As a child, Yoshi Measures was a figure skater with Olympic aspirations. She never could have guessed she’d get to the Games decades after trading her skates for a painter’s brush.
One of the Nelson artist’s paintings will welcome Canada’s women’s softball team when they open play in Fukushima City on July 21 at the Tokyo Games.
Measures, who immigrated to Canada in 1997 as a skating coach, was contacted in January by an organizer in Fukushima who spotted her work on Instagram. The city wanted art for a display honouring nations who supported Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed 18,000 people and led to a radiation leak at a nuclear plant.
Measures grew up in the north of Fukushima Prefecture and had a friend who lost their parents in the disaster. The offer to send a painting, she says, gave her an opportunity to finally the support the city in her own way.
“I didn’t know how to react to it from here. I didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t have a chance,” she says. “This is something I can leave behind.”
But the turnaround time was difficult for Measures, who is by her own admission a slow painter.
She decided to alter a painting she did of her family’s property near Salmo. A Canadian flag was added, as was a father and son practising baseball. She also had to tailor the painting to Olympic requirements, one of which meant removing a Nike symbol from the boy’s shoes, but she’s proud of the final product.
To accompany the painting, she wrote this message: “As mighty as your dream, you were resolute and unwavering chasing it. Be fierce now. Canada is proud.”
The piece, she says, is meant to inspire Canadian athletes but also serve as a reminder of how parents and coaches contribute to Olympic dreams. “I know how hard it is,” she says.
Measures retired from coaching figure skating two years ago to pursue a full-time career as a painter. She was ready for a change after years of axels, toe loops and salchows.
All she needed, it turned out, was one painting to make a lifelong Olympic dream come true.
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