Japanese Paralympians Have Hopes, Fears amid Pandemic


Tokyo, Aug. 24 (Jiji Press)--Japanese athletes who will compete in the Tokyo Paralympics, set to open Tuesday night, have found hopes in sports, but they also face the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus and are concerned about the possibility of the Games being canceled amid the pandemic.

"Sports had been far from me," Shun Esaki, a 20-year-old boccia player, said, recalling the time when he became forced to live in a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy. After learning about boccia, however, Esaki became mad about the highly strategic ball sport.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, Esaki has seldom left his home in the city of Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture, central Japan. But he continued to improve the accuracy of his boccia techniques to realize his ultimate goal of "winning a gold medal" in the Tokyo Paralympics.

A training camp for boccia athletes was temporarily halted as many of them have respiratory illness and therefore are at high risk of developing serious symptoms if they are infected with the novel coronavirus.

The camp was restarted, but they were told not to use public transportation. Esaki's father, Yasuhide, 54, drove his son to and from the National Training Center in Tokyo while wishing that the Paralympics will not be canceled.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press