2020HEROES

Head for the world stage! NTT Athletes

Image: Photograph of Rika Hiraki indoors during her interview.

Supporters Talk

Delivering inspiration in 2020
through communications services
utilizing new ideas

Rika HIRAKI

Manager, Public Relations Office, Corporate
Planning Division, NTT Communications Corporation
Executive Director, Japan Tennis Association

Rika HIRAKI was active as a professional tennis player from her university days, achieving the significant feat of winning the first place of mixed doubles match at the 1997 French Open.

Currently, she works in NTT Communications’ Public Relations Office while also performing an active role as an Executive Director of the Japan Tennis Association (JTA). Here we asked Ms. HIRAKI about her initiatives and thoughts regarding 2020.

Alone on the international tennis tour

I began playing on the international tennis tour when I was a first-year high school student. Although it certainly wasn’t easy having one foot in my school studies (my duties as a student) and the other in the international tennis tour, aiming for the world’s top level in tennis, I believed that “the more difficult the conditions, the greater the value of the challenge”, and so I juggled and made adjustments on a daily basis. From my second year of high school onwards, I participated in the international tennis tour completely alone, unaccompanied by my parents and coach. This was a time when international telephone calls were still expensive, and so to communicate every day with my concerned family at home, I used word processor telecommunications, which at the time was regarded as somewhat “nerdy”.

FAX machines were also rare at that time, and so there was even one occasion when I borrowed the FAX circuit next to the hotel reception desk to connect my word processor for transmission, and a hotel employee didn’t understand what I was doing and thought my behavior was odd, suspecting me of being a spy! (Laughs)

The reason I was able to spend time in different countries where there were no other Japanese without being nervous or fearful was probably that being able to connect with my family and friends at home through telecommunications gave me a sense of security and peace of mind.

As a professional tennis player and as a company employee

When I was in my second year of university, the professional tennis system changed so that amateur players were also registered, and so I turned professional. I was also given the opportunity to compete in the Universiade (an international sporting event for university students), and I watched other athletes of my own age—with whom I had previously had little exchange—with a fresh perspective.

Later, I job-hunted just like any other university student in Japan, through recruiter interviews. When student athletes with reasonably good academic records seek employment, they ordinarily receive sports recommendations from their university so that they can continue to play their sport on a corporate team. However, I chose the “normal” job-seeking path as I wanted to experience what my peers were experiencing as a matter-of-course in the same way as they were.

I chose NTT because I was interested in communications, and also because I thought I might be able to utilize my experiences from the international tennis tour. After joining NTT, with the support of the people around me, I took on the challenge of “seeing how far I could go as a professional tennis player while performing my work duties”, endeavoring to balance work and tennis.

Image: Photograph of Rika Hiraki indoors during her interview.

“Do what you can do today with all your might”

Something I am always careful to do is ensure that I “do what I can do today will all my might”. When I was competing as a professional tennis player, I would train on a daily based in line with this motto. For example, even if I lost a tennis match, I would be sure to harbor no regrets, telling myself, “You did all that you could, so the result can’t be helped”. Also, I aim to remain conscious of this motto in my current positions as a PR officer for NTT Communications and Executive Director of the JTA.

Message to athletes aiming for 2020

The environment for tennis has improved, with points for competing in the Olympics now counting towards world rankings, and so an increasing number of players are now proactively aiming towards participating in the Games. Although spectators’ awareness tends to inevitably focus on how many medals athletes win, since the ancient Olympics were a sporting festival in which athletes dedicated their highly trained bodies to the gods, it is my hope that through this sporting festival we will be able to promote international friendship and contribute to world peace.

For young athletes aiming to compete at 2020, I hope that you not only achieve your desired results but also are able to enjoy international exchange through sport, overcoming the wall created by country, and leave no regrets.

My personal declaration looking towards 2020

Not to be beaten by the athletes, as an NTT Communications employee I intend to support the company’s role through my role as a PR officer, as well as endeavor to improve the infrastructure for sports, such as by invigorating sports, and especially by improving the training environment in order to expand the tennis population base.