ParaFes 2018: 6,000 Audience Get Together with Paralympians, Olympians and Artists! (Part I)
The “ParaFes 2018 – UNLOCK YOURSELF” event was held at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza on November 23. 6,000 people—a record number—showed up at this third installment of the event, which is hosted by the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center (Parasapo). This year, Olympians and Parasapo Special Supporters joined in on the action, in addition to the usual para-athletes and artists, to make the event even more amped-up and exciting than the year before.
This year’s ParaFes, held as attention mounts for parasports in general, was meant to drive momentum for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The event was extraordinary popular, with tickets selling out as soon as they went on sale, and a live viewing event scheduled last-minute to accommodate people who had not been able to get tickets. Audience took photos in front of the ParaFes graphic, went around to the “i enjoy! Para-Sports Park in ParaFes 2018” event in the sub-arena, and more, as they waited eagerly for the event to begin.
The venue is scheduled to host the Wheelchair Basketball event at the Tokyo Paralympics
Soon it was 4:00 P.M. The lights in the venue dimmed, and the opening performance began.
The first to emerge on stage were the ParaFes dancers, performing a powerful dance while waving flags with the ParaFes logo
The ParaFes dancers emerged in makeup and costumes based on Japanese culture and traditional Japanese performance art
The audience watched the UNLOCK-themed performance, riveted
There were 18 ParaFes dancers, all making use of their own unique characteristics
Chairman Yasushi Yamawaki of Parasapo addressed the audience after the opening performance
Yoshiro Mori, President of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, emerged with paper lanterns in hand and expressed their ardent gratitude for the audience in the packed venue
Afterwards, there was a video message from Andrew Parsons, President of the International Paralympic Committee. Then, Parasapo Special Supporters Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Shingo Katori took the stage for the opening remarks, and the venue exploded in exhilaration.
Parasapo Special Supporters Kusanagi and Katori made a surprise appearance on-stage, and declared the start of the event
Serious Match, Paralympians vs Olympians
With freelance announcer Rio Hirai serving as host, Katori expressed his own excitement about the event, saying, “There’s so much I didn’t know about parasports, and it’s all right here,” as the crowd erupted in applause
And so ParaFes 2018 began. The first show to take the stage was the “Serious Match” which also happened to be the theme of this year’s event. Chikara Ito, pioneer of Taekwondo—an official sport for the first time at the Tokyo Paralympics—went all-out against rising star Yusuke Hoshino in a nerve-wracking battle. Following a match of vigorous kicks, Ito, the more experienced of the two, won the game with only a point to spare. The audience, who had been watching with bated breath, erupted in applause for the two para-athletes.
An intense back-and-forth battle between Ito and Hoshino, both of whom were fully aware of how the other fought
Taekwondo at the Paralympics is a sport for para-athletes with impairments of the upper limbs
It was a dramatic battle, complete with lights and sound effects
Hoshino, who is going for the Tokyo Paralympics in a different class from Ito, said emphatically, “I want to get a medal”
Next, a ParaFes first! Serious Match between a Paralympian and an Olympian. Koyo Iwabuchi, fresh new star of Table Tennis, was to go against Maharu Yoshimura, Table Tennis silver medalist at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Video footage—including video of the two in a practice rally—worked to amp up the audience for the coming match.
Iwabuchi was smiling as he came out on stage
His opponent, Yoshimura, also waved to the cheering crowd with a smile
Iwabuchi has impaired use of both his lower limbs, and cannot put much weight on his left foot
There was a sense of tension in Yoshimura’s plays as well
Audience enjoyed the match as one of the entertainments
The match ended with Olympian Yoshimura, who was trailing behind Iwabuchi in the first half of the game, making a comeback victory
The third battle was a wheelchair fencing match. Shintaro Kano, prince of the wheelchair fencing world, went head to head against Ryo Miyake, Fencing silver medalist at the London 2012 Olympics, in a riveting battle.
Kano emerged enthusiastically onto the stage
The fencers sit quite close in wheelchair fencing
Their swords flashed and glinted through the air
Kano (right) got the audience on his side with his yells and fist pumps
“I couldn’t run away—I was in a panic,” said Miyake (left)
Conversation with Kusanagi and Katori brought out the charms of the two athletes
This match ended in a win and a loss for each. And the audience, it seemed, was captivated not only by the intensity of the match itself, but also by the two’s unique personalities and powerful words.
text by Asuka Senaga
photo by Hiroki Nishimura, X-1