We’ve been bombarded with reassurances recently that the delayed Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will go ahead as planned. Here are five articles about the latter games, and how para sports are coping amid the pandemic:
- Everyone involved in the Paralympics has been forced to adjust, not least the athletes. Yet in interviews with a range of para sports figures, Kaz Nagatsuka found optimism despite everything the virus has thrown their way. “With the extra time we can raise our level even more to mount a stronger challenge at the games, and I’m thrilled about it,” says track athlete Atsushi Yamamoto.
- Ileana Rodriguez will be leading the Refugee Paralympic Team at the Tokyo Games. A pair of refugees took part in the 2016 Rio Paralympics, but this time the team will be bigger. “It’s a huge message for people who are in camps when things seem to be impossible,” former refugee Rodriguez says. “Being a refugee having a disability and, on top of that, being an elite athlete is definitely a huge accomplishment and a big message of hope for all the refugees.”
- Visually impaired marathon runner Misato Michishita says her struggles amid the pandemic have helped her find new sources of strength that she hopes will power her quest for gold at the Paralympics. After a brief drop in form after the announcement of the postponement, she is now clocking her best-ever times. “The gold medal is still my one unwavering goal,” she said.
- But it’s about so much more than medals, long-jumper Sayaka Murakami tells Kyodo. The Paralympics are a unique opportunity to challenge discrimination and change the way Japan views disability. Even the run-up to the games has had a palpable effect, she says: “The space for disabled people has been gradually expanding in Japan. I really hope this won’t just be a one-time boom but something that continues to grow.”
- Yasuhiro Jimbo is bringing a similar message to schools around Japan. For Jimbo, who competed in four straight Paralympics in men’s wheelchair basketball, education — especially from an early age — is key to fostering inclusivity. But there’s also a wider lesson for kids, disabled or otherwise: “From me, I want them to know you can get over the humps in your life, and to feel like anyone can do it,” he says. “That’s my mindset.”