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Monday, May 24, 2010

Candy commemorates para-medal at Vancouver

Hitachi Systems Sales Promotion Department, where Paralympic medal winner Yoshihiro Niita works, dotes on this kintaroame candy. It was made especially to commemorate Niita's win.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Oita International Wheelchair Marathon set

The 30th annual running of the Oita International Wheelchair Marathon is now set for November 14, 2010. The full marathon will start at 11:00 a.m. Look here for more details.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chiba Hawks lose WCB championship game


I got to the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium just before 2 p.m. The two teams were already on the floor -- The Miyagi Max and the Chiba Hawks. Being from Chiba, I naturally wanted to see the Hawks win.

Introductions were taking place, and the players wheeled themselves between lines of cheerleaders. These are top-notch athletes. I was surprised to see that 11 of 14 players on the Hawks team were in wheelchairs because of traffic accidents. Amazing. About half the Max team were also traffic accident victims.

Hundreds of fans were on hand to watch the game. These are not people who came because of sympathy for people in wheelchairs. They came to watch high-level basketball. And they were not disappointed.

Notice the extra wheels in the open space near the bottom of the photo. This is intense action. Players end up on their backs more than once. And during the game, in the second half, a player had to call on those extra wheels because one of his got bent. One more thing. When a player goes down, the game goes on. The player gets back on his wheels by himself. For some, that's not an easy task.

For the first time, Japan's National Wheelchair Basketball Championships final game was broadcast live on Sky Perfect satellite TV. Again, not because of the disadvantages the players overcame, but because this game represented the very best of sports and sportsmanship in Japan.

First half action was hot and heavy, but the MAX clearly outclassed the Hawks (to my eyes anyway). Player No. 13 on the MAX team was like Kobe Bryant. He scored more than 30 points in the game. Fujimoto is his name, and I can't help but think he'll be a mainstay center for the Japan National Team. He's a big guy with long arms, and once he gets the ball in the key, there's no stopping him.

Halftime saw the Hawks down by 13 points, 35-22. The team huddled at the edge of the courts for a conference with Head Coach Tetsuhiro Kikuchi.

The cheerleaders put on an acrobatic halftime show, but everyone had their eyes on the two teams. What would the second half bring? Could the Hawks hold Fujimoto down? Could they up their percentage from the field?

The Hawks gave it their all. The team played its heart out. They tried this strategy and that, but nothing seemed to work. The MAX had a great fast break that earned them basket after basket, and Fujimoto just kept on scoring from the post. When the final whistle blue, the MAX had won, 76-46.

My Chiba Hawks were runners-up. But they and their rival Miyagi MAX had shown me 80 minutes of top-flight basketball. They deserved the applause that the crowd gave them. Just wait. Next year the Hawks will be back!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wheelchair basketball nationals

I'm going to the Japan Wheelchair Basketball National Championships tomorrow. Will report on and photograph the championship game. If we're lucky, the Chiba Hawks will be in that game. More tomorrow.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Tsuchida wins London marathon

Wakako Tsuchida not only won the London wheelchair marathon, she also won the Boston wheelchair marathon last week. No other athlete has accomplished that. Check out her win on Youtube here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The art of para-sports photography

If you want a taste of the tremendous effort and talent and just plain guts that the paralympic athletes give to their sports, click on this button!!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Photos from Vancouver Ice Sledge Hockey

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photos from Vancouver Wheelchair Curling

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Photos from Vancouver Biathlon

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Parateam Japan has put these photos up on the web. Have a look at tremendous athletes in action.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Snapshots from Vancouver

Click here and feel the fever all over again!

