Mari is a successful Organization Development Consultant in Organization and Talent Development. Motivated and fierce, Mari’s achievements are the result of coupling the power of determination with the support of others to realize what you can become. Finding inspiration in Fly Fishing and Sailing, her story demonstrates how perseverance can help you find your inner strength to overcome adversity and achieve your goals.
As a child, Mari represented her home country of Japan in the Junior Olympics for Swimming. Used to fine-tuning every aspect of her swimming technique for peak performance, her life took a sudden turn when she suffered a cerebral infarction in her sleep, leaving her left arm and leg disabled. “It happened at night; I thought it was something minor and would get fine later,” Mari remembers. “But in the morning, I couldn’t walk and I fell from bed. I couldn’t yell or call for my parents.” With this setback, Mari had to rethink how she would live the rest of her life.
Fishing for motivation
Mari found new hope in the unlikely sport of Fly Fishing at a social event. Although she felt insecure, that one event changed her outlook on life. “I felt like I had to do it for myself and for all the people who had supported me since the incident. I had to do it for my future,” she shares. “For ten years, I spent most nights crying because the cerebral infarction took away my freedom. I felt strongly about changing my life; I was happy to find something that would trigger that change.”
Fly fishing is known as difficult sport. The demand for fine, precise hand-eye coordination and patient observation presented much more of a chalenge for Mari. “In the beginning, tying a single mayfly took over an hour; it took me hours to fill my fly box with even a handful of flies,” Mari says. “Then, I took them fishing. They got caught in trees, in grass…everywhere. Before I knew it, my fly box looked empty, and I had to go back to the grueling task of tying knots.”
However, after ten years of practicing and pushing herself, Fly Fishing became second nature to Mari. “Fly Fishing gave me a new life. I found a new version of myself that was bold, determined, and could achieve what I would have earlier thought impossible,” she says. “That may have been my expression of gratitude to the fortuitous miracle of adapting to this world, where life had intersected. For me, meeting each fish became deeply emotional, and that emotion transformed into power.” With power came confidence, which led Mari to take on greater challenges.
Victory at last
As Mari excelled at Fly Fishing, new opportunities came knocking on her door: the coach for the national Paralympic Sailing team noticed her talent and determination and contacted her to join. She spent months reading anything available to her about the sport, and its strategy, to compete in the 2015 Asian Paralympics. Her long period of intensive practice and preparation led Mari to the incredible achievement of winning the silver medal at the games. “I brought home a medal for Japan; my country had never won an award in Sailing at the Paralympics before,” she says.
After achieving victory, Mari decided to make a career change to increase the time she could practice sailing to focus on winning another medal at the Tokyo Paralympics. “The medal became a daily source of strength that symbolized everyone in my past; it gave me courage to believe in my experiences and brought forth my latent potential,” she tells us. Unfortunately, several months later, Mari heard that Sailing would no longer be an official category. “I was so disappointed; I regretted changing my career, so I tried changing my goals.”
So Mari kept going. In 2016, she entered and won the Global Fly Fishing Championship in the Female category. Achieving a global top ranking in that category was also a first for Japan. “My friends and family who supported me after the infarction were the primary reason I continued and achieved what I’ve done so far,” she remembers. “When I was competing, I would close my eyes and visualize my friends and family’s reaction to me winning a medal—that gave me strength to keep going.
Transforming through experience
Mari has faced challenges that few of us would encounter in our lives. Instead of finding defeat in adversity, she has chosen to transform her life through victory. Mari now uses her experiences to help and inspire others in challenging situations. She conducts workshops and works with Oracle employees on mental training, finding strength, positive psychology, and resilience. “Connecting with other people is very important to me,” she states. “I find inspiration in encouraging others who are going through a tough time.”