Friday, November 27, 2015

The sorrow of losing a friend of Japan

Jonah Lomu was a legend in the world of rugby. With a little help from Mike Catt he invented the commercialisation of the sport in 1995 as he executed a perfect Maori Sidestep and ran straight over the England fullback. He told me once they became friends and even joked about the incident over the years. And Jonah was a great friend to Japan, acting as a country brand ambassador when New Zealand played Australia at the National Stadium in Tokyo in the fall of 2009.

I was fortunate enough to meet Jonah in Tokyo on a number of occasions over the years as he visited the country. What was striking about him, apart from being one of the greatest sportsmen of all time, was what an outstanding human being he was. He'd talk about his family, his young son and his passion for cars, rarely mentioning his sport and he had time for anyone who would like to talk to him. Like many professional athletes of the modern era, he didn't really drink, happy to nurse a cola throughout an evening.

The last time I saw him he was carrying his infant son through security at Narita airport the night after we'd had dinner. We'd met outside the east Inakaya in central Tokyo. By accident I'd been sent to the west restaurant and so arrived twenty minutes late after I figured out what had happened. There he was, global superstar, just sitting on the railings outside the place, waiting for me. "No worries" he said, and that night we had a great dinner and talked about racing cars.

Jonah Lomu
Jonah Lomu, friend of Japan 1975 - 2015

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