Hiroshi Miura saw his past and present meet for a few fleeting moments during the Tokyo Paralympics.
Before he was a Paralympian, Miura worked as an event staff member, helping with the setup of concerts for various artists. The job had brought him to Tokyo International Forum on occasion.
The 56-year-old was back at the same venue in his new life as a Paralympic powerlifter on Thursday. Although instead of helping to set the stage for someone else, he was part of the main event. The Tokyo native — he was born in the city’s Sumida Ward — was also competing in his hometown.
"It's different from being behind the scenes and supporting the artists," he said after competing in the men's under-49 kg final. "I was standing in the center of the stage with everyone's attention on me."
Miura finished ninth out of nine lifters in the final, which put a damper on his quasi-homecoming. He finished fifth at the 2016 Rio Games and had been looking to better that mark or even reach the podium.
His best lift was 127 kg, or 1 kg more than his best in Brazil five years ago.
"I missed out on a medal, but I gave all the strength I had," Miura said. "But I'm really happy I was able to compete on the stage at Tokyo International Forum today.
Jordan's Omar Sami Hamadeh Qarada won the gold with a lift of 170 kg on his first attempt and 173, his best of the day, on his third.
Powerlifting at the Paralympics is open to athletes who cannot compete in the able-bodied event due to impairments in their hips or legs.
Miura, who uses a wheelchair, spent over two decades in his previous job before suffering spinal cord injuries in an accident involving a forklift at a concert in 2002.
He began playing wheelchair basketball after watching the 2004 Paralympics sparked his interest in the sports. He soon moved to powerlifting at age 41.
Miura has since represented Japan at the Asian Para Games and made multiple appearances at the world championships. He took the stage for his third Paralympic Games this year.
He successfully lifted 122 kg on his first attempt but failed at 125 in his second. While he was successful on his third attempt at 127, it wasn’t enough to lift him out of ninth place.
The veteran lifter is not planning to slow down at age 56 and is already looking ahead to the next international events on the calendar and even down the road to the 2028 Games in Los Angeles.
"Maybe I'll become the oldest powerlifter," he said.
He moved his chair to the front of the stage after his final attempt of the night. As the sparse crowd clapped, he raised both hands and said "thank you" before leaving.
"All of the artists seem to say thank you with their real voices when their live events are over," Miura said.
"So I thought that's something I definitely wanted to do at the end," he said with a laugh.
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