By Teppei Kasai
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Hiromi Miyake knows weightlifting powerhouse China will be looking to dominate the event at the 2016 Olympics but the London Games silver medalist says her biggest rival in the run-up to Rio is herself.
The 30-year-old, who will compete in a fourth Olympics, hails from a Japanese weightlifting dynasty. Her uncle Yoshinobu won gold at the 1964 and 1968 Games, while her father and coach Yoshiyuki took bronze in 1968.
In 2012, competing in the 48-kilogram class, she lost out on the gold to China's Wang Mingjuan, who extended a 10-year unbeaten record to lift a combined total of 205 kg, beating Miyake by 8 kg.
"China is definitely our strongest competitor by country, but I think my biggest rival is within," the soft-spoken Miyake told Reuters on the sidelines of a recent training session.
"I'll work firmly towards my goals and hope that when I compete with the top Chinese athletes, I can compete offensively and not defensively. Beyond that there may be something, but before that, I want to win out over my own weakness."
Miyake, who stands all of 1.4 meters (4 ft 9 inches) tall, studied piano from childhood before switching to weightlifting after being inspired to compete by the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
She initially wavered between wrestling, judo and weightlifting before deciding to take up the family sport.
"Wrestling and judo, you have to start from really young," she said. "I hate to lose and thought that by starting in high school, we'd all be at the same level.
"Then, just a little, there was the plus of having my father and my uncle be medalists, so I thought that I could do it too."
Since London, Miyake's goal has been to improve her form, and she says she now feels this is starting to come together. With only six months left until the Games, it is now a matter of making every day count, often with one practice session in the morning and another in the afternoon.
A recent training session began with light stretches, then moved to practicing form with a weightless barbell, with Miyake stamping loudly as she stared at a wall of mirrors. She gradually added more and more weights.
Her father looked on attentively, occasionally shouting: "Push!" to help her pull through.
Even with all her effort, Miyake acknowledges that competing with China will be tough given that training there starts from an early age and prospective athletes are carefully selected from a large pool. There are also inevitable age differences.
But Miyake's competitive spirit remains undaunted.
"There were different dramas in Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012. No day, no year is the same," she said.
"These four years have been new, a new challenge for me."
(Writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Peter Rutherford)