Friday, March 26, 2010


I wrote a blog for my Outlaw Trail blog and put it on this blog by mistake. Sorry. If you want to read it, go here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sushi platter feats ice sledge hockey team

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The rolls feature red tuna and chutoro tuna wrapped in rice and salmon. Caviar makes a nice puck, and celery carved into hockey sticks top out the plate. Available in Vancouver at Kamei Royal, 1030 Georgia Street, Vancouver. Available from March 24. Thanks guys for saluting the silver medalists!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ota gains silver on the final day

The skier's blog tells us that Shoko Ota earned a silver medal in the 1km sprint. She got bronze at Torino but stepped up to silver at Vancouver. Well done. Congrats to the Hitachi Ski Club. Information from the Hitachi System Ski Blog

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Photos of the ice sledge hockey medal awards and action shots

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I got up early in the morning to watch these modern day samurai take on the American powerhouse. Japan's team did a credible job against the more experienced Americans, but their biggest kudo was beating the Canadian team on its home turf. The Japanese team can bear their silver medals home with tremendous pride.

Ice Sledge Hockey

USA Gold, Japan Silver. Good game!

Japan alpine skiers get silver and bronze

NPO STAND's collaboration site with Seijun Ninomiya had this photo of the alpine skiers medal ceremony. Silver medal to Hiroki Morii, Bronze medal to Toru Karino. Sorry if I get the names wrong, there are so many ways to read Japanese names. See the original photo on this site.

Ice Sledge Hockey Finals on NHK

Freelance writer Miharu Araki is a big ice sledge hockey fan. She says NHK will broadcast the ice sledge hockey finals between Japan and USA here in Japan live. That puts the time at 3:45 a.m. on Sunday March 21. Can't decide whether to go to sleep and get up or just stay up all night. Time will tell. Fantastic job by the ice sledge team! They can hold their heads high, win or lose.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Japan beats Switzerland

Japan's wheelchair curling team garnered its second win by taking Switzerland.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Day off for Japanese ice sledge hockey team

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The team showed up at the wheelchair curling venue to provide support for the Japanese contingent.

Oginata takes bronze

Twitter at tells us that alpine skier Kuniko Oginata took a bronze in her sport.

Crazy local Japanese supporters

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Japanese living in Vancouver are doing their best to cheer Japan's paralympians to greater efforts and higher placings. Their antics were shown on the big screen in the Ice Hockey stadium.

Kubo takes 7th place

Skiblog_aurora tells us that para-skier Tsunezo Kubo placed seventh in cross-country competition. Kubo belongs to the Hitachi Ski Club, who supplied the picture.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Japan wins over Slovakia

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Just got word that the Japanese ice sledge hockey team won its first game against Slovakia. The score was 5-0.

Kazuko Ito in Vancouver

This is a rough translation of the blog report made by Kazuko Ito of NPO STAND, who is representing us all at Vancouver.

The Paralympics are on.
I went to the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Paralympics. I was really glad I came to Vancouver. I saw the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics a month ago, too. Now I think maybe I thought too much about comparing the two. Still, it kind of comes naturally. Look at these tickets. The size is different. The smaller one is for the Paralympics. For what reason, I have to wonder. So as to use less paper? Less printing ink? Or was it to save the environment?

The opening ceremony tickets. The one on the left is for the Paralympics, right is the Winter Olympics.

There was a lot of difference in action on the streets of Vancouver, too. Perhaps because there were fewer visitors. I'd looked forward to the street performers, but there were none. I was left with time on my hands.

But the moment I arrived at the stadium, all was forgotten. I was enthusiastic and excited. The Paralympics were on!

The Opening Ceremonies

The sound of the brass band vibrated against our skin as the IPC flag was raised. The provided the fanfares for the entire ceremony, and they made us feel that we should sit up straight and pay attention.

Raising the IPC flag

The Japanese contingent enters the stadium

Balloons go up and images are projected

Then the eternal flame

The items passed out to the audience lacked the quality of the Olympics, there were empty seats, and not much entertainment . . . I couldn't help thinking there was a huge differences in budgets. Do we dwell on that? Or do we look for something greater? I couldn't make up my mind. What good would it do to compare? Many people gave their best efforts to give us a memorable opening ceremony. It's nonsense to compare. It was a wonderful opening ceremony!

