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Japanese Snowboarder: ‘I’m Sorry’

February 12, 1998

YAMANOUCHI, Japan (AP) _ About two-thirds of the way down her first run, she landed a jump on her back. On her second try, she slid across the finish line face first.

It’s not easy having the hopes of a nation on your shoulders. Especially at an Olympics, and especially in Japan.

``I’m so sorry I fell,″ Japanese snowboarder Yuri Yoshikawa told a throng of reporters after failing to make the finals in the women’s halfpipe competition Thursday.

``But I did my best,″ she said.

Yoshikawa, who is 26, came out of utter obscurity last month to win a World Cup halfpipe in Innichen, Italy. The victory _ combined with her good looks and amiable personality _ immediately made Yoshikawa the focus of intense media attention.

Yoshikawa was, in fact, probably the most popular female athlete going into the games for host country Japan. It showed at the halfpipe preliminaries.

Nearly 10,000 fans braved the rainy, slippery slopes of Kanbayashi Snowboard Park for Yoshikawa’s Olympic debut, and roared each time she took to the hill.

``She’s the one I came here to see,″ said Yuka Satomi, a young office worker from Tokyo. ``She’s so cute _ and she’s great in the air.″

Hopes for a strong showing were boosted even higher after the mogul skiing gold medal-winning performance Wednesday by teammate Tae Satoya, another virtual unknown on the world circuit.

After it was over, Yoshikawa was mobbed by reporters and TV crews.

With her apology out of the way, the impromptu press conference moved on to other crucial issues _ all of which was televised nationwide.

She was asked about her change in hair style (she wore a pony tail), why she took off her goggles, how she slept, what time she woke up, what she plans to do next.

``Train harder,″ she said.

Yoshikawa also said she heard the cheers of the crowd.

``It gave me a good feeling,″ she said. ``I wasn’t any more nervous than I would have been outside of Japan.″

Well, maybe a little bit.

``She had told me she was really surprised by all the reporters at the airport when she came back to Japan for the games,″ said Japan team spokesman Tadahiro Goto.

``It’s a dilemma,″ Goto said. ``Every athlete wants to get attention _ but not too much.″

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