The Yomiuri ShimbunRIO DE JANEIRO — Makoto Hirose won Japan’s first medal at the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, capturing the silver medal in the men’s judo 60-kilogram division on Thursday.
It was one of three medals won by Japan on the opening day of competition. For Hirose, 39, it was his second Paralympic silver, having also won one at the Athens Games in 2004.
Meanwhile, Satoshi Fujimoto, 41, won a bronze medal in the men’s judo 66-kilogram division, giving him a fifth career medal and first since the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing.
Swimmer Takuya Tsugawa, 24, made the medal podium for the first time when he won a bronze in the men’s 100-meter backstroke for intellectually impaired athletes.
The women’s goalball team, which took home gold at the 2012 London Paralympics, was held to a 1-1 draw with Israel in the opening Group C match in the preliminary round.
Medalists react to their wins
“Judo has been my mental and spiritual support,” said Hirose.
Judo matches in the Paralympics begin with competitors grappling each other. “Once I grapple with a competitor, I can fight with him in a similar way to able-bodied people,” said Hirose.
He added: “Judo has allowed me to meet various people and changed my life philosophy. Having a handicap is inconvenient but not an unhappy situation. I want to convey this to younger athletes and people around me.”
After his match, Hirose’s family smiled and shed tears, and his teammates celebrated by patting each others’ shoulders. Supported by judo when he was young, Hirose has become a strong man who supports people around him.
“I felt it would be really difficult for me to defeat the gold and silver medalists,” said Fujimoto. But he has not abandoned his ambition to defeat them: “I still have a chance to win, because there are four years before the Tokyo [Paralympics].” He said he “wants to retire after experiencing the view from the top of the podium while people cheer.”Speech