Para-athlete interview –Atsushi Yamamoto

20 Questions & Answers

Atsushi Yamamoto (Para Athletics) Atsushi Yamamoto (Para Athletics)
What is your name?
Atsushi Yamamoto
Where were you born?
I was born in Shizuoka.
What is your sport?
The T42 long jump event.
When was your first Paralympic Games?
Beijing 2008.
Did you win a medal?
Yes, I won a silver medal
And at the Rio 2016 Games?
I won another silver medal.
What was your record?
6m62cm
How long have you been competing?
Fifteen years ago.
Why did you start the long jump?
The prosthetic legs looked really cool, and I wanted to run with one.
What do you always do before an event?
Nothing particularly.
Where do you look when you’re jumping?
I can’t really see anything.
What is the attraction of the long jump?
The jump is measured exactly, so you can see your improvements.
Why do you also do snowboading?
They both help develop muscle power.
Do you eat anything special before an event?
No.
What is your impression of Tokyo?
It’s a really big city.
What is your favourite word?
Challenge!
What is your least favourite word?
Impossible!
How would you describe yourself?
Craggy.
How do you feel about a Paralympic Games in Japan?
I have great expectations. I hope all venues are full.
What will you be doing in 2020?
Aiming for a gold medal.

Interview

Tokyo is about to become the first city ever to hold the Paralympic Games on two separate occasions. Do you have any particular feelings about that? Also, could you tell us about your expectations for the Tokyo 2020 Games?

I wasn’t around for the 1964 Tokyo Games, but I’ve heard plenty about them. I don’t have any particularly feelings about Tokyo being the first city to host the Paralympic twice, but I do think it’s great that Tokyo was the place where the Olympic and Paralympic Games first came together.

It would be fantastic if there were a great atmosphere for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Looking back on the past three Games I’ve been involved in, I really felt all of them were well supported and had a great atmosphere, and there were full venues at both the Beijing and London Games. During the Rio 2016 Games, at first, there was some concern about how well the Paralympics would be supported, but once they actually got underway there was plenty of passionate support, though not necessarily full venues.

Like London, Tokyo is a mature city, and I’m a bit worried that the Paralympics might not be enthusiastically received. First of all, I would like to raise awareness of what the Paralympics actually are. Naturally, if people don’t know what they are, they won’t be going to watch them. So I think the first step should be to raise awareness and understanding.

One thing I would advise spectators to do is to gain a deeper understanding of the events and the athletes, and then they will get to know which athletes are strong in which events. That would lead to more and more fans of the Paralympic Games.

The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee is aiming to make the Tokyo 2020 Games the most innovative in history. As an athlete who has competed at the past three Paralympic Games, what do you feel would constitute innovative Games from the athletes’ perspective?

Ha, ha, that’s a difficult one.
I have vivid memories of the really welcoming atmosphere at the London 2012 Games. I think that Japanese people with their spirit of omotenashi, or Japanese-style hospitality, could certainly create a welcoming atmosphere. It would be great if they could overcome their natural shyness, communicate naturally and really form a connection with visitors to the Games from around the world.

In its Tokyo 2020 Games Vision, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee states that sport has the power to change the world and our future. What is your own experience of the power of sport?

I think sport has the power to lift people’s spirits and make them more vigorous and lively.
You don’t see many people doing sport with a sad expression on their face. Of course, it’s disappointing when you lose at a sport after giving it your all, but most people have a smile on their face when they are taking part in sporting activities.

There was a period when I was really down after I first became impaired, but when I look back on the reason that I have gained a brighter outlook on life, it was because of sport.

Also, through doing sport I have developed friendships with people from various countries. Even with athletes from countries that don’t get on well with each other, when it comes to sport, those things don’t matter at all. Sport even has the power to bring about better relations between countries.

I’m sure that things don’t always go the way you want when you are competing or training. How do control your feelings at such times?

I don’t think too deeply about it. Of course, there are times when I have to think quite hard about things, but I try to make sure I don’t carry it over with me to the next day. You can’t always immediately put into practice the things you’ve been reflecting on, and I always try to look at problems long term and think about what will be best for me in the long run.

Another thing is competing during my daily training routines. I currently train with a number of students, and I always try to maintain a competitive sense and race against those with similar times to me. Actually, I think that’s one of my strong points.

Earlier in the interview, you mentioned that you would really like to see more fans; well we at the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee share that ambition with you. Is there anything about the attractions of a particular event or any other points that you would like to communicate to our viewers?

The main thing is that everybody has experience of failing or having setbacks at some time. That is something that Paralympians are especially aware of. I think that one particular characteristic of Para-athletes is the ability to overcome their setbacks, and set their sights even higher.

It’s also interesting to look at the various devices that Para-athletes use, such as specially designed wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs, to help them go faster and jump farther.