Two Okinawans will participate in the tennis competition at the Tokyo Paralympics, which kicks off on Aug. 23 — one as an umpire and the other as a staffer who strings athletes’ rackets.
Kazuki Omine, 54, chairman of the Okinawa prefectural tennis association’s umpire committee, will serve as a line umpire for wheelchair tennis games. Masaki Tokumura, 48, who works at a local tennis store, is the official stringer for the Tokyo Games tennis tournament.
Both have big roles to play, but neither is too overwhelmed, saying they will carry out their duties as expected.
Tadao Aragaki, president of the Okinawa Tennis Association (OTA), says he hopes the two men will do their jobs as representatives of Okinawa and be appreciated by the athletes.
Omine, who began playing tennis after he started working as an adult, began training as an umpire as a result of the OTA’s policy of increasing the number of referees. In 2011, he passed the Class C umpire exam and went on to become a Class B referee and Class B chief umpire.
“Umpires are the people behind the scenes on the tennis court, working together with the players to make the game happen. I find that challenging,” Omine says.
In summer 2019, he was selected as a line umpire for the Tokyo Paralympics.
“I had a lot of expectations placed on me and a lot of pressure. But I was happy to be chosen,” he says.
“If the referee makes a mistake, the players won’t be able to concentrate. The most important thing is to make accurate judgments so that the players can concentrate on their game.”
Omine is also aware of the strong public opposition to holding the Olympics and Paralympics.
“I’ll try to judge accurately for the sake of the players who will be playing under such circumstances. And I want to return my valuable experience at the Paralympics to the Okinawan tennis world.”
Meanwhile, Tokumura, who played tennis throughout his years in school, is now working at Racquet and Sports Shop Mu in Urasoe, where he is mainly in charge of stringing the rackets.
In 2017, his skills were recognized at the national junior high school tournament held in the prefecture, and he became a member of the stringing team for Yonex Co., a sports equipment-maker. When the team was placed in charge of stringing for the Tokyo Games tennis tournament, Tokumura was chosen as one of the official stringers.
Stringing rackets is a delicate job that involves adjusting the type and tension of strings, based on the condition and feeling of each player and the day’s weather.
“I get a sense of fulfillment when players are satisfied with my work after I’m able to respond to their detailed requests,” he said.
This section features topics and issues from Okinawa covered by The Okinawa Times, a major newspaper in the prefecture. The original article was published July 20.
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