships, with dancers coming from nearly a dozen countries, including Canada, China, and the United States.
"I got nervous when our turn came up," Yohei remembers. "But as soon as I heard the music, my body just took over. The two minutes went by in a flash." Yohei's team received a score of 5.85, a whole point higher than the second-place Canadian team.
All five young dancers say they have dreams of competing in the Summer Olympics in 2008, by which time aerobics is expected to become an official sport.
Photo: The youth world champions show their moves. (Asahi Shogakusei Shimbun)