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A Compilation of Japan’s Best Para-Athlete Moments - First Half of 2019

Look back on the news articles posted to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) official website, and you get an idea of what the world’s been paying attention to. Here, we’ll introduce you to articles featuring promising Japanese athletes for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, chosen from amongst the news articles posted between April 2019 and March 2020. Let’s see which athletes the world has been watching, and what these athletes have been up to.

April 2019

■ Shingo Kunieda of Wheelchair Tennis Wins the Daegu Open

Date: April 1
Shingo Kunieda, ranked No. 1 in the world and two-time Paralympic gold medalist, is crowned champion of the Men’s Singles event at the Daegu Open (Korea).

■ Visually Impaired Runner Misato Michishita Wins Her Third Consecutive Marathon World Championships

Date: April 21
Misato Michishita won the World Para Athletics Marathon Championships, held at the same time as the London Marathon, in 2017 and 2018. She is considered a strong gold medal contender for the world championships (Women’s T11/12) in 2019 as well.
(Update: She ended up winning the world championships, held April 28.)

Misato Michishita was crowned champion of the World Para Athletics Marathon Championships

■ Yuma Yamazaki of Badminton and Her Mission as a Mother

Date: April 22 [News about Tokyo 2020]
Yuma Yamazaki is training to become the very first* badminton champion at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games (Women’s WH2 Singles and Doubles events). She has voiced her drive to succeed at the Paralympic Games, saying she does it to make her two sons proud.
*Badminton will be a Paralympic sport for the very first time at the Tokyo 2020.

Yuma Yamazaki, whose goal is to become the very first badminton champion at the Tokyo 2020 (Photo from Japan Para-Badminton International) photo by X-1

■ Shingo Kunieda of Wheelchair Tennis Wins on Home Court in Japan

Date: April 29
Shingo Kunieda is crowned champion of the Japan Open 2019, which is a part of the Super Series. This is his ninth Japan Open title, and his first since 2015. Yui Kamiji of the Women’s event comes in 2nd place, prevented from winning her seventh consecutive victory by a player from the Netherlands.

May 2019

■ Spotlight on Wakako Tsuchida for the Yokohama World Paratriathlon Series

Date: May 17
Wakako Tsuchida (Women’s PTWC), currently training for the 2019 ITU World Paratriathlon Series Yokohama, seems confident in her abilities against her powerhouse rivals.
(Update: Tsuchida came in 4th place in the tournament, which was held on May 18, and was unable to claim her third consecutive victory, her time dragged down due to a penalty in the bike portion, amongst other factors.)

■ The Japan Team Wins the Quad Event of the Wheelchair Tennis World Team Cup for the First Time

Date: May 18
The Japan team marks their first-ever victory at the Quad event of the 2019 BNP Paribas World Team Cup (world championship for wheelchair tennis, with teams divided by country), held in Israel. This is Japan’s first time winning the Quad event at the World Team Cup, since the event was first established in 1998.

June 2019

■ Koji Sugeno of Wheelchair Tennis is May’s Allianz Athlete of the Month!

Date: June 14
Koji Sugeno, who led the Japan team to victory in the World Team Cup, is chosen to be May’s Allianz Athlete of the Month*.
*Allianz Athlete of the Month: An athlete, chosen every month through voting by the general public on the IPC website, thought to have had outstanding performance in that month

Koji Sugeno, Japanese star of the Quad event (Photo from British Open)

July 2019

■ Shingo Kunieda of Wheelchair Tennis Wins Another British Open Title

Date: July 30
Shingo Kunieda goes into the British Open as the defending champion, and wins yet another title. This is his seventh British Open title.

Shingo Kunieda smiling after winning the British Open

August 2019

■ Keiichi Sato of Triathlon and His Steady Preparation for Tokyo 2020

Date: August 14
Keiichi Sato, who aims to compete in his fifth Paralympic Games (Summer and Winter combined), goes to compete in the ITU Paratriathlon World Cup (Men’s PTS5) in Daiba, Tokyo. He expresses how prepared he is for Tokyo 2020, in terms of measures to combat the heat, etc.
(Update: Sato came in 6th place in the tournament, held on August 17.)

Keiichi Sato, who competed in the Paratriathlon World Cup, is one Paralympian who has competed in both the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games (Photo from the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games)

■ Ayako Suzuki Considered a Gold Medal Contender for the Para-Badminton World Championships and the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

Date: August 19
The 2019 BWF Para-Badminton World Championships is held in Basel, Switzerland. Ayako Suzuki, ranked No. 1 in the world in the Women’s SU5 event, is considered a gold medal contender for Tokyo 2020.
(Update: Suzuki came in 2nd place in the Singles event.)

■ Wakako Tsuchida of Triathlon is Crowned Champion at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Test Event

Date: August 19
Wakako Tsuchida is crowned champion of the Women’s PTWC event of the ITU Paratriathlon World Cup (Daiba, Tokyo), which was also a Tokyo Paralympic test event.

Wakako Tsuchida (center), who won the Paratriathlon World Cup photo by X-1

September 2019

■ Mami Tani of Triathlon Emerges as the Face of Tokyo 2020 Ad Campaign

Date: September 19 [News about Tokyo 2020]
Mami Tani is chosen as the face of the latest Tokyo 2020 ad campaign, meant to showcase Paralympians against a backdrop of Tokyo’s famous landmarks, symbols, etc. Tani (maiden name: Sato) competed in the Paralympic Games three times for athletics, before switching to triathlon in 2016. She gave a presentation at the IOC Session in 2013, where the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games were announced.

Through these articles, we can see the growing anticipation for athletes like Japanese legend Shingo Kunieda and for Summer/Winter Paralympians like Wakako Tsuchida and Keiichi Sato, as we head towards the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. What sort of news will 2020, and 2021, bring in terms of Japanese athletes? We hope from the bottom of our hearts that the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has had an immense impact on the world of parasports as well, is contained as soon as possible—bringing the joys of sports back to our everyday lives.

Check another article:
A Compilation of Japan’s Best Para-Athlete Moments - Second Half of 2019

IPC Official Website:
*World rankings are as of the date the articles were published

text by TEAM A
photo by Getty Images Sport

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