Introducing Atsuko Tanaka, Team ATB Ski Jumping athlete
Blame sibling rivalry or genetics, but Atsuko Tanaka was drawn to ski jumping at a very early age.
"I watched my brother ski jump during the weekends. It got me inspired, the whole flying through the air thing," she explains. "My dad used to be a ski jumper as well when he was younger. It kind of ran in my blood, I guess."
Atsuko Tanaka made her competitive debut in the Continental Cup when she was just 12 years old. In 2005, when she was only 13, Atsuko finished first in a Continental Cup event in Park City, Utah. A year later in Slovakia, she finished second at the World Junior Championships.
"I honestly never thought about being successful that young," she says. "It's good motivation for me because I know what that success feels like and I want to keep doing it and get there again."
But success doesn't come without challenges—like a career-disrupting knee injury.
"In 2009, we had our first world championships in the Czech Republic. Right before that, we had the junior worlds in Slovakia. Right before my competition jump, I crashed and tore my ACL meniscus."
"It's definitely hard to come back from a big crash like that, especially because you're off the hill and off training for a long time. It took me 10 months to get back on the hill and get jumping again. Within that time frame, it was a lot of pain and a lot of hard work to regain the muscle that I lost. But I really love the sport and I didn't want to quit yet, so my parents, friends and family came together and helped me through the recovery."
Back in fighting form, Atsuko is Canada's top female ski jumper and, with three top-10 finishes on the World Cup circuit and 12th place in Sochi, she has a promising future.
Watch Atsuko's video and learn how you can support Team ATB