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【Para-Sports】 No Limits Special 2017 Ueno, a Two-Day Festival of Para-Athletes, Held!

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government hosted No Limits Special 2017 Ueno on May 6 and 7 to build awareness of the Paralympic Games. The promotional event offered an opportunity for visitors to experience all 22 para-sports to be held at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

This is the second No Limits Special following the No Limits Special Ginza & Tokyo event held last year May in Ginza. This time, it was expanded to a two-day event. The venue was Takenodai Plaza at Tokyo’s Ueno Park, adjacent to Ueno Zoo and the Tokyo National Museum. The event caught the attention of many Japanese and foreign visitors and tourists who were passing by.

In Declaring the Event Open, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike Asked Participants to Get to Know that “People Have No Limits”

Tokyo Governor Koike spoke of how she would like to build momentum toward the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

Retired tennis pro Shuzo Matsuoka, who now works as a television personality, served as the main event emcee along with freelance television announcer Rio Hirai. At the opening ceremony, Mr. Matsuoka implored visitors to teach their children the “no limit” word and concept.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike followed. She declared the event open by saying, “There are only 1,207 days left until the Tokyo Paralympic Games. Please get to know that people have no limits. Meanwhile, I will work to make our metropolis more comfortable for people to live in by the 2020 Tokyo Games, including focusing on sidewalks curbs and other changes in level.”

The “Five-Match Challenge Against Paralympians” Communicated the Thrill of Para-Sports

Following the opening ceremony, Governor Koike participated in an exhibition match entitled “Five-Match Challenge Against Paralympians.” Olympic medalists and television personalities who are known for their athletic capabilities challenged Paralympians in five of the para-sports that will be part of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics: powerlifting, athletics (wheelchair racing / high jump), shooting and wheelchair tennis.

The first para-athlete who communicated the thrill of the Paralympics was Hajime Ujiro. He placed in powerlifting events at Athens 2004 and London 2012. The match was to see how many times a 60kg weight could be lifted in 10 seconds. With only 8 lifts, Sydney 2000 judo silver medalist Shinichi Shinohara was unable to beat Mr. Ujiro’s record of 11 lifts.

Marking a record of 140kg, Mr. Ujiro also surprised
the audience in the match to see how much weight could be lifted at once

Mr. Shinohara said, with a grin of embarrassment, “I did my serious best!” Meanwhile, Mr. Ujiro explained, “Unlike standard bench press, an athlete assumes a completely supine position on a bench in para powerlifting. The key is figuring out where to center your upper-body balance.”

Exclamations of surprise could be heard from the audience when Mr. Ujiro showed off his upper arm with its circumference of about 47cm.

Paralympians Made an Appeal for People to Better Know Paralympic Sports

The other Paralympians who followed also showed how skilled they were.
In athletics, wheelchair athlete Yoshifumi Nagao, who has competed in seven Paralympic Games, skillfully spun the wheels on his wheelchair racer faster than television personality So Takei. In the high jump, Toru Suzuki, who has competed in five Paralympic Games, easily marked a record of 160cm, which was higher than the jump by television personality Wataru Mori. It brought about an excited stir of the audience.

Meanwhile, a challenger who made a good show was Sydney Olympics women’s marathon gold medalist Naoko Takahashi. In shooting para sport, an athlete must hit a 0.5mm-diameter innermost circle in order to get the maximum score of 10 for a shot. In a best-of-three-shots match, three-time Paralympian Aki Taguchi scored the maximum 10, while Ms. Takahashi did well with scores of 6 points, 7 points and 6 points.

Ms. Taguchi said, “People ordinarily can’t even hit the target at first. She’s definitely unlike others, hitting the target so well!”

Governor Koike also tried her hand at shooting para sport, marking a high score of 8 points. Mr. Matsuoka, who said that he didn’t hit the target once in his 10 practice tries, said, “The governor has an amazing power of concentration.”

Many famous personalities gathered for the five-match challenge
(From backrow left) Rio Hirai, Shuzo Matsuoka, Shinichi Shinohara,
So Takei, Wataru Mori, Naoko Takahashi and Ai Sugiyama
(From front row left) Hajime Ujiro, Yoshifumi Nagao, Governor Koike,
Toru Suzuki, Aki Taguchi and Yui Kamiji

In official air rifle competition, 60 shots are fired in one hour and competitors are judged on the total score. Ms. Taguchi explained, “At the world level, you can’t advance to the final match unless you can get 10 points for every single shot,” impressing on the audience how difficult the competition can be.

The last of the five-match challenge was between wheelchair tennis player Yui Kamiji and former tennis pro Ai Sugiyama. As Mr. Matsuoka hit a tennis ball to a player, the match was to see if it could be hit back to a target. Although Ms. Kamiji had difficulty handling junior tennis balls, she showed how adept she was with her wheelchair. The match went to Ms. Sugiyama by a narrow margin.

Governor Koike and Audience Captivated by the Boccia Special Exhibition

An exhibition match of former professional baseball players against the Rio Paralympics boccia Japan national team was held in the afternoon of May 6.

Governor Koike refers to boccia as an appealing sport that can be enjoyed together by the disabled and non-disabled. A game of strategy like curling, it is played by two teams with six balls each. The teams compete to see how many balls they can get close to the white jack (target) ball.

Japan national team players Takayuki Hirose and Hidetaka Sugimura first explained boccia rules. In the exhibition match that followed, former Japan national team softball player Juri Takayama joined the two to form a team. Meanwhile, former pro baseball pitchers Hisanori Takahashi and Kazutomo Miyamoto joined hands with wheelchair basketball player Shinji Negi in a boccia challenge against strong opponents.

There was tension in the air during
the exhibition match as the challengers played a fine game against the two boccia Paralympians and softball Olympian

The red team with the boccia Paralympians struggled more than expected against the challengers’ blue team. Mr. Miyamoto, who was confident of being able to control his throws well, did a fine job of blocking the way for the red team. Mr. Sugimura said, “We were in serious trouble,” but the red team ultimately managed to keep the lead, winning against the challengers by 1 point.

After the exhibition match, the two boccia Paralympians said, “We hope people saw the appeal of boccia through today’s event.” There were more than a few spectators who immediately went over to the boccia corner that had been specially set up to allow people to experience the sport.

“The No Limits Special Is a Place Where Encounters Are Made” – Challenging Para-Sports at Experiences Corners

There were many corners set up at the event where various para-sports could be experienced, including wheelchair racers from para-athletics and wheelchair rugby tackles. Other experiences included prosthetic legs, taekwondo, wheelchair tennis, judo, football 5-a-side and goalball. Anyone was free to try their hand at a para-sport.

Takeki Uragami (23), who just “happened to be passing by”, said, “I didn’t realize that there were so many different sports in the Paralympics. I enjoyed watching the taekwondo and was in awe when I watched wheelchair tennis.”

Meanwhile, Akira Chiba (59), a wheelchair user due to paralysis from the chest down, tried powerlifting and surprised spectators by marking a record of 80kg. He said, “I normally lift 100kg in my day-to-day training, so I’m disappointed by this result. But, with that said, this kind of an event is a good thing to hold. The important thing is to have as many people as possible get to see and know para sports. That’s how we can make sure that the Paralympics will be a success.”

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