Asuchalle! Field Day Japan Champion Tournament: Crowning the Strongest Parasport Team in Japan
On the day of March 17, the Nippon Foundation Para Arena in Odaiba, Tokyo, found itself the site of much passion and excitement. In attendance were the seven teams that had won their way through the seven “blocks” of the All-Japan Parasports Festival (FY2018 Japan Sports Agency Commissioned Project), with a total of 139 athletes from all around the country. The tournament, held under the name “Asuchalle! Field Day Japan Champion Tournament” (sponsored by JTB Corp.; support from the Japan Sports Agency), became a battleground of teams all vying for that Japan champion title.
1st: The Sapporo Health & Sports Foundation (Hokkaido Block)
2nd: Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences (Kinki Block)
3rd: Tohoku Fukushi University (Tohoku Block)
4th: Kurume University (Kyushu Block)
5th: Denso Corporation (Chubu Block)
6th: Mazda Motor Corporation (Chugoku/Shikoku Block)
7th: Challengers (Special Team)
8th: JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy Corporation (Kanto Block)
Tournament Opens with Sitting Volleyball
The first event was sitting volleyball, which, as the name suggests, is played while sitting on the floor.
The winner of the event, and an absolute champion, with no losses and the highest number of points of all teams, was the Sapporo Health & Sports Foundation Team (Hokkaido Block). “After the block tournament, we tried to keep ourselves accustomed to the ball, the feel of the game, but because we didn’t have a court, we weren’t able to put in any real practice. I think teamwork was our key to winning all our games” said team leader Igawa, smiling. Indeed, the team, which had a wider range of ages than most of the others, stood out for their genuine enjoyment of the game, and for their calls to each other—not just the players on the court, but the members on the sidelines as well.
The Sapporo Health & Sports Foundation Team (Hokkaido Block; right) blazed through the event, winning all of their matches
Goalball’s Heated Battles in the Midst of Silence
Next up was goalball, which is played with blindfolds on. Most of the teams had played it for the first time at the block tournaments, and there were many that seemed bewildered at the idea of throwing a ball without being able to see, and using the sound of the bells in the balls for defense. The matches in this tournament, however, were higher-level, seeing as how all the teams had played at least once before, and saw many incredible shots and swift, strategic moves.
The Challengers rein in a victory with blind para-swimmer Junichi Kawai
A “Quiet Please” sign was held up during the goalball matches, and the teams played amidst complete silence in the venue
High-Level Offense and Defense in Boccia
The boccia event saw many extremely high-level matches, and brought about many nerve-wracking moments.
This time around, there wasn’t a single team that won all of their matches. Coming with no losses, however, was the Sapporo Health & Sports Foundation Team. The Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences Team also did well, ending the event with two wins and one loss. The team, which had gotten through the preliminaries of the Boccia Tokyo Cup 2019 to the main tournament, showed off their incredible control of the balls. “We’re only able to practice once a week, but I think it was good that we tried kneeling when we throw, to stabilize our posture,” said Ezaki of the Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences Team. “We’re pretty good at boccia but also the wheelchair sports later, so we’ll make a comeback,” he continued confidently.
Every single member of the Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences Team showed off some high-level play
High-Speed Matches Ramp Up the Excitement
The next event was wheelchair portball. The key to the sport is maneuvering the wheelchairs properly and getting into the right positions to make passes. This being a Japan champion tournament, however, many of the teams were very accustomed to handling and moving around in a wheelchair.
The Kurume University Team and the Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences Team managed to bring their respective matches against the Challengers to a tie. The Tohoku Fukushi University Team—whose members said they occasionally use wheelchairs in their classes as well—also put up a good fight against these teams, using their quick wheelchair maneuvers to their advantage. “We’ve been practicing a lot since the block tournament, but it’s different—nerve-wracking—to be here, what with all these really strong teams from all over the country. It’s really hard to move the way you want to,” said Kobayashi of the Tohoku Fukushi University Team. “At the same time though, it’s really great and fun to see that there are so many people in Japan who are working so hard at parasports,” he went on, smiling.
The Sapporo Health & Sports Foundation Team led the way, winning all of their matches
A High-Speed Race Wins a Team the Championship Title
Last up as wheelchair relay, in which team members “pass” a wheelchair instead of a baton.
The final race was held on an oval course. While the university teams battled it out for a good inner position at the first corner, the Sapporo Health & Sports Foundation Team shot to the front, coming in from the outer side of the course instead. The crowd went wild at the team’s deftness. The second racer, however, was overtaken by the Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences Team and the Tohoku Fukushi University Team—both very confident in their wheelchair sport abilities—after which the race narrowed into a dead heat between these two teams. Both teams had many women as well, who completely held their own against the male racers. The last, intense moments of the race saw the ninth racer of the Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences Team come around the outer side of the course to overtake the Tohoku Fukushi University Team, and run away with the victory.
Corners, which are difficult to maneuver on wheelchairs, are a great opportunity to get in front
The Tohoku Fukushi University Team won the wheelchair relay
The Championship Title Goes to… the Sapporo Health & Sports Foundation Team
The total points were calculated, and the champion was crowned—the Sapporo Health & Sports Foundation Team! They had won the title by doing well in every event in the tournament. The fact that the champion was a non-university team—particularly when second to fourth place were dominated by university teams—also seemed unique to parasports and this tournament, seeing as parasports are not all about power or who has more energy. Said Igawa of the Sapporo Health *“We came in fourth in that last wheelchair relay, and that was really the best we could do. I think we’re lucky that we were able to win,” said Igawa of the Sapporo Health & Sports Foundation Team humbly. He went on, however, championship trophy in hand and looking deeply satisfied with the day’s performance, “It was absolutely worth crossing an entire ocean to come here.”
text by TEAM A
photo by Hisashi Okamoto