As an elementary school student, watching the first World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka lit a fire in Shinri Shioura. The now 31-year-old from Isehara, Kanagawa, Japan announced himself on the global stage at the World Aquatics Championships - Barcelona 2013 where he anchored the Japanese 4x100m Medley Relay to the bronze medal with his teammates Ryosuke Irie, Kosuke Kitajima and Takuro Fujii.
From there, the freestyle specialist has seen success as well in the short course pool, especially at the World Swimming Championships (25m) - Windsor 2016 where he swam to four medals (1 silver, 3 bronze). Now, with Fukuoka set to host another edition of the World Aquatics Championships this July, Shioura has his sights firmly set on representing Japan again.
When you look back to the first time Fukuoka hosted the World Aquatics Championships in 2001, what are your memories?
At that time, as I was in the fourth grade. I watched the World Championships on television. Ian Thorpe left the biggest impression on me. I think he won six gold medals.
Secondly, since I was a freestyle swimmer from my early youth, I repeatedly watched Tomohiro Yamanoi taking third place in the 50m freestyle so many times I cannot remember. While I remember watching the finals on TV, I would repeatedly watch videos of Tomohiro’s third-place victory on YouTube and other video sites.
Now, 22 years later, Fukuoka is about to host the World Aquatics Championships again. What are you most looking forward to at this event?
This year’s World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka is the first big World Championships in which spectators will be able to attend in a while. I tend to get more excited when there are a lot of spectators present. If possible, I always would like to swim in a completely full venue.
Do you have any messages or advice for children when watching these World Aquatics Championships?
While I was unable to watch the World Aquatics Championships – Fukuoka 2021 live when I was an elementary school student, I still vividly remember travelling as a fan to the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships to see them live the following year.
I greatly admired the Japanese representatives and international swimmers at the event, and this was the moment that I first became aware of Japanese athletes.
Next is for us active swimmers to provide kids with a similar experience to what I encountered myself. I want to swim to inspire the kids and let them dream big.
"I want to swim to inspire the kids and let them dream big."