NTT Communications Corporate Planning Division Public Relations Office Section Manager
Japan Tennis Association Managing Director Rika Hiraki became a professional tennis player when she was in university and achieved a historic win during the mixed doubles at the 1997 French Open. She currently works at the Public Relations Office and is Managing Director of the Japan Tennis Association (JTA). We asked her for her thoughts on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Alone on International Tennis Competitions
I started to compete internationally when I was in my first year of high school. Being a student and balancing my studies while competing internationally for the world’s top ranking was by no means easy. However, I believed that these challenging conditions only added value to what I was striving for and somehow managed to make it through.
From my second year in high school, neither my parents nor my coach accompanied me to international competitions. I was truly on my own and, since international phone calls were still expensive then, I communicated every day with my worried family using word processor communications, which was in those days considered nerdy. Fax machines were also rare and, when I was borrowing the phone line of the fax machine next to the hotel reception to send my word processor communication, one of the employees thought my actions were suspicious and mistook me for a spy (laughs). The relief of being connected via telecommunication was probably what gave me the courage to stay in foreign countries where there were no other Japanese people.
As a Professional Tennis Player and Employee
I switched to pro in my second year of university when the amateur system changed and also required players to register. I also had the opportunity to compete in the Universiade (an international multi-sport competition for university athletes). Up until this point, I had not really had much opportunity to meet athletes from other sports who were my own age. It was a fresh, new feeling.
After that, I had interviews with recruiters and began to hunt for a job like any other student. Although it was normal for student athletes to find employment through a sports recommendation and join a corporate team, I decided I wanted the same experiences that others my age were taking for granted. I decided on NTT because I was interested in communications and thought I might be able to make use of the experiences I had gained while competing internationally. After I was hired, and with the help of those around me, I worked at being both a professional tennis player and having career. I decided to challenge myself and see how far I could make it as a pro while still performing my duties at work.
“Do What I Can Do Today to the Best of My Abilities.”
I have always aimed to do what I can do today to the best of my abilities. I practiced daily with this motto in mind when I was an athlete. As a result, even when I lost a game I had no regrets because I had done everything I could have possibly done. I want to continue to keep this motto in mind now that I am both Public Relations Manager for NTT Communications and Managing Director of the JTA.
To the Athletes Aiming for 2020
In tennis, the number of athletes who actively aim for an Olympic record and world ranking points is increasing. As viewers, we tend to focus on how many medals an athlete wins. In the ancient Olympic Games, however, the athletes’ strengthened bodies were a means of honoring the gods. The games were held with the hope that they would promote international goodwill and contribute to world peace. I hope that the young athletes aiming for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics will focus on more than just their results. Through sport, we can see past our country’s walls. I want them to enjoy this cultural exchange without any regrets.
My Declaration for 2020
As an employee of NTT Communications, I want to work as hard as the athletes and support our commitment as a gold communication partner of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics through my public relations duties. I want to make every effort to promote interest in sports, and would especially like to improve the facilities for practicing tennis to match the increased number of players.