LONDON — Nearing the tailend of a morning run around the Athletes Village, judoka Tomohiko Hoshina slowed down to wave and smile at a group of Japanese athletes heading out of the huge dining hall.
The Filipino-Japanese athlete did the same to anyone he met as he made his way back to his unit after a 40-minute jog, something that’s endearing him to his teammates in the Philippine team to the 30th Olympic Games.
That’s Hoshina – friendly, accomodating and exuding youthful exuberance.
And he’s honest enough to say the reason why he’s wearing the Philippine uniform in his first foray to the world’s biggest sporting spectacle .
In a chat over breakfast, the 25-year-old Hoshina admitted he represented the Philippines in the qualifiers leading to the London Games because he has more chances of making it than competing in Japan where good, tough judokas abound.
“Small chance in Japan,” Hoshina said in halting English. “There (in the Philippines) easy.”
No problem with that since Hoshina can represent either Japan or the Philippines in the Olympics or any other international tournaments since he carries dual citizenship.
You see, his mother is Vilma Aldaba, a native of Malolos, Bulacan working in an American base in Japan, and was married to a Japanese serviceman who died when Tomohiko was only 13.
When not grappling with opponents in the international arena, Hoshina stays at the the Gunma Prefecture where he teaches physical education in a leading high school, earning close to US$3,500 a month.
That’s the same school where he met his girlfriend, a judoka like him who took up the the sport at about the same time she was falling in love with Tomohiko.
‘’I love judo. I love her. We both like judo,” Hoshina said, helping himself to a fourth bottle of orange juice after a breakfast of fried eggs, hotdogs and bread.
His being easy to get along has endeared his teammates and Team PH officials, a trait which he said he probably inherited from his mother.
“Mabait at madaling pakisamahan,” said Rene Herrera, the country’s bet in the 5000-meter run.” Pag nakita ka, ngingiti agad at babatiin ka.’’
That admirable trait also left weighlifting coach Tony Agustin speaking glowing words about Hoshina.
“Pilipinong Pilipino sa puso,” said Agustin, adding he was touched to see Hoshina pull out a Philippine flag from his bag and display it in the balcony of his unit on the day he checked in at the Athletes Village.
Unknown to Agustin, that flag was bought by a cousin in Manila as requested by Tomohiko, who’s seeing action in the plus-100 kilogram division.
Hoshina also cares.
Done with his breakfast, Tomohiko excused himself, proceeded to a souvenir store just a short walk away and bought a US$35 Olympic T-shirt.
No,the T-shirt was not for him. It was a gift for his coach Yasuhiro Sato, who was celebrating his birthday.
OLYMPIC NOTES: The Philippine embassy will treat Team PH with a dinner today at the office of Ambassador Enrique Manalo...The Mcdonald’s inside the vast Dining Hall, some 200 meters away from the Team PH units in the eastern part of the Village, is the busiest portion of the hall at any given time. Manned by a staff numbering 150, the McDo outlet is operating on a 24-hour basis. Except for the plates, spoons and forks, everything can be taken out from the dining hall, which is bigger than a football field...Like in previous Olympics, condoms are also free at the Village. This time, organizers said som 150,000 pieces of condoms have been made available...