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Interview: Mio Suemasa
by Jon Carr

Talk about Japanese involvement at World Cup level and the name that will come to most peoples lips first is Honda, not the diminutive Mio Suemasa; Mio who?? Talk about the youngsters leading the charge in women’s downhill and the name that will come to most peoples lips first is Celine Gros, not the diminutive Mio Suemasa; Mio who??*

Since her 1st place in the Junior Worlds at Vail in 2001, Mio has continually proven herself one of the most consistent performers on the World Cup circuit. 2004 saw her only once finishing outside the World Cup top ten, within one rider of adding a senior gold to her junior one and ending the year placed 4th in the UCI rankings. The future’s bright.

*Incidentally, at 21 and a handful of months, Mio is the youngest member of the UCI top ten and second youngest in the top 20, only beaten by our own Rachel Atherton.

Descent World: What made you switch from trials to DH & 4X, when you were already a successful trials rider?
Mio Suemasa: I got trial world champion title twice and then I switched to DH because I wanted to do something new.

DW: When you won the junior world championship, you surprised a lot of people.
MS: I think so; I didn’t race on the world cup at that time.

DW: Did winning the junior world championship make you decide to race on the world cup circuit full time, or was it something you had already planned to do?
MS: I was thinking to race on the world cup when I started DH and when I won the junior world championship I thought it is time to race on the world cup full time.

DW: Did any of the older Japanese riders who competed in some of the early world cups like Takashi Tsukamoto have an influence on you decision?
MS: That’s for sure. I could get a lot of information about the world cup from them.

DW: How do you cope with being away from home for the whole year?
MS: I keep in close contact with my family and my friends.

DW: What do you miss when you are away in Europe and North America?
MS: I miss Japanese food and Japanese riders! (There are not many Japanese riders in world cup…)

Mio, Les Gets Worlds 2004 [jon_e foto]

DW: Do your parents and family ever come to watch you race in Europe and North America?
MS: Actually my parents come to watch World Championship every year from 2001 in Vail.

DW: This season didn’t start too good for you with that crash in qualification at Fort William?
MS: I guess it wasn’t good start…
I was a little nervous to ride the course at Fort William because I couldn’t ride my new bike much before the season.

DW: Did it affect your world cup results?
MS: Probably not.

DW: The world championships in Les Gets went well?
MS: It was great ride. I had no mistakes and I really enjoyed it.

DW: Were you confident after your quick qualifying time?
MS: When my friend saw my seeding run results, he said I could aim top 3. But I wasn’t sure that because it was about 20 sec gap between Anne Caroline and me.

DW: Do you think that with Anne Caroline Chausson not riding in the finals it made the rest of the riders try harder to win the world championship?
MS: I didn’t think about that. I just tried my best.

DW: Have you had much interest from the non cycling media in Japan?
MS: TV and magazine sometimes.

DW: What was your favourite world cup course (Fort William?) this year and how does it compare to the courses in Japan?
MS: I like Fort William and Les Gets courses. World cup courses are much more exciting than Japanese courses.

DW: After your world championship result are you confident about next season?
MS: Yes. I am looking forward to race world cup next season.

DW: The world cup in Brazil looks interesting?
MS: It must be a very interesting race, isn’t it?

DW: No world cup in Japan again next year, is it disappointing not having a ‘home’ World Cup?
MS: I miss the world cup in Japan so much. I really want to race a world cup at “home”

DW: Are you still with Trek next year?
MS: I don’t know yet…

Fort William 4x

DW: How did your sponsorship deal work this season, were you still part of the Trek VW team or a private team with your out side sponsors & Trek Japan?
MS: It was pretty hard to get sponsor but it was good experience. I raced private team with Trek Japan and out side sponsors.

DW: Your bike this year is quite different from the standard production version; can you tell us what is different?
MS: My bike is a little smaller than a normal Diesel. And there are many holes in the frame (swing arm) for keep lightweight.

DW: Who custom paints your crash helmets as the paint work at moment is pretty cool?
MS: My sponsor “Sidewinders”, he always doing great job.

DW: Did what happened to Haruko Fujinaka at Snow Summit effect your attitude/outlook towards racing and life in general?
MS: Her accident reminded me that downhill is a high risk sport. We have to keep that in mind.

DW: What do your family/friends think of you downhilling especially after Haruko’s accident?
MS: After her accident my family were very worry about me. But they understand downhill is X-sports.

DW: You’re a good 4X rider but do you do much dirt jumping?
MS: I started dirt jumping last season off. It is quite fun. I want to try some tricks but so difficult…

DW: What do you do in your spare time when you’re not riding bikes?
MS: Going shopping and snowboarding in winter.

DW: Are there any good young Japanese riders we should keep a look out for?
MS: Yusaku Kosyo and Masahiro Sampei.They are only 13&14 years old, but already top 4X riders in Japan.

DW: Any thank yous or shout outs?
MS: I would like to thank Trek Japan, OGK helmet, IRC, Oakley Japan, Goldwin and all my sponsors. Also special thanks to Richard Finlayson and Richard’s brother who helped me when I had that stupid crash at Fort William!!

Thanks again to Mio for taking the time to talk to us, keep an eye on the Descent-World forum to see who will be the next to sit in the DW hotseat.


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