An Additional Four Archers Qualify for Tokyo 2020!: Qualifiers for the Host Country Slots
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Final Japan Qualifiers and the Men’s W1 Qualifiers were held at Yumenoshima Park Archery Field (Koto City), the site for the Tokyo 2020 archery preliminaries, on March 27-28. The former was a qualifier for the host country slot for Tokyo 2020, and the latter a qualifier for the Men’s W1 Open event.
Amongst the Japanese archers, Tomohiro Ueyama of Men’s Recurve, Chika Shigesada of Women’s Recurve, and Aiko Okazaki of Women’s W1 Open have already qualified for Tokyo 2020 on an individual basis. As such, the qualifiers were held to select one archer for Men’s Recurve (host country slot), and a slot each for Men’s/Women’s Compound Open. There was also an additional slot for Men’s W1 Open, established with new requirements, to fill the one left by Yoshitsugu Naka, who had qualified on an individual basis for Tokyo 2020, but who had passed away in February.
Turning the Postponement into a Net Positive
Competing in these qualifiers were eight archers who had each fulfilled various requirements, including the minimum qualification standard for Tokyo 2020: Hiroyuki Terada and Takahiro Hasegawa of Men’s Recurve; Tadatsugu Otsuka, Masaomi Fujii, and Rion Miyamoto of Men’s Compound Open; Miho Nagano and Nako Hirasawa of Women’s Compound Open; and finally, Koji Oyama of Men’s W1 Open. All top archers in Japan.
The qualifiers had originally been planned for 2020, but had been delayed a year following the postponement of Tokyo 2020. Hiroki Okawara, coach of the Japan national team, explained, “The whole thing really depended on the situation with COVID, so for a while it was hard to tell if it was even going to happen. But around winter, I did start telling them that we’d try to make it happen at the same time it would’ve happened last year.”
It seemed anticipation had been building amongst the archers as well. They had each decided, as soon as the Tokyo 2020 postponement had been announced, to “reset” and look to the future. Indeed, Coach Okawara said that their performance at the qualifiers was proof of how well they were all doing.
“They’ve been through a lot. But since they found out about the postponement, they’ve really built themselves up again, and there’ve been real improvements to their techniques, their performance. In that sense, you could look at the postponement in a positive way; they’re better than they were before, and naturally that makes me excited to see how they’ll perform,” he said. In his words, there seemed to be anticipation toward a possible medal.
Miyamoto’s poker face was absolute; “All you can do [at a tournament] is prepare as well as you can, then just do your best,” he said
In the limelight at the qualifiers was Rion Miyamoto, who had come to the tournament as a contender for the Men’s Compound Open. The 27th was perfect archery weather—sunny, with only a gentle breeze. The 28th, on the other hand, was a battle against the rain, wind, and the cold. On both days, however, Miyamoto made his shots quickly and rhythmically, seeming very relaxed.
The Compound Open event is comprised of six sets, with each set consisting of six ends. Each end consists of six arrows shot across a 50m distance, meaning there are a total of 36 arrows per set. In this particular event, Miyamoto’s score had been between 338-342 points for each set. Looking closely at his targets at the end of the first day, it was clear that most of his arrows had come within the yellow circle (9 or 10 points), showing how controlled his shots had been.
Miyamoto himself explained, “I was able to spend this additional year [from the postponement] working on building strength and improving my form, which has given me better average scores. I think that’s what contributed to my performance today.”
The Key to the Qualifiers: Stability, and Calm in the Face of Bad Weather
The Women’s Compound Open was a one-on-one battle between two archers with experience competing in the Paralympic Games
Nako Hirasawa of Women’s Compound Open was another who remained steadfast amidst the turn in the weather, and who actually seemed to perform better as the tournament wore on. Though she’d remained calm throughout the first day, focusing only on what was in front of her, she hadn’t performed as well as she’d hoped, losing her lead to Miho Nagano, with whom she was competing for the slot for Tokyo 2020. On the second day, however, her performance crept up and up until the final sixth set, when she smashed out a tournament personal best of 57 points in the final end, coming in with more total points than Nagano.
“I know I shouldn’t be satisfied with how I performed overall, but the final six shots, I think I did really well. I just wish I could’ve done this well yesterday. But still, I’m really proud of myself for not giving up and for trying as hard as I could for each shot.”
It was Nagano, however, who ultimately beat Hirasawa and won the slot for Tokyo 2020. Nagano, who had competed in the London 2012 Paralympic Games, performed well throughout the tournament, making sure to recover any points she’d lost in the previous end in the next one, her shots precise and powerful.
“I think my strength is in my stability—how unaffected I am by my environment. I kept my concentration up even with the sudden rain and wind on the second day, just focusing on my own muscle memory and feelings for each and every shot, being precise with each of them.”
