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2 Years to Go Until Tokyo 2020! Para-Athletes and Shingo Katori Show Up for the Event

August 25, 2018. Exactly two years to go until the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. On this day, various events were held throughout the country to promote parasports to the general public.

There was a countdown ceremony (co-hosted by the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government) at MEGA WEB (Koto City, Tokyo), in an event that also featured related booths by partner companies of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Shingo Katori, Special Ambassador of the International Paralympic Committee and Special Supporter of the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center (Parasapo), showed up as a guest and brought even more excitement to a venue packed to the brim with people.
Parasapo also hosted an event in the Nippon Foundation Para Arena (Shinagawa City, Tokyo), which was opened to the public that very day. The many people who came to this event were able to tour the facility, which had just opened in June, and experience three different kinds of parasports, including wheelchair basketball.

More Recognition for Parasports

In the greetings for the countdown ceremony, Governor Yuriko Koike of Tokyo said, “We want more and more people to know about and support parasports. We want the stands full at all the events in the Tokyo Paralympic Games.” Shunichi Suzuki, Minister in Charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games went on to say, “As we move forward, we’ll continue to promote parasports, work towards a city based on universal design, and spread awareness of the need for barrier-free structures.”

Guest Katori was met with enormous applause

“Let’s all work together as a country to make the Paralympic Games a success.” Powerful words by guest Shingo Katori, who met with thunderous applause from the crowd.

In order to raise awareness for parasports in general, six para-athletes came on to give easy-to-understand explanations of each of their sports during the ceremony. “Canoes move forward, boats move backwards,” explained Makoto Koyama of the Paracanoe event as to the difference between canoes and boats. Daisuke Maeda of the Para-rowing event went on to explain, “Canoeing is a sprint while rowing, at 2,000 meters, is long-distance.” “We’re already excited to go all out in the giant new venue (Umi-no-Mori Park),” they both said.

“Goalball is a team sport,” said Yuki Temma, who was on the Japan national team for the Rio Paralympic Games. Only three of the team members are actually on the court, with the other three members on the bench playing a different role. All six members work together towards the same goal. In an interview after the event, she said, “Goalball isn’t just about throwing a ball—it actually has a lot of depth to it. We hope the crowd watches carefully and also keeps a keen ear, and feels what the sport is actually like.”

Temma (center) who was on the Japan national goalball team at the Rio Paralympic Games

Sarina Satomi of the Para-badminton event discussed the sports classes in her event, and Shota Kawamoto, who competed in the Para-cycling event at the Rio Paralympic Games, touched on the distinct struggles faced by para-athletes, explaining how it was difficult for him to bring the bike pedal back up, since he could only use one leg.

For the “Flower” of the Paralympic Games to Bloom Ever More Fully

A floral art piece was unveiled amidst chants of “2 Years to Go!” by the hosts and the crowd. This art piece, which was completed with the help of those who had come to the MEGA WEB venue for the event, was meant to symbolize the two-year time period until the Paralympic Games, and the wish for the “flower” of the Paralympic Games to bloom ever more fully when the time arrives.

A floral art piece was unveiled at the countdown ceremony

With this, the six para-athletes each announced their own goals—how they each wanted to “bloom” two years later, in the Paralympic Games. “Get a medal” (Satomi, Para-badminton). “Have fun and give the race my all” (Koyama, Paracanoe). “Gold medal!!” (Kawamoto, Para-cycling). “Get a gold medal” (Temma, Goalball). “Lose 10 kilograms. Get to the finals.” (Maeda, Para-rowing). “I want to support the people that supported me [since she does not intend to compete in the Tokyo Paralympic Games]” (Taguchi, Shooting Para Sport).
Katori announced his own “bloom” goal as well. “Lose 10 kilograms. Go all-out supporting the games,” he wrote on the board, to the delight of the crowd.

Each athlete announced their own “bloom” goal, starting with Taguchi (center) of the Shooting Para Sport event

After the ceremony, there was a demonstration of the Para-rowing event held on-stage to promote Paralympic events in general. Governor Koike and guest Katori also participated in this demonstration, which made use of something called a rowing ergometer. There are two types of rowboats—sliding-seat, in which the seat moves, and the fixed-seat, in which it does not. Maeda uses a fixed-seat rowboat, which requires you to row using just your shoulders and arms (without using your core). Katori, upon experiencing this fixed-seat kind of rowing, felt first-hand the enormous amount of work it took. “I give up trying to be a rower,” he said in astonishment, with beads of sweat gleaming on his forehead.
He still, however, went on to challenge Maeda in a 100-meter race and actually put up an amazing fight, coming in only 1.5 seconds (an approximately 5-meter distance) behind Maeda. “Your movements were really dynamic—that was amazing!” said Maeda of Katori’s performance.

Governor Koike and Katori try rowing!

text by Shinichi Uehara
photo by Hisashi Okamoto

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