【Badminton】Press Conference to Announce the HULIC・DAIHATSU Japan Para-Badminton International 2017
Now set to be included as an official Paralympic sport for the first time at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, para-badminton is attracting growing interest. The HULIC・DAIHATSU Japan Para-Badminton International 2017—a Badminton World Federation-approved tournament—will be held from September 7 (Thu.) - September 10 (Sun.) at the Machida City General Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan. A press conference announcing the tournament was held at The Nippon Zaidan Building on June 14.
Para-badminton players compete in a series of eleven international tournaments throughout each year, and gather results in the form of points, which are totaled to give them an international ranking. The Japan Para-Badminton International will be the first of such international tournaments to be held in Japan, and there is great anticipation from those involved.
Japan Para-Badminton Federation Chief Director Kazumi Hirano emphasized the appeal of the tournament: “All 36 designated Paralympic hopefuls will compete in this tournament. With so many talented players taking part, I hope people will come and see their powerful performances.” Kusaki Hayashida, president of badminton equipment manufacturer Yonex—which supplies a number of international badminton and para-badminton tournaments and seeks to promote badminton as a competitive sport—encouraged people to attend, saying: “We would like to bring the energy and vitality of badminton to the world, and ensure that as many people as possible discover just how fun it is. We hope that lots of people will come to the tournament.”
Manabu Yoshidome, president and representative director of special cosponsor Hulic Co., Ltd., told the press conference, “It is really inspiring to see the athletes as they train hard daily toward the major goal of 2020 and pit their strength and technique against each other in tournaments. We are pursuing efforts to provide places to practice, and will work with you all to ensure greater awareness and engagement in para-badminton.”
Hiroyuki Yokoyama, executive vice president of fellow special cosponsor Daihatsu Motor Co., Ltd. pledged the entire company’s support of the tournament: “when I met with President Sir Philip Craven of the International Paralympic Committee in February, he advised me that we should work on ‘encouraging many people to attend the tournament to raise the profile of para-badminton.’ We have employees across the country, so we will be attending tournaments and other such events in each local area.”
Athletes also have high hopes for the first international tournament on home ground
Following the comments from organizers and sponsors, four international-level players each spoke of their ambitions going into the tournament.
Osamu Nagashima (WH1 class)—one of the leading wheelchair badminton players, who has secured as many as thirteen victories in the Japanese Championship—spoke of his aims: “I was really looking forward to an international tournament being held in Japan. There are many players in the WH1 class, both in Japan and overseas, so it is tough to get through the preliminaries, but I will try my best to win as many matches as I can so that I’m still in the tournament on the last day.” In an international tournament held in Thailand in June, Nagashima paired with a player from Hong Kong and finished in second place. He resolutely commented: “The Korean players are a strong presence in the world of wheelchair badminton—the male players in particular have dominated the top spots since 2005. I’d like us to draw on the support we will get from the home crowd to allow us to secure a victory for Japan.”
In the same category, female wheelchair badminton player and mother-of-two Yuma Yamazaki (WH2 class) commented, “I’d like lots of people to discover the appeal of wheelchair badminton. I’m going to have fun playing in the tournament, so that people feel they want to try playing too.” She also revealed that she worries about food when on tour overseas, “when I go overseas, I take rice, hotpot, freeze-dried meals, and other types of food with me—about half my suitcase is filled with food. Having a tournament in Japan is a relief, because I don’t need to worry about food. I’m going to give my all in the tournament, partly as a way of saying thank you to my family, whose support allows me to keep up my training and take part in overseas tours.”
Nagashima, who boasts thirteen victories in the Japanese Championships
Player and mother-of-two Yamazaki
Mamiko Toyoda, who took second place in the women’s singles at a tournament in Thailand
Two players from categories of players who play standing also spoke to the press conference. Mamiko Toyoda (SU5/impairment of the upper limbs)—who took second place in the women’s singles at a tournament in Thailand despite the particularly large number of players in her category, upper limb impairment—spoke of her enthusiasm going into the tournament: “as it’s being held in Japan, I think all the people who have supported me, including the employees of my sponsor, Yonex, will come to cheer me on, so I’d like to really give something back by showing them a victory firsthand.” She also pledged to overcome her weaknesses, saying “it’s a real motivation to have so many rivals around me. I’m told that I lack the ‘urge to win,’ so I’d like to work particularly on strengthening my mental approach.”
Daisuke Fujihara, who has won two consecutive domestic singles tournaments
Daisuke Fujihara (SL 3/impairment of the lower limbs), who has won two consecutive domestic singles tournaments, is armed with a powerful jumping smash. He is in high spirits for the tournament, saying: “It’s an honor to take part in the first international tournament to be held in Japan. I won the first Japan Championships in 2015, so I’d also like to win this first international tournament to be held in Japan, and also make my name known in 2020.” In fact, at the tournament in Thailand, he also won the doubles alongside an Indonesian partner, so naturally those around him have increasingly high hopes for his success.
He also gave us a glimpse behind the scenes: “Para-badminton players are connected on Facebook, and we also decided who we were going to pair with by getting in touch with each other on Facebook. I was really honored because so many different players contacted me before the tournament in Thailand. I’ve gradually gotten used to using English, so recently I can have smooth conversations, and communicating with a partner is no problem as long as they can speak English too.”
Given the success of the Japanese players among the top world rankings in each category, para-badminton is attracting huge interest as we head toward the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. We hope that you will come to the tournament to get an early glimpse of these star players and a taste of the true flavor of competitive badminton.
text&photo by TEAM A