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"i enjoy!" - Para-Ekiden in Tokyo 2018 Vol. 2

Tochigi Earns their Second Victory

Junpei Hoshi and accompanying runner Yasuhiro Yamada of Fukushima won a Section Award

Tochigi won the race for the second year in a row, with a time of 1 hour, 24 minutes, and 8 seconds. Fukushima came in second, and Tokyo came in third.

Tochigi winning the race for the second year in a row, with a V-sign for victory

Daisuke Kano of Saitama, who showed off a powerful run in the fifth section

Handover of the sash—a key point in determining a team’s victory/loss. Many teams worked hard on their handovers during their practice sessions

Using the Cheers to Power their Run

Many runners said that the cheers of the supporters helped them power through their runs. “There were people cheering the whole time I was running the 2.5 kilometers, and so I didn’t feel tired, and I just felt so much joy at being able to run,” said para-athlete Kenshiro Nakayama (Tokyo, sixth section), who competes with a prosthetic section, smiling. He went on to talk about how meaningful it felt to participate in the Ekiden as a runner. “Normally, running is an individual sport, and so it’s refreshing to be able to run in the Para-Ekiden, where we can all run together.”

Kenshiro Nakayama, who runs with a blade prosthetic, is aiming for the Tokyo Paralympics in the triathlon event

Mariko Kikuchi (Miyagi, third section), the event’s oldest runner at 67 years old, had participated in the Para-Ekiden because she wants to be involved in parasports for the rest of her life, and to participate as a volunteer in the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020. “The venue was just filled with all this energy, similar to the atmosphere at the National Sports Festival for People with Disabilities. All the people in the sidelines were calling our names and cheering us and it just felt great,” she said.

Saki Takamuro (Tokyo, third section), who is aiming for the Tokyo Paralympics in the wheelchair tennis event, won a Section Award for the third year in a row. “The qualifiers for the Tokyo Paralympics start next year. I decided to participate in the Para-Ekiden this year because I thought this might be my last chance,” she said, and went on to promise that she would earn a medal at the Paralympics.

Tsuyoshi Kitazawa, former member of the Japan national soccer team, ran in the fourth section as part of the Tokyo Runners team. “Even when I first joined the team, I didn’t feel any barriers between the able-bodied athletes and para-athletes. You hear a lot about building an inclusive society as we work towards the Tokyo Paralympics, but this inclusiveness was something that so natural at this Para-Ekiden—it was a great opportunity for me to acknowledge again the power that sports can have.”

“I was overtaken by some faster runners, and I might have brought my team down... But I gave it my all!” said Tsuyoshi Kitazawa

All the Supporters Come Together

At the closing ceremony, Parasapo Chairman Yasushi Yamawaki awarded the winning team, Tochigi, with the championship trophy. They also received a certificate of commendation for the Governor’s Prize from Katsura Enyo, on behalf of the Governor of Tokyo.

The Laos team, first-time participants to the event, gave it their all as well. They were particularly proud of their sash handovers, which they felt were the quickest of all the teams

The Nippon Foundation Chairman’s Prize, given to the “Most Memorable Team,” was awarded to the Laos team, who came in 9th. “I was able to run all the way because I knew my teammates were waiting for me. I want to thank all the supporters who cheered not only for the Japanese runners, but for us as well,” said the team’s anchor, Pia.

The Yoshimoto Team was there as well, for the second year in a row—running, of course, but also cheering the teams on

Popular YouTuber Hajime Shacho ran alongside the runners, urged on by a wave from the supporters

After the closing ceremony, there was a special concert by Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, and Shingo Katori. They also announced the sale of their parasports charity song, “Ame Agari no Step” The song was released exclusively on iTunes as a parasports charity song, with all proceeds going to support parasports through Parasapo.

After the event, the three voiced their enthusiasm as Special Supporters for the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020. “It’d be great if we could work alongside the athletes and the volunteers, and just help in any way we can.”

The 17,100 supporters, the greatest number the Para-Ekiden has seen, livened up the event

There is now only two and a half years until the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. Every year, there are more supporters at the Para-Ekiden, with this event seeing about 6,000 more supporters than last year. Interest in parasports is rising, and during the race, supporters answered the call to post to their social media accounts, coming together to communicate their experiences to Japan and the rest of the world. This was an event that brought parasports into the lives of all people involved, from the athletes to the volunteers, the hosts, and the supporters.

text & photo by Parasapo

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