Photo/IllutrationIkuma Horishima goes airborne with the ID one ski at the World Cup moguls event in Calgary, Canada, on Jan. 6. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

MORIGUCHI, Osaka Prefecture--A company with only four employees is seeking to extend its Olympic medal streak at the Pyeongchang Winter Games opening Feb. 9.

Material Sports Inc. is the manufacturer of the ID one skis used by some of the top mogul skiers in the world, including Mikael Kingsbury of Canada, who won an unprecedented sixth straight moguls overall title in last year’s World Cup season.

The company has produced the mogul ski that has propelled athletes to the medal podium since the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

At last season’s world championship, about 70 percent of the men and about 60 percent of the women used ID one skis.

In addition to Kingsbury, Japan’s Ikuma Horishima, 20, plans to use the ski at Pyeongchang.

The ID one ski has a natural curve toward the front.

It was born through a conversation between Makoto Fujimoto, 59, president of Material Sports, and Aiko Uemura, a top Japanese female mogul skier whose first Olympic experience was at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games.

One year after Nagano, Uemura, 38, confided in Fujimoto that she was still unable to find a ski that best matched her abilities. At that time, Fujimoto’s company mainly imported ski goggles.

Seeing how despondent Uemura was, Fujimoto promised that his company would come up with the best ski for her.

At that time, most mogul skis made by the top companies were nearly parallel in width. But such skis were insufficient for Uemura who was adept at making sharp turns.

The perfect ski for Uemura would feature enough flexibility to deal with the bumpy course but also enough rigidity to withstand the shock of landing jumps during a run.

Fujimoto asked a trusted company in Nagano Prefecture to produce a ski that would most fully bring out Uemura’s abilities.

After Uemura signed a contract with Material Sports in 2000 and began using its skis, she started winning World Cup events. Around the same time, Janne Lahtela of Finland signed a contract with Material Sports. He went on to win the gold medal in men’s moguls at Salt Lake City.

Other skiers heard about the victories produced on Material Sports’ skies, and the floodgates opened for orders.

Since 2002, skis made by Material Sports have been used to win 13 Olympic medals, including in the aerials event.

Companies often tinker with their models in line with rule changes and technological advances. However, athletes have urged Fujimoto not to change the ID one model.

He said the current skis are fundamentally the same ones made from the model used by Uemura and Lahtela.

Fujimoto plans to visit South Korea and take in the Pyeongchang Olympics.

“Through the skis, I want to bring out to the fullest all of the abilities held by each athlete,” Fujimoto said.