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Toyota’s Commitment as Paralympic Partner as Seen Through Development of Taiki Morii’s Sit Skis

As a Worldwide Paralympic Partner of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Toyota Motor Corporation is unfolding various efforts, one of which is the provision of support toward Toyota employees who are active as para athletes. Many Toyota employees as well as athletes from around the world compete as para athletes under Toyota’s support. It includes Taiki Morii, who entered five consecutive Paralympic Winter Games, starting with 2002 Salt Lake City, and won a total of four medals as a sit skier.

Para Athletes Supported Through World-class Technological Capabilities

Morii has been affiliated with Toyota since 2014. Because para alpine competitions take place in snow-capped mountains far from cities, it is often difficult for a large number of spectators to attend. Toyota is playing a part in boosting attendance by organizing in-house tours to the events so that employees can go and root for the athletes. Bus tours are arranged from places like Tokyo and Aichi Prefecture to take employees to and from the para alpine competitions. To help the families of employees also enjoy these tours, other appealing items are also added on, such as the inclusion of chances to enjoy local delicacies. These and other careful considerations given to the tours have proved effective, creating opportunities for employees who have never seen para sport competitions to attend the competitions.

The improvement of aerodynamic characteristics was thoroughly pursued in the development of a sit ski for use by Morii
Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation

The sit skis used by Morii in competition also utilize the technology cultivated by Toyota for their automobiles and use a frame and link mechanism that were jointly developed by Nissin Medical Industries Co., Ltd., and Toyota. Toshihiko Nagata, Deputy General Manager, Olympic and Paralympic Division, Toyota Motor Corporation, said with modesty, “The main party in the development was Nissin Medical Industries, which manufactures medical devices. All we really did was provide measuring and analysis technologies.”

Toshihiko Nagata, Deputy General Manager, Olympic and Paralympic Division, Toyota Motor Corporation
©Haruo Wanibe

To achieve ideal skiing in a sit ski used in competition, the frame and link mechanism have to be both lightweight and highly rigid. That is where the chassis design and CAE analysis technologies* cultivated by Toyota came into play. As a result, they were able to develop a sit ski that was 15% lighter yet three times more rigid than conventional models. To improve stability while skiing at high speeds, the measurement of aerodynamic characteristics was carried out using a wind tunnel experiment room that is normally used in the development of automobile aerodynamic performance. Aerodynamic characteristics were thoroughly pursued. Research is also being carried out on athletes’ postures for the reduction of wind drag.

* CAE (computer aided engineering) analysis technology: Technology that enables simulations and analysis of the strength of a product and other elements by recreating it virtually on a computer.

Team Morii helps motivate Morii in competitions
Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation

Development was carried out by Team Morii, which had a total of 40 engineers participating. The first-time development of a sit ski was carried out through a series of trials and errors. Studies were repeated, not only on the structure of a sit ski but also on an athlete’s posture during competition. Data was collected through actual skiing by Morii and fed back into development. This method in which actual runs were repeated to brush up the design and performance is one that can be likened to the development of an automobile.

The simultaneous pursuit of lighter weight and stronger rigidity is something that has continually been sought in the world of automobile manufacturing. Toyota has a long history of accumulating related expertise. In fact, this project began at the proposal of Morii, who believed that such expertise could be applied in the development of sit skis.

Deputy General Manager Nagata said, “In this project, Mr. Morii, who is the user, is always close by, so we could get his direct feedback right away. That seems to be a point that makes engineers feel that their work is worthwhile.” In that sense, another aspect of this project is that it helps nurture engineers.

Toyota employees came to the 2019 Japan Para Championships venue to root for athletes

Mobility Provides an Opportunity for People to Achieve Their Dreams

Akio Toyoda, President and Member of the Board (on left), and Sir Philip Craven, former IPC President and current Director, Toyota Motor Corporation
Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation

When he was President of the IPC, Sir Philip Craven talked about making an inclusive society through para sports. Toyota president Akio Toyoda was struck by those words, which led to Toyota Motor Corporation’s full-scale involvement in para sports. At the 2015 press conference announcing that Toyota had become a Worldwide Paralympic Partner, President Toyoda said, “We don't want mobility to be an obstacle, but rather an opportunity for people to achieve their dreams.” He expressed his intention to address head-on those challenges in which the freedom of mobility of those with impairments was key.

The next Paralympic Winter Games will take place in 2022 in Beijing. Together with his teammates, Morii will aim for the gold, the only medal that he has not yet won in the Paralympics. Team Morii’s activities embody Toyota’s goal of making everyone’s dreams come true through the provision of mobility solutions.

Morii won the silver medal at the PyeongChang Paralympic Games in the men’s downhill sitting ©X-1

■ Affiliated athletes
Taiki Morii (Alpine Skiing)
Momoka Muraoka (Alpine Skiing and Athletics)
Hajimu Ashida (Athletics)
Keita Sato (Athletics)
Tomoki Suzuki (Athletics)
Takuya Miki (Wheelchair Tennis)
*Japanese para athletes only

text by TEAM A

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