Just One More Year: Atarashii Chizu and Their Thoughts on the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games
On August 25, exactly one year from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, there was the “One Year to Go” Ceremony as well as an event held in Shibuya, Tokyo. On the day of the event, there was a press conference featuring Vice President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Duane Kale, alongside IPC Special Ambassadors and Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center Special Supporters Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, and Shingo Katori, who together make up the group Atarashii Chizu.
Thoughts on the Upcoming Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games
“I’ve always wanted more people to know about the Paralympics, and I personally was always working to learn more, but the biggest thing for me was actually getting to watch the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Paralympic Games last year. It changes your perspective on life, makes you think ‘wow, I didn’t know there were sports like this,’ ‘I didn’t know there was something in the world this happy, this joyful.’ Watch the Tokyo Paralympic Games next year and I think it’ll change your perspective on life, and just enrich your life in general,” said Katori, on the joy and exhilaration of watching the Paralympic Games for yourself.
“As we head towards the Tokyo Paralympic Games next year, we’ve gotten more opportunities to meet with para-athletes and talk to them for interviews. Every time we watch these sports we feel the athletes’ energy and courage, and every time, we feel it changing our perspectives on life. I know there will be many moments like this in the Tokyo Paralympic Games, and so we want you all to buy tickets and go to watch. If there are a lot of people cheering them on, they’ll feel good and perform better too,” said Kusanagi, showing gentle consideration for the Paralympians’ feelings.
“We’re still educating ourselves about the Paralympic Games, going out to do interviews and watching actual para-sport matches. Sports like rugby, tennis, and swimming I’ve known since I was a kid, but the Paralympic versions of them have different rules, and are broken down into detailed classes, and it’s so interesting. So I’ve gone in thinking of them as just whole new sports, and now I’m obsessed with them. Today marks one year until the Tokyo Paralympic Games. We truly want as many as possible to go watch, and we personally will do everything in our power to cheer the athletes on and support the games, so that it will—hopefully—give everyone that watches hope for their own lives,” said Inagaki, with his characteristic sincerity.
IPC Vice President Kale spoke as well, discussing his expectations for the future and declaring his commitment to gathering further momentum for the Paralympic Games, alongside the three members of Atarashii Chizu. “Preparations for the Paralympic Games are going well. The three members of Atarashii Chizu have worked to raise awareness for the Paralympic Games, and people that weren’t interested before are starting to be, so we as the IPC are extremely grateful for the work you’ve done. As we head into next year, we expect the Paralympic Games to gain even more positive attention. It’s important that the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games helps incite change in society and in how individuals think of impairment and para-sports. I believe this is the way towards an inclusive society. I implore you all to watch the Paralympic Games, and experience something life-changing.”
The Three Members of Atarashii Chizu Liven It Up with Wheelchair Tennis!
The one-year Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games countdown event, 1 Year to Go! Fun Festival was held in Yoyogi Park in Shibuya, Tokyo. Para-athletes, artists, and various celebrities came to participate in the event, which featured demonstrations of long jump, boccia, etc., and para-sport workshops, all crowded with visitors. What garnered the most attention, however, was the wheelchair tennis workshop, which featured a surprise appearance by Inagaki, Kusanagi, and Katori.
Nakazawa of the Japan Wheelchair Tennis Association teaching Inagaki and Kusanagi how to play wheelchair tennis
IPC Vice President Kale made a surprise appearance as well, adding to the excitement
When asked by the host whether they’d had any experience playing tennis, Inagaki said he’d been on the tennis team for just one week as a student, Kusanagi said he’d never played before, and Katori said he’d once played against wheelchair tennis legend Shingo Kunieda, Paralympic gold medalist and the holder of the greatest number of Grand Slam titles in the world. Their performance on the court was as expected, with Inagaki and Kusanagi struggling to maneuver their wheelchairs, and Katori moving swiftly about, hitting volleys across the court. Kale even joined in on the demonstration, telling the audience all about the fun and joy of wheelchair tennis. Katori later admitted, to laughs, that he hadn’t been on a wheelchair when he’d played against Kunieda, and the three’s constant banter with each other made for a fun time for all.
Momentum for Next Year, and Into the Future
Because it was held in Yoyogi Park, many of the visitors were people that just happened to come across the event at the park. And these people, having experienced Paralympic sports for the first time, must have felt the joy and beauty inherent in parasports. There is only one year until the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. What we want is for as many people as possible to head to the venues and put their passionate support behind the para-athletes. All of your support, all of your encouragement, will turn into energy for the athletes, driving them to perform at their best. The lottery for tickets for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will close at September 9 (Mon.), 11:59 A.M.
text by Jun Nakazawa(Parasapo Lab)
photo by Tatsuhiro Haraji