It's 4 days to go! Rio 2016 boccia silver medallist SUGIMURA Hidetaka and table tennis star IWABUCHI Oyoare among the most famous Japanese sports stars from Shizuoka, Chiba, Saitama and Tokyo set to host the Paralympic Torch Relay as we continue the countdown to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
The Paralympic Torch Relay continues with flame festival celebrations happening across Shizuoka, Chiba, Saitama and Tokyo for the next several days. But how much do you know about Japan's Paralympic sports stars who have hailed from these prefectures?
As part of the countdown to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, let's take a look at some of these athletes who have graced the sporting stage as well as those who are out to become breakout stars in their home Games.
2021 Getty Images
Claim to fame: Yamamoto Atsushi is a long jump athlete and has represented Japan at three consecutive Paralympic Games: Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016. At Beijing, he won a silver medal at the men's T42-44 long jump along with two medals in Rio, a bronze for the 4x100m relay (T42-47) and a silver in long jump (T42).
Yamamoto was an avid snowboarder before his leg was amputated due to a motorcycle accident. And in 2018, he was given the chance to compete in Para snowboarding at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. He will appear in his fourth Summer Paralympic Games at Tokyo 2020 where he intends to win gold.
2012 Getty Images
Claim to fame: After taking up the sport in 2001, Sugimura, who was born with cerebral palsy, represented Japan for the first time at the 2010 Asian Para Games where he placed fifth in the BC2 class. Two years later, he made his Paralympic debut at London 2012. Four years later at Rio 2016, he returned as Japan's team captain and led the team to win a silver medal at the BC1-2 event. Ranked no 2 in the world (as of June 2021), Sugimura has his sights on winning another boccia medal at his home Games.
2012 Getty Images
Claim to fame: Tanaka Yasuhiro may not be appearing at Tokyo 2020 but his achievements at the Paralympic Games will forever be part of Japan's history. The athlete, who has intellectual impairment, came to the world's attention when he won gold in the SB14 100m breakstroke event at London 2012 and also broke the men's world record set by Russia's Artem Pavalenko just a few minutes earlier. That same year, Tanaka was awarded an Honourary Award from Chiba City.
2018 Getty Images
Sport: Wheelchair Tennis
Claim to fame: Sugeno Koji is the no.1 ranked player in Japan in the wheelchair quad category and has consistently been a fixture at the top of the podium in international tournaments. In 2019, he captained the team to the World Team Cup title against Israel, the reigning champions. It was the first World Cup title by Japan since the quad event was introduced in the programme in 1998. The World no 4 will appear at Tokyo 2020 hoping to finish at the podium.
Tokyo 2020 / Shugo TAKEMI
Sport: Para badminton
Claim to fame: When she was younger Suzuki Ayako had played against able-bodied players before fully committing herself to competing in para badminton tournaments. She won back to back titles in 2018 and 2019 in the Para Badminton World Championships. As world no 1 in the women's SU5 singles category (standing class), Suzuki is off to a strong start and will be one of Japan's big hopes for a home gold.
2019 Getty Images
Claim to fame: Tsujiuchi Ayano started competing early as an able-bodied athlete until she was diagnosed with macular dystrophy that affected her vision. She started Para swimming and made her debut at Rio 2016. In the same year, Tsujiuchi set new Japan records in the Japan Para Swimming Championships. With her bronze medal victory in the 100m breaststroke at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships. Tsujiuchi hopes to continue this winning momentum at Tokyo 2020.
Claim to fame: Sawada Uran is a 100m sprinter and long jumper who made her debut at the Beijing 2008. With her sight deteriorating long after, Sawada retired in 2013 and didn't make Rio 2016 because her long jump event was not included in the Paralympic programme. In 2017 she set a new Japanese record of 5m03 in the long jump and has now qualified for her home Games aiming to make a 6m long jump to earn a gold medal and 12 seconds flat in the 100m event.
Tokyo 2020 / Shugo TAKEMI
Sport: Table tennis
Claim to fame: After countless battles in the world stage andmaking his Paralympic debut at Rio 2016, Iwabuchi Koyo is gunning for victory at Tokyo 2020 where he will compete at the Men's Class 9 event. The athlete known for his trademark fist pumps is currently ranked third in the world (as of 1 April 2020). At Tokyo 2020, he not only hopes to rally for a gold at his home soil but promote Para sports in Japan.