Illustrated by Hiroyuki Kikuta and written by former Olympic champion Shinji Morisue, when Shogakukan began to publish a manga entitled Ganba! Fly High in 1994, few could imagine it would provide the inspiration needed for one of today’s biggest Olympic stars.
In Rio de Janeiro, the site of the 2016 Olympic Games, Kohei Uchimura became the first athlete in more than forty years to earn back-to-back titles for men’s all-around gymnastics. For somebody who has been so dominant this past decade in their particular field, it’s pretty hard to believe that Mr. Uchimura once doubted whether or not he could compete as a gymnast at all. In an interview with NBC, the Olympian explained that as a youngster he would draw illustrations of competing gymnasts because he never imagined he might be something he could someday do himself. It was after discovering Ganba! Fly High that he began to see things differently. In the manga, the story’s protagonist manages to overcome what he believes to be a lack of technical skills by accelerating in the category of determination. Upon realizing how he might implement that type of mindset into his own life, Mr. Uchimura too was able to fly.
“The main character is a prodigy and can do the most unrealistic moves,” Mr. Uchimura explained of the story’s hero. “It taught me that nothing is impossible.”