There is now well under a year to go till the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, with more and more opportunities presenting themselves to learn about the Paralympic events and Japanese para-athletes through various media sources. With this in mind, we decided to ask a top Japanese para-athlete and others involved with para-sports how audiences and spectators should best enjoy the events that ParalympicsGB are hoping to do well in, as well as the British para-athletes to watch out for.
Enjoying Parasports, para-athlete Saki Takakuwa
We started by asking para-athletics sprinter and long jumper Saki Takakuwa, who graduated from Keio University, about what she sees as the interesting features of para-athletics. Ms.Takakuwa, who came 7th in the 100m and 200m T44 sprints at London 2012, her first Paralympics, and also had great showings at Rio 2016, is in the perfect position to bring us up to speed.
“In Japan,” says Ms.Takakuwa, “people only became acquainted with the joys of watching Paralympic events thanks to the Rio Paralympic Games, which were the first to be broadcast in Japan. Coming home after Rio, many well-wishers told me, ‘I saw your race!’, which really felt like an historic shift in people’s perceptions to me.”
Next, we asked Ms.Takakuwa to tell us about some of the key points which spectators should look out for to help them enjoy parasports. Ms.Takakuwa began by telling us that parasports might be best enjoyed when thought of as new sports, and that people should begin with the sports that they would usually enjoy watching. She continues by suggesting that parasports should be savoured as events which are unique to the Paralympic Games—the likes of which cannot be found in the Olympics. Finally, she advises that you should find a “star” and follow their progress.
As it turns out, Ms.Takakuwa is herself also a big fan of parasports, telling us that she enjoys watching and supporting various events such as para-swimming, para-tennis, and wheelchair basketball.
Saki Takukawa’s tips on the British Paralympians to watch out for
We asked Ms.Takakuwa who she will be keeping an eye on from among the British Paralympics squad. Below are her selections:
Hannah is a 100m T33/34 (wheelchair) racer who took home a gold medal at London 2012, and went on to win golds in all her chosen disciplines at the 2017 World Para-athletics Championships held in London.
Jonnie is a 100m T44 (single below-knee amputation) sprinter who claimed golds at both London 2012 and Rio 2016.
We also asked Saki Takakuwa about parasports culture in Britain, an article which also comes with our recommendation.
[Extra edition on Paralympic Games] Saki Takakuwa on how parasports found their footing in the landscape of everyday life, as seen from examples overseas
The allure of para-judo for spectators is in its pinnacles of combat
Next up, we spoke to Kunihiko Matsushita, the Secretary General of the Japan Blind Judo Federation, about what caught his eye during the para-judo on display at the training camp held at the Hiyoshi Campus of Keio University this past summer.
(Kunihiko Matsushita, Secretary General)
“One feature of para-judo is that there is no wrestling for grips, with both competitors assuming an orthodox grip before the bout, making the actual judo very competitive from the outset. I think this is a big part of what makes para-judo so fascinating to spectators who enjoy the combative aspects and techniques of the sport.”
Mr.Matsushita goes on to say, “As to my impressions of the British judo team, one only has to look at the results of the IBSA Judo European Championships to see that Britain looks strong in the men’s heavyweight divisions, which is reinforced by a glance at the British team’s high placings in these divisions in the latest world rankings.”
We also asked Mr.Matsushita about what he anticipates for Tokyo 2020.
“Judo advocates is synonymous with ‘symbiosis’ as a common principle in both the Olympics and Paralympics, and I hope that symbiosis in the Games paves the way for greater accessibility for the disabled.”
Between 21st to 23rd of August, 2019, the ParalympicsGB judo squad took part in a training camp for Team GB and ParalympicsGB at the Hiyoshi Campus (Keio University). Please click on the Keio University link below to see some photos of the British competitors during the camp:
「British judo squad in training at Hiyoshi Campus」
ParalympicsGB judoka to watch out for
The following ParalympicsGB judoka travelled out to Japan for the training camp at Keio University last summer and is someone we will be keeping an eye out for.
Born in 1993, this 26-year old competes in the under 100-kilogram division. He made the final at Rio 2016, and is expected to show at Tokyo 2020.
This concludes our look at the appeals of Paralympic events and at some of ParalympicsGB’s para-athletes.
Much as with the Olympics, excitement about the Paralympics is building in the UK. This is the perfect backdrop for us here in Japan to play our part in drumming up enthusiasm in support of the Paralympic Games, just like in Britain, and to cheer on everyone at the 2020 ParalympicsGB pre-Games preparation camp.
※Profile of Saki Takakuwa
Born in Saitama prefecture on 26 May 1992, and working with NTT East, Saki suffered an osteosarcoma in her left leg in the final year of elementary school, leading to an amputation below the knee in June of her first year at junior high school. Her initiation to sports began at the athletics club of Tokyo Seitoku University Fukaya High School and, after graduating, she entered the Faculty of Policy Management at Keio University, where she kept up athletics as a member of the Track and Field Club, paving the way for a stellar career on the track.
- London 2012 Games: Finished 7th in both 100m and 200m sprints
- Rio 2016 Games: 5th in the Women’s long jump, 7th in the 200m sprint, and 8th in the 100m sprint
- 2014 Asian Para Games (Incheon, South Korea): 3rd in the Women’s 100m sprint
- 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships (Doha, Qatar): 3rd in the Women’s long jump
- 2017 World Para-athletics Championships (London, UK): 5th in the Women’s long jump (T44)
GO_GB column writer: Nobuko Kozu