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Para-Athletes Give it Their All! Report of All Japan Target Archery Championships

The weather was perfect for sports on the weekend of October 30 to November 1. At the Ryuhoku Athletic Park in Okazaki City, Aichi, the 62nd All Japan Target Archery Championships was held.

This year, seven para-archers stood on Japan’s most challenging stage for the sport. Chika Shigesada (Women's Individual Recurve) is already qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in archery, and her presence at the Championships put the spotlight on para-archery.

Seven para-archers took to Japan’s most challenging stage

Six Para-Archers in the Compound Category!

Archery is a sport that embodies a diverse society. In fact, in 2016, Zahra Nemati from Iran, who competes in the Women’s Recurve category, participated in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. She was the flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games and won a second consecutive gold medal at the Paralympic Games.

However, the Olympic recurve category is extremely advanced and competitive, so it’s difficult for para-athletes to reach the top. Shigesada was the only para-athlete to participate in the recurve category at the All Japan Target Archery Championships. Perhaps because of the nerves of participating for the first time, she came in 61st place out of 67 athletes during the preliminaries round, much to her disappointment.

Shigesada participating in the All Japan Target Archery Championships for the first time

In comparison, the compound bow uses mechanical pullies to bend the limb, which allows para-athletes to be more competitive against their able-bodied counterparts. Unfortunately, the compound category is not a part of the Olympic Games, but many tournaments now include it. The All Japan Target Archery Championships is one of them, where in 2015, Nako Hirasawa won third place, and so did Miho Nagano in 2017 (only the preliminaries round was held due to typhoon weather).

Of the seven para-archers who participated in this year’s All Japan Target Archery Championships, six competed in the compound category. Since no one has yet qualified for Tokyo 2020 in this category, the tournament drew much attention as a potential test to see how the qualifications will play out.

Oe Shines as a Rising Star

Oe said he made a conscious effort to focus only on himself

Three of the para-archers were men and three were women. The men were veterans Ajima and Kazumasa Hattori as well as Yuya Oe. The women were Nagano, Hirasawa and Aya Shinohara.

The archers needed 666 points to qualify for the finals round. In the men’s category, Hattori was just six points off. Had he overtaken three more competitors, he would have reached the finals. Ajima came in 28th place with 636 points.

In the women’s category, Nagano came in 9th place (627 points) and Shinohara in 10th place (613 points), both falling short of qualifying for the finals round. Nevertheless, Nagano remained positive, saying, “I didn’t get the results I was aiming for, but it was good in the sense that I discovered areas that I can improve on; both during the tournament, of course, as well as in the period leading up to and after it. By participating in tournaments, I believe we can get others to realize that people with impairments can compete just as well as people without impairments. Going forward, I hope to work hard and improve even more so that I can get more people to watch.”

Hirasawa and first-time participant Oe, on the other hand, made it to the finals round. Archers compete one-on-one in the finals round. One end consists of three arrows. The archers shoot five ends, or 15 arrows, and compete for the highest total score (out of 150 points). Hitting the so-called golden rings, worth 9 and 10 points, is a must. Being off by just a few millimeters determines whether you win or lose. True to the Championships’ reputation as the most prestigious tournament in Japan, the finals round was in a league of its own.

Hirasawa (right) made her way up to the quarterfinals

Both Hirasawa and Oe made it to the finals round, but were unfortunately defeated in the first one-on-one match.

Oe, who was defeated first, looked frustrated.
He said, “I’m disappointed. I played baseball from elementary school until I started working. Then I suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and started living with an impairment as an adult. I looked for a sport that would let me compete equally against able-bodied athletes and on the world stage. That’s how I discovered archery. I don’t know if I have any talent for it, but I genuinely like the sport. I’d like to come back for another try, and I want to keep shooting until my teeth break (since he cannot use his right hand, he draws the bow with his teeth).”

Hirasawa, who had said her goal was to win the Championships, was a little puzzled by her performance.
She said, “It’s been four years since I last participated in the Championships. I told myself I needed to seize the opportunity when I could. But even though I felt like I was shooting fine, the arrows weren’t hitting the way I wanted them to. I wasn’t sure what to fix or how. But at the very end, I managed to hit the center out of sheer determination, so maybe that’s what I was missing.”

Everyone Was Happy to Finally Be Back at a Major Tournament

Although everyone seemed to have areas they needed to reflect on and improve, they all looked happy to simply be there. That was mainly because, with so many tournaments being canceled due to COVID-19, this was the first major tournament to be held in a while.

To athletes, participating in tournaments and refining their tournament skills is important. In that sense, holding the Championships was extremely meaningful in and of itself, regardless of individual outcomes. For both athletes who participated, and even those who didn’t, it undoubtedly became a great motivator to work on their shooting skills in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games qualifications.

Results of the 62nd All Japan Target Archery Championships

Women’s Individual Recurve:
Chika Shigesada - 61st place (preliminaries 576 points)

Men’s Individual Compound:
Yuya Oe - 9th place (preliminaries 679 points, finals 140 points; defeated in the 1/8 eliminations round)
Kazumasa Hattori - 19th place (preliminaries 660 points)
Yutaka Ajima - 28th place (preliminaries 636 points)

Women’s Individual Compound:
Nako Hirasawa - 8th place (preliminaries 646 points, finals 116 points; defeated in the quarterfinals)
Miho Nagano - 9th place (preliminaries 627 points)
Aya Shinohara - 10th place (preliminaries 613 points)

text by TEAM A
photo by X-1

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