HORSE’S MOUTH: Keep an Eye on Pole Vaulter Mark Sakioka


(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on July 8, 2011.)



I’ve lived in Southern California for over 60 years but from time to time I am introduced to a place I’ve never visited before.

Some may wonder how this is possible for someone who is in the media.

Well, this past Wednesday, I was invited to a luncheon in the Banquet Room at the Mesa Verde Country Club, located in Costa Mesa.

Perhaps some of the Nisei golfers in the audience know of the Mesa Verde Country Club and may have played on the course there.

From the window of the clubhouse I viewed the fairway and thought, “What a beautiful golf course.” Although I’m not a golfer, it looked like a tough layout to play on.

At any rate, let me get back to the luncheon.

Inviting me to the luncheon was Grace Sakioka, whom I met at the Manzanar Camp Reunion at the California Hotel in Las Vegas.

At the luncheon, my wife and I were introduced to Grace’s son, his charming wife and their son, Mark.

Some of you may recall I wrote a piece on Mark when he competed in the California State High School Track and Field Championships.

He will be attending UCLA next semester and has already been accepted on the Bruins’ track and field team, so we’ll be hearing more about him in the near future.

Pole-vaulter Mark Sakioka has been accepted by UCLA’s track and field team.

As a high school pole-vaulter, he was ranked No. 1 in indoor competition and No. 2 in outdoor competition.

Some of you old-time Nisei track-and-field fans may remember Cornelius “Dutch” Warmerdam, who was considered the superman of pole-vaulting when he broke the 15-foot barrier in the event. Many considered 15 feet as the pinnacle in the event.

Well, Mark’s best mark in prep pole-vaulting is 16’3”. If Warmerdam were around today, he’d probably be carrying Mark’s pole out to the stadium as his equipment caddy.

I asked Mark during the luncheon how he came to become a pole-vaulter.

For one thing, he said he didn’t care too much for events that required a race against time, as in sprinting and other running events.

During his prep career, he set the frosh/sophomore record in pole-vaulting, breaking a 25-year-old record at his school. He ranked No. 2 in California as a sophomore vaulter.

As a junior. his personal best was 15’1” and as a senior, it was 16’3”.

He now holds his high school record for both indoor and outdoor vaulting, breaking the varsity record, which stood for 24 years.

During the 2011 season, he captured first place in nine meets, including the Orange County Championships and the CIF-SS Division 2.

Among other awards won, he was the Orange County Varsity Track and Field Athlete of the Week; Orange County Varsity All-County Boys Track and Field; Southern Division CIF Division 2 Champion; and Sunset League MVP.

Needless to say, I am really impressed by his accomplishments as a prep athlete and look forward to his career as a UCLA Bruin.

Who knows, he may be competing for a berth on the U.S. Olympic Team in the next Games.

Wouldn’t that be something? A JA competing in the Stars and Stripes in the Olympics.

I can envision the Japanese media writing him up: “Sakioka Wins Olympic Pole Vaulting … for America.”

That ought to confuse a lot of Nihonjins.

So, I want to thank Grace for giving me the opportunity to meet a wonderful and modest grandson and wish him the best.

Yes, although I won’t be using the 405 Freeway when it closes down for three days next week, I’m planning to stay in our house just the same because all the other freeways will be handling those who will be forced to find another route.

That will include the Harbor Freeway, my route into Little Tokyo, because those who are detoured from the 405 will be pouring onto the 110.

Even going to LAX from Gardena will be a mess, so I’m hoping nobody calls me from the airport to ask for a ride.

Since I frequently chat about old age (the other day about limiting driver’s licenses based on age), Em Kato sent me an interesting bit of information about aging Nisei drivers. She wrote:

“Frank Shoda, who will be 97 in August, still drives. Jimmy Masuda, who will be 97 in October, still drives. They were both at the Taisho Club dance at Nishi Gym on July 2. I helped at the Taisho Club dance.

“My former dance teacher, Harry Kanada, is 93 and will be driving to Las Vegas on July 11 and he drives there by himself. He usually goes to Vegas once a month and sometimes twice a month. I guess dancing helps, although I am falling apart.

“Had five funerals in one week, the last one being July 2 in the morning, so I have been very busy.”

I know what you mean, Em.

Golly, when you tell me about all the 90-year-olds still driving, you make me feel like a teenager at my “youthful age” of 86.

Boy, I gotta hand it to the 93-year-old who still drives to Vegas twice a month.

I wonder what kind of car he drives?

Heck, I’m almost inspired to jump in my car tomorrow and head out to Vegas.

However, when I look in my wallet, I find it’s not my age that is keeping me at home from Vegas and watching the boring Los Angeles Dodgers on TV.

