Three-time Paralympic champion Markus “Blade Jumper” Rehm is well aware of the widespread concern in Japan about hosting the Tokyo Games amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but he has promised to do his part to protect public health.
The 33-year-old German, who won long jump gold medals in 2012 and 2016 and another gold as a member of the 4×100 meter relay team in 2016, said he is fully vaccinated and as a games participant will follow all protective measures outlined in the playbooks.
“It’s very important for me to respect the people in Japan that are scared. I totally understand because I also would be scared if I was the host of such a big event,” Rehm said in a recent interview with Kyodo News.
“Not only do we want the games to be safe, but the Japan side also wants a safe games. We should do this together. I think we have to work together so this will not be a superspreader event. I think we should do every possible thing to try to make it safe.”
Rehm is aiming to win his third straight Paralympic long jump title and his fourth gold overall at the Tokyo Paralympics.
The men’s long jump T64 final will be held Sept. 1 at the National Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies also take place. Rehm competes in the T64 classification for athletes who run or jump with a prosthetic lower limb.
Rehm, who lost his lower right leg in a boating accident when he was 14, has been trying to find a way to compete alongside abled-bodied athletes to attempt an unprecedented Olympic-Paralympic double, but he was prohibited from competing in the Olympics again in Tokyo.
His bid to compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics also fell short when he could not prove that his carbon-fiber blade prosthesis did not give him an advantage.
Rehm went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to fight for his participation in the Tokyo Olympics, but the CAS rejected his appeal after evidence showed that jumping off the blade gives him an artificial advantage over non-amputee jumpers.
The International Olympic Committee passed his case to World Athletics and the CAS ruled against his Olympic inclusion, despite Rehm meeting the qualification standard for the Tokyo Olympics.
The Olympic men’s long jump gold went to Miltiadis Tentoglou of Greece with 8.41 meters. Rehm jumped 8.62 meters in his para world record in June.
Rehm said an opportunity was missed to set an example for inclusion.
“I am disappointed because the IOC had a chance to send a message of inclusion. They unfortunately missed the chance,” Rehm said.
“For me it’s the participation, it’s more symbolic. I don’t want to steal a medal from anybody. I’ll win my medal in the Paralympics because I am pro-Paralympian.”
Rehm, who was presented with a birthday cake during a press conference on Sunday, said that he is aiming to break his long jump world record at the Paralympics and cannot wait to try the sand pit in Tokyo.
“I always try to be just the best (version) of myself. I try to be the best in the world. It doesn’t matter if I wear a prosthetic leg or something like that … I just try to do my best.”
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