TOKYO >> University students across the nation are making efforts to give a boost to next year’s Tokyo Paralympics. Some have taken to social media to introduce Paralympic sports, while others are organizing events for the public to experience the sports. Since most Paralympic events are relatively unknown in Japan, sports associations pin hopes on the student efforts.
“What aspects of wheelchair tennis do you want to show spectators?” asked Sachi Ono, a junior of Ferris University’s Faculty of Global and Intercultural Studies in Yokohama, during an interview with a player at a wheelchair tennis event in Sendai.
Ono, 20, is one of 42 public relations interns hired by the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center in Minato Ward, Tokyo. They are tasked with spotlighting the challenge and fun of Paralympic sports.
In addition to interviews with wheelchair tennis players, Ono also convinced a high school student volunteer at the event, and an employee of a tennis racket company, to write articles. She posted the pieces on Facebook.
Her own article discussed unique aspects of wheelchair tennis, such as players being allowed two bounces of the ball before returning it. “If you see the sport live, you will feel its power and speed,” she wrote.
Some posts by interns receive more than 1,000 views.
“The students’ candid words tend to be well-received by those who aren’t familiar with the sport,” said Rui Sasaki, head of the public relations office of the Japan Wheelchair Tennis Association.
At Juntendo University in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, students of the Faculty of Health and Sports Science have formed a parasports club. Its 70 members hold promotional events that allow participants — from elementary and junior high schools, and businesses — to experience parasports firsthand. They include boccia, a throwing game in which players compete to throw a colored ball as close to a target ball as possible; and goalball, in which blindfolded or visually impaired players attempt to throw a ball embedded with bells into an opponent’s goal.
The club said it has received an increasing number of requests to hold such events.
“We want to remove barriers between disabled and able-bodied people,” said Shunsuke Mazume, 21, a health and sports science senior.
Kitasato University in Minato Ward, Tokyo, has a wheelchair basketball club that also has members without disabilities. Besides participating in competitions, the club also conducts events to introduce the charms of the sport to the community.
“We want to be of some help to change the general view toward disabled people,” said Yuika Yokota, 20, captain of the club and a junior at the university’s School of Allied Health Sciences.