It just felt like a bad cork. Painful, but not too bad.
Tsuneari Yahiro was more worried about the blood dripping from a cut lip than his calf when he fell at training and a rival fell on top of him, crushing his leg.
The karate exponent went home, grabbed some ice and elevated his sore calf.
The next morning, in excruciating pain and with a calf bigger than his thigh, Yahiro went to emergency where a nurse discovered his leg was icy cold.
“She asked me had I just iced it and I said no. It was cold and it was starting to lose circulation and I was straight into theatre,’’ said the Sydney karate exponent.
“Six hours later and it would have been amputated.
“In the theatre the doctor asked me my pain level and I said 12.
“I had one operation and then they cut the side of my calf to let the blood clots come out. Then there was a second operation to sew it back so I have a skin graft down the left side of my calf and 50 staples.”
The then 19-year-old took a year out of the sport to recover from compartment syndrome but even now, 14 years on, he still only has half the strength in his left calf compared to his right.
But at least he has his leg.
“I’m optimistic. I never thought it would stop me,’’ he said.
“I won’t forget that day though. I won’t forget the day I was named in the Olympic team either.’’
The Japanese born Australian who hails from Cherrybrook in Sydney’s leafy Hills District has been forced to wait until now to compete in his sport at the highest level with karate one of the sports making its Olympic debut in Tokyo.
The martial arts expert has won four Oceania championships and considers himself in the hunt for a medal having won a number of bronze medals at past world championships.
Yahiro in June competed in a final qualification event in Paris where he dislocated his shoulder but maintains it s “all good now’’.
“The goal is to medal,’’ he said.
“Physically everyone is in good form so it’s the mental game that will give you the edge.
“It’s important not to get overwhelmed and I have competed on big stages over my career.’’
Yahiro was born in Japan and moved to Australia when just 18-months-old and works as a language teacher in a family business in Sydney.
He said also lived in Japan on and off for some years and speaks the language fluently.
“It really is like my second home. I feel very comfortable there which is helpful,’’ he said.
Yahiro will contest the 75kg kumite division as the sport makes its Olympic debut.