After the tournament, Nagano said, “I tried to practice even when it was raining a bit, or windy [in preparation for this tournament].” She went on, “I need to reflect on my skills for Tokyo 2020, make myself even better. I only have one goal, and that’s to win a gold medal.”
“It was a good environment, and I felt good making those shots,” said Nagano
Hasegawa of Men’s Recurve enjoyed a lead over his rival, Terada, for the whole event, making his victory almost certain. Perhaps because of this, there were times during the event where his performance became less stable, his shots not as focused as they could have been. Now that he has qualified for Tokyo 2020, we hope he will continue to improve his performance, so that he can make it to the winner’s podium alongside Ueyama.
Hasegawa qualified for the Paralympic Games for the first time since the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games; he was motivated, he said, by his wife and family, who had always supported him
Unlike the other classes, Oyama of Men’s W1 found himself competing alone in his event.
“It wasn’t like it was harder [to compete alone], but I would’ve liked to compete with Naka, and gone with him to Tokyo 2020 to try to win a medal.”
“I heard the Paralympic Games feel different from other tournaments; I’m excited to meet and compete with all these amazing archers from throughout the world,” said Oyama
On the second day, he found himself in difficult straits when the rain made it difficult to see the target, and the cold made his body tense up.
“When I get tense, there are times when I’ll find myself shaking right as I’m aiming—and you know, my body just moves all of a sudden. So I tried to make my shots quickly, before I’d really start to shake. Still though, the cold today was really something. It felt like there was nothing I could do.”
It was clear even to those watching that he was shaking from the cold during the fourth end of his final set, and in fact, his score went down as well. For Tokyo 2020, however, it’ll be more important to prepare for the heat than for the cold.
“On hot days, I’ll try to cool myself down between ends by pouring water on my head, or getting under a parasol. Water especially helps a lot [so I should be alright in the heat],” he said, seemingly well prepared for what lies ahead.
Those who participated in the press conference (front row, from left to right: Oyama, Nagano; back row, from left to right: Coach Okawara, Miyamoto, Hasegawa)
The archers who came in first were sworn in as members of the Japan national team at the council meeting for the Japan Para Archery Federation, which was held after the tournament. With the addition of these four, a total of seven archers have now qualified for Tokyo 2020. Coach Okawara, however, says there is a possibility that this number will go up.
“The final qualifiers will be held in July. There, we have a chance of winning a slot for Men’s Recurve, and a slot each for Men’s/Women’s Compound Open. It’ll depend on the situation with COVID whether the qualifiers will actually happen, or whether we’ll be able to send our archers there, so there’s a lot of uncertainty, but if we can send them to compete, we’d definitely like to do it.”
“I’m really proud of myself for not giving up and for trying as hard as I could for each shot,” said Hirasawa
Hirasawa also expressed her hope for these qualifiers.
“It was like this for all the Paralympic Games I’ve competed in so far, but if there’s a chance for me to make it, I won’t give up until the moment the final list is announced. I’m an archer, so this process of working every day to get the higher score for each and every point… that’s not something that’s limited to the Paralympic Games, or to whether or not I’m able to compete in it.”
Otsuka of Men’s Compound Open was also looking to the future.
Otsuka (left) worked to combat the rain and wind by putting wax on his bow, and a weight on the tripod for his scope
“[This tournament is] so fun. I don’t really get to experience this in my usual matches—this kind of pressure, this kind of anticipation and excitement. To be honest, it would’ve been amazing if I’d won [the slot] today, but I was just underprepared. I’ll have to reset my thinking somewhat, and try to win one of the remaining slots.”
Tokyo 2020 will also feature a team event called the Mixed event. The Japan team will compete in this event in the Recurve Class and W1 Class.
“Japan will be going for a medal in the Mixed event as well. So we’re hoping to get some training camps in, get the team back together, and work on our performance there too,” said Coach Okawara.
It is now approximately five months until Tokyo 2020. It seems we’ll have to keep an eye on the comings and goings of the Japan national archery team until right up to the very end.
Results for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Final Japan Qualifiers (Host Country Slot) and the Men’s W1 Qualifiers
Men’s Recurve Open:
1st Place: Takahiro Hasegawa (1,849 points) / 2nd Place: Hiroyuki Terada (1,450 points)
Men’s Compound Open:
1st Place: Rion Miyamoto (2,039 points) / 2nd Place: Tadatsugu Otsuka (1,943 points) / 3rd Place: Masaomi Fujii (1,921 points)
Women’s Compound Open:
1st Place: Miho Nagano (1,891 points) / 2nd Place: Nako Hirasawa (1,854 points)
Men’s W1 Open:
1st Place: Koji Oyama (1,848 points)
The qualifiers were held at Yumenoshima Park Archery Field, where the archery events for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will be held
text by TEAM A
photo by X-1