Speaking of aging, here are a few rib-tickers to share with the senior Nisei population (Q = question, A = answer):

Q.: When can single men over the age of 70 find younger women who are interested in them?

A: Try a bookstore, under “Fiction.”

Q: How can I increase the heart rate of my over-70-year-old mate?

A: Tell him you’re pregnant.

Q: How can I avoid that terrible curse of unsightly wrinkles?

A: Take off your glasses.

Q: Why should 70-plus people use valet parking?

A: Valets don’t forget where they parked your car.

Q: As people age, do they sleep more soundly?

A: Yes, but usually in the afternoon.

Q: Where should 70-plus-year-olds look for eyeglasses?

A: On their foreheads.

Q: What is the most common remark made by 70-plus-year-olds when they enter an antique store?

A: Gosh, I remember all these.

Okay, let me get back to Vegas.

It was interesting to note that Las Vegas visitors from South Korea and China have increased 60 and 18 percent last year, according to the Convention and Visitors Authority.

Last year, foreign visitors spent $6.6 billion in southern Nevada, accounting for 17 percent of tourism revenue. And that figure is growing because of efforts to attract foreign tourists, who tend to stay longer and spend more money than their domestic counterparts. It’s a trend that is helping recession-battered Vegas.

The average international visitor spent $1,011 on non-gambling activities, compared with $627 spent by the average domestic visitor, according to the authority’s annual visitor profile.

Within 10 years, the authority hopes to increase to 30 percent the percentage of visitors from other countries, which rose to 18 percent last year from 14 percent the previous year.

The authority attributes the increase to more aggressive marketing efforts, favorable exchange rates, improvement in foreign economies, and an overall increase in foreign tourism to the United States.

The authority and McCarran International Airport officials are working to secure more international nonstop flights to Las Vegas.

When I come across articles such as the foregoing, I am always curious why the Downtown area of Vegas never seem to go after foreign tourists, especially the Japanese.

Today’s visitors from Japan would seem more suited to the Downtown area than the famed Strip because today’s Nihonjin visitors are not like the high rollers of three decades ago.

I think today’s Japanese visitors would enjoy the “hometown atmosphere” of Downtown as compared to The Strip.

Tiger Woods announced that he is not going to play in the next PGA tournament due to injury. However, he won’t be losing any chance of making money even if he doesn’t play.

Because of his injury, Woods signed a three-year agreement to promote a Japanese pain reliever, his first endorsement since he was caught in a sex scandal at the end of 2009.

He deal with Kowa Company is aimed towards the market in Japan and not the U.S.

Woods has already filmed a commercial for “Vantilin Kowa,” a heat rub used to relieve muscle and joint pain. The commercial is being shown on Japanese TV starting this month.

His agent would not reveal how much the company is paying Woods.

This is not the first Japanese product Woods has endorsed. He appeared in a commercial for canned ice coffee in the late 1990s.

Speaking of body pain, according to an article in Good Magazine, a breakfast of miso soup and eggs is said to help hangovers caused by a long night of drinking. The miso soup delivers sodium, water and electrolytes and soothes an upset and queasy stomach.

I don’t drink, but I do have miso soup for breakfast at least twice a week. It’s something I’ve been doing since I was a youngster because my Issei mother used to prepare it for the family every day.

Hey, maybe I should have taken a drink or two to get more benefits from my miso soup.

As I get older, I noticed my weight was going down even if I didn’t watch what I ate and didn’t exercise.

According to the recent report, poor choice of food is the cause of weight gain, not aging.

So I guess I’ll continue my breakfast of miso soup, fried eggs on a bowl of hot rice and a side dish of tsukemono.

Yeah, and it’s a lot less expensive.

If Maggie thinks I make a lot of typing and grammatical blunders, she should enjoy these that someone gathered up and published. They all appeared in various newspapers around the country. Try these:

A caller reported at 7:14 p.m. that someone was on the porch yelling “help” from a residence. Officers responded and learned the person was calling a cat that is named “Help.”

Headline: Fish Need Water, Say Feds

Headline: Attorney Accidentally Sues Himself

Headline: One-Armed Man Applauds the Kindness of Strangers

Headline: Statistics Show Teen Pregnancy Drops Off Significantly After Age 25

Headline: Tiger Woods Plays with Own Balls

Headline: Federal Agents Raid Gun Shop, Find Weapons

Headline: County to Pay $250,00 to Advertise Lack of Funds

A deputy responded to a report of a vehicle stopping at mailboxes. It was the mailman.

(Maggie’s comment: Heh, heh.)


George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.




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