TOKYO (AP) — The Olympics are in Japanese weightlifter Hiromi Miyake's blood, a heritage that stretches back to the 1960s, when her uncle won gold medals in Tokyo in 1964 and Mexico City in 1968, and her father also won bronze in 1968.
"I think I was able to try as hard as I did because of what they accomplished," said the 27-year-old Miyake, who thrilled Japan last year by winning the country's first-ever medal in women's weightlifting, a silver in London. "I understood how tough it is to win a medal and to keep winning. It's a tremendous effort, and I've felt that a lot during competitions."
With the Olympics coming to Tokyo in 2020, she hopes that will inspire the next generation of Japanese athletes.
Miyake trains at one of Tokyo's leading training centers, a far cry from the conditions her uncle faced in 1964, when the country was still rebuilding from World War II. Yoshinobu Miyake recalls walking the streets of Tokyo with a crooked barbell in hand, looking for somewhere to practice.
"There were no facilities, no food to eat, no barbells, no place to practice. The coaches were struggling," he said.
In 1964, Japan won 16 golds and 29 medals in total, trailing only the United States and Soviet Union. Miyake took gold with a total lift of 397.5 kilograms (874.5 pounds). The games were a turning point for the country's athletic development. The following year, national leagues were set up for a number of sports, including soccer, volleyball and basketball. Sports clubs and facilities cropped up across the country.
Born in 1985, Hiromi Miyake says her inspiration to train for the Olympics came from watching the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Games when she was 14.
"I thought to myself, 'that's incredible,' " she said. "I thought, I want to do something different, I want to change and challenge myself."
Here's a gallery of images of the Miyakes and their medal-winning moments:
Associated Press writer Elaine Kurtenbach contributed to this story.
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