[Center News] Kids and Adults Try Wheelchair Basketball
The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center was part of a collaborative event between "Strong Point," a BS Nippon Television documentary program on para sports, and "Asuchalle! Field Day." The event was held at the "Cho Shiodome Paradise —2017 SUMMER—" event hosted by Nippon Television Network Corporation.
The children forgot time playing wheelchair basketball!
The one-day event, titled "Strong Point x Asuchalle! Field Day Summer," was held August 20 during summer break for Japanese children. With three years more until the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, this event introduced many children to the Paralympic sport of wheelchair basketball.
Trying wheelchair basketball using sports wheelchairs
When the wheelchair basketball trial session opened, many children crowded the venue, clamoring to play the game. Parents and other adults played also, and it was interesting to watch many of them start somewhat hesitantly and grow more assertive.
Wheelchair basketball is harder than it looks—everyone was very serious.
High-fiving with staff members after a goal
The first program in the wheelchair basketball trial session was the free throw. Three goals of varying heights were prepared for the event. From a sports wheelchair, the goal seems taller than usual and can be daunting and difficult to reach, but many of the participants tried boldly, again and again. One boy saw the trial session from the top floor and came down to try it himself, pulling his mother by the hand. He went for all three sizes and made all of them. One woman said, "The wheelchair wheels are in the shape of the number eight, so I thought it might be unstable and scary, but in fact it was very stable. This was my first time to try it and it was very fun."
Waiting to start racing
The time trial—"On your marks, get ready, go!"
The second program of the trial session was a time trial. Participants raced a 15-meter stretch, turned at a safety cone, then raced back, all in a sports wheelchair designed for wheelchair basketball. Wheelchair basketball player Shinji Negi (A.K.A. "Neji"), captain of the Sydney Paralympics Japan team and Paralympic Support Center Asuchalle! director, gave a demonstration and finished just over six seconds. He said the key is "a strong intention." One girl commented, "It was hard to run straight and to turn."
Turning in a wheelchair requires a certain technique, making it a critical moment in the race.
The results of the time trial
"In sports, you don't give up at the tough moments." (Negi)
The third program was the wheelchair basketball lesson and mini-game led by Neji. It was the highlight of the day. Before the lesson, Neji said with a smile, "Today you will all experience a full-spec training plan, one that world-class athletes do." True to his words, he led the participants on a full training plan within a short period, including U-turns, zigzag turns, and a game of tag. After that was the exciting mini-game, where both children and adults alike played hard and had fun.
The mini-game starts! One participant is holding up her arm to block the ball.
One man said, "It was fun playing as a team," to which Neji replied, "Yes, and the team includes everyone cheering us on." Before we knew it, there were more spectators than at first, perhaps drawn by the excitement of the game. Another honest girl said, "I am disappointed! I really got into the game, which makes losing that much more disappointing!" Neji told the participants, "Playing sports can be tough, but in sports you don't give up at the tough moments. You are all athletes now!" and finished with the words, "We cannot understand the value of para sports until we do it ourselves. You will have more opportunities to watch para sports on TV. When you do, I hope you find some interest in the athletes' backgrounds, for example, what led them to play that sport and what kind of lives they lead."
Both children and adults played hard!
Everyone yelled "i enjoy!" together to close the event.
text&photo by Mayuko Takagi