Nina had a dream - to be an NFL cheerleader. And she chased that dream from Japan all the way to Indianapolis.
And once she achieved it, she found out she still had a long way to go.
“I couldn’t speak English well when I came here," she said. "It was the hardest thing for me.”
But she was determined to learn - for herself and her team.
A look at Nina during her 2018 creative photo shoot.
“My host mother is an English school teacher, so she helped me a lot,” she said. “Now, my English is getting better. I can communicate with my teammates and my director.”
Life in the Midwest opened Nina's eyes and her mind.
“I really appreciate everything in Indiana. Indiana changed my life so much.”
Now, she wants to return the favor.
“I think Japanese culture is so beautiful,” she said. “I want to teach every person my culture.”
And she wants to start with something basic.
“I realized that not many Americans use chopsticks well. I want to show them the correct way to use chopsticks.”
She also enjoys sharing her native language with her teammates and others.
“I always try to teach them.”
When she returns to Japan, she’ll take some American culture back with her.
“Cheer dance is not popular in Japan,” she said. “I would like to teach cheer dance to kids in Japan. That’s my next dream.”
Nina couldn’t have achieved her dream of cheering for an NFL team without the help of her teammates and former Colts cheerleader, Yuka, who also came from Japan.
She wants to leave a legacy in Colts Cheer, by helping other women follow in her footsteps.
“Japanese cheerleaders have dreams to become NFL cheerleaders, but it’s hard for them to come here. I want to teach them how to make the dream come true.”