Nevertheless, the entrance of the athletes was the most memorable of all. It started with no warning. We couldn't think about sitting down. The groups of athletes followed one after the other in close formation. Every nation's flag. We stayed on our feet the whole time. In the Winter Olympics, you stand up when your country's athletes enter, then sit back down and don't pay much attention. But at the Paralympics, everyone cheers for every athlete. When the athletes entered the stadium, it was as if everyone in the house was applauding their entrance. It was an experience the Olympics could not produce. It was fantastic. I was totally satisfied. I and everyone else was filled with a warm feeling, and the Paralympic fever caught on.

One more thing. A wonderful thing happened. Quite by accident, I met one of the Japanese residents of Vancouver. Her name was Ms. Shima.

With Ms. Shima

They organized a cheering section on their own and came out to meet us. She was the head of a cheering section of about 30 people. Their children made about 1,000 Japanese flags. They even proposed the toast (kanpai!) at the Japanese consulate reception. These wonderful people, who live so far away, came to join us, to cheer us, to watch our athletes in action. Look at their twitter tweets.

Today our ice sledge hockey team won their game with Czech.

I saw our photographer, Mr. Shimizu, who will be putting photos on our blog at Challenger TV. Have a look.

Until next time.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Vancouver Paralympics opening ceremonies

I'm watching the opening ceremonies. It warms my heart to see the stands completely full. When the Asian Youth Para Games were held, only a smattering of fans showed up for the athletic events. Those same games saw more than a million accesses from over two dozen countries.

We're in Japan, but we'll be watching.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Vancouver Paralympics

Look here for the official website.

Some of Japan's paralympians.

Mitsuru Nagase

Native of Asahikawa in Hokkaido. Nagase is the goalkeeper on Japan's ice sledge hockey team. Vancouver is his third Paralympic appearance. He actually got into disability sports while an exchange student in Canada, and works hard in his home town to promote sports activities for persons with disabilities. He's a director of the Japan Paralympian Association.

The cover of a book by Kuniko Obinata -- Walls are made to be broken down

Obinata was born in Tokyo and suffered loss of her legs in a traffic accident at age three. She graduated from the law faculty at Chuo University in 1996. She is now a member of the Japan Paralympic Committee's steering committee.
She started alpine skiing while still in high school and represented Japan in her first Paralympics at Lillihammer in 1994. She's been on the team ever since. Vancouver is her fifth appearance as a representative of Japan in alpine ski events.

Kenji Takigami -- Crosscountry skier
Born in Hokkaido, Takigami now lives in Aichi prefecture. While automobiles are Takigami's hobby, his real love is reserved for crosscountry skiing. This time, there was a moment when Takigami thought maybe his prosthetics would not be ready for competition, but with help from Japanese residing in Canada, and from the coach of the Japanese team, he was able to get ready by competition time.

More about Japanese para athletes in days to come.

NPO STAND's Kazuko Ito left yesterday for Vancouver. Athletes Villagewill carry blogs from her and I'll put the interesting portions into English for you who don't read Japanese.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

NZ Wheelchair Open in Waikato

Honma san fit his seed with a fourth place. More details after he's posted his blog. I got the results off the official site, but there's no description of the action.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Honma in New Zealand

The New Zealand Wheelchair Tennis Open is on in Hamilton, New Zealand. The Japanese contingent is doing well, but I'll concentrate on Masahiro Honma, who I know and who is blogging from NZ.

Japan's Fujimoto is second seed; Honma fourth. Honma won his first match with Australian "Andrew," 6-2, 6-3. Honma took a fall, which he is not prone to do, but all turned out OK.

He won the second match with Lee Hinson, 2-6, 6-0, 7-5. That put Honma right where he was seeded, in the top four. Tomorrow he plays in the semifinals. In that semifinal game, he must face his teammate, Fujimoto.

