A Japanese track cyclist from the no-go zone around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is helping unite a community scattered by last year's quake-tsunami disaster as they cheer him on in the London Olympics.
Refugees gathered in the city of Tsukuba on Friday to watch Kazunari Watanabe in the team sprint and will get behind their native son again on Tuesday when he takes part in the Keirin event.
"I've raced bearing in mind how everyone felt about me. I want to repay the courage they have given me," Watanabe told Japanese media after his first race, in which his three-man team finished eighth, well out of the medals.
The 28-year-old's family — including his wife, parents, and grandmother — now live in different locations across Japan after the devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 which triggered the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
The cyclist's mother, Tomoko, has said she can "see in everyone a feeling that they have grown into one" because of her son.
Hopes are high that Watanabe can grab a medal on Tuesday in the Keirin, an event which originated in Japan where the competitors are paced behind a motorcycle before sprinting for victory.
In the world track cycling championships in Melbourne in April he placed fifth.