When your mother is a former two-time world wrestling champion and you decide to follow her path, painfully high expectations are unavoidable.

Such is the predicament of Japan's Taishi Narikuni as he deals with the pressure to equal or better the success his mother Akiko achieved with four world championship medals, including back-to-back 65-kilogram golds in 1990 and 1991 and five national championships.

"I want to become a world champion, too," Narikuni said.

In April, the 24-year-old came from behind to win the men's 70kg freestyle, a non-Olympic weight class, at the 2022 Asian Wrestling Championships in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, beating world silver medalist and U23 champion Ernazar Akmataliev of Kyrgyzstan 4-3 in the final.

Taishi Narikuni (R) of Japan competes at the Asian Wrestling Championships in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in April 2022.
(Photo courtesy of United World Wrestling)(Kyodo)

But Narikuni thinks he benefitted from being an unknown, saying one continental title does not amount to much.

"I'm not a big name and my opponents didn't bother doing any research on me. I haven't done anything worth talking about," he said.

The naturally athletic Narikuni showed signs of future stardom as a junior wrestler, but in November 2017 while a student at Aoyama Gakuin University he was suspended for 20 months for a doping violation due to his carelessness.

He tested positive on an anti-doping test after prescription medicine contained a banned substance. The impact was devastating, costing him a chance to qualify for last year's Tokyo Olympics.

But Narikuni returned to the mat and now wants to forge a path to the ultimate success.

Taishi Narikuni holds up the Japanese flag at the Asian Wrestling Championships in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in April 2022.
(Photo courtesy of United World Wrestling)(Kyodo)

He began coaching at his mother's wrestling club in Tokyo, which trains children in the sport. His younger sister Kotone and father Takahiro also play a role in the family-owned business.

Working in close proximity with a mother who is a former world champion, however, has forced him to come face to face with the burdens he carries.

Narikuni said it is easy to get trapped in comparisons, explaining that he let high expectations from his students' parents impact his confidence as a coach.

"It has been really hard being compared (to my mother). I experienced feelings of inferiority for the first time," he said.

Narikuni's response has been to put those comparisons to rest by excelling in his chosen sport.

His immediate goal is to snag a place at the world wrestling championships, to be held Sept. 10-18 in Belgrade, Serbia. There, Narikuni is looking to collect some hardware of his own and make his family proud.

Narikuni is aware of the athletic blessings he received from his parents, but knows his genes can only take him so far.

"I have to raise my game. I'll never be satisfied," he said.

Related coverage:

Teenage talent Tokito Oda serving notice to wheelchair tennis world

Australian Baseball League eyes adding team with Japanese players

IOC to inspect proposed 2030 Sapporo Olympics venues this month