Honma writes of a quad player who he respects tremendously. James McCloud. He's won the Waikato Quad six times in a row, Honma says. "He can move only his right hand, but he's quick. He's not very big, but he's a great tennis player." Will he make this his seventh quad victory at Waikato? or will the top seeded Koga win? "Tomorrow will be very interesting," Honda says.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Paralympic athletes

The website for Japan's para-athletes, Athlete's Village (, lists the athletes competing in the March 12 Paralympics in Vancouver.

Alpine Ski
Kuniko Ohigata

Cross Country Ski, Biathalon
Hiroyuki Nagata, Yoshihiro Nitta, Tsunezo Kubo, Shoko Ota,Kenji Takigami

Tsunezo Kubo/Photo by Arai

Ice Sledge Hockey
Mitsuru Nagase

Monday, March 1, 2010

With Mami Sato in Shibuya

Not only is Mami Sato a Paralympian long jumper, she's also a first-class speaker. Yesterday (March 1) I accompanied her to Tokiwamatsu Elementary school in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. Tokyo's a big city with a population of more than 12 million living within the metropolitan boundaries. So it seemed a bit incongruous to visit an elementary school with only slightly more than 120 students in six grades.

After a meeting with the school principal, Tomiko Mori, a vivacious woman who obviously took her position seriously and was concerned with the welfare of each of her charges, we went to the gymnasium, where the entire student body greeted Mami with a standing ovation, then sat cross-legged on the floor to listen to her speak.

Mami spoke of her childhood and how she decided at an early age not to let her love of sports and athletics interfere with her need to study. "You can do both," she said. "And both are important."

She spent her elementary and junior high years in her home town of Kesennuma, in Miyagi Prefecture, but decided to attend a boarding high school in Sendai, the prefectural capital. While there, she was not only a top-notch athlete, she also studied hard enough to pass the entrance exam to Waseda University, one of Japan's most prestigious private schools.

First she told the kids about her days on the cheerleading squad. Then she quietly recounted discovering that she had bone cancer and would have to lose her right leg below the knee. More than a hundred children and a bevy of adults listened in total silence as Mami related the feelings she had while fighting cancer, and how she turned to sports to build a new life.

Standing before her audience, Mami looked absolutely normal, if that's the word to use. The children surely didn't totally realize what she was talking about. Until she brought out her sports leg.

It doesn't look like a leg, unlike Mami's other prothesis.

"How heavy is it," a third grader wanted to know.

"Here, lift it. See? It's heavier than it looks, right?" Mami never lost her trademark smile, and the children were enthralled.

Mami took off her daily prothesis and fitted the sports leg. She showed the children how it fit and what kept it from falling off. She showed them how it provided spring when she ran. She even ran a race with some students across the gym. With that, she ended her talk and the 5th grader MC opened the floor for questions. At first the questions were ones that had been prepared in advance with one spokesperson per grade. Then came the Monster game.

Playing the "Look for a Monster" game allowed children to come in close contact with Mami. The questions became ones that children really want to know. "Does it still hurt?" "Was it hard to learn to walk?" Things like that.

The 4th grade hosted Mami and I for lunch of sardine, daikon radish, egg-drop soup, and a 180cc glass bottle of milk. Some of the guys went back for seconds. The lunch was nourishing and well balanced, undoubtedly the work of a professional nutritionist.

After a short meeting with the PTA mothers, we left the Tokiwamatsu Elementary School behind. I drove Mami to Shibuya station and myself back to the office in Monzen Nakacho.

I have no doubt that these youngsters will remember Mami Sato for the rest of their lives. And I think they'll watch the Paralympic games. They'll certainly view people with physical disabilities with different eyes now, thanks to Mami's superb presentation and selfless mingling with a hundred and more young students.

Off to New Zealand

Honma does "chair work" with his physical trainer

Masahiro Honma tells me the Japan team is off to New Zealand tomorrow to compete in the New Zealand Wheelchair Tennis Open, held this year in the city of Hamilton. If you are interested in keeping track of how the Japanese players do, hit this URL: