Jiji PressThis is the first installment of a three-part series marking the start of the quadrennial event, highlighting several Japanese athletes aiming for medals.
After winning a men’s long jump silver medal at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Japanese athlete Atsushi Yamamoto is set to compete in the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Paralympics on a snowboard.
“This is just the starting point,” the 35-year-old Paralympian said. “I’m aiming for my top performance at the Pyeongchang Games.”
Yamamoto, who lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident when he was a second-year high school student, took part in three straight Summer Paralympics from the 2008 Beijing event, in long jump and sprint events including the 4x100-meter relay.
He might be well-known as a jumper with a prosthetic leg, but snowboarding was the first sport he tried after the accident.
After snowboarding became an official event at the previous 2014 Sochi Paralympics, Yamamoto looked at the possibility of participating in the Games in Russia.
“But I didn’t know how to get involved in competitive snowboarding,” he recalls. Yamamoto ended up dropping the idea of joining the Sochi Games also because Japan had no organization for snowboarding for athletes with disabilities at the time.
A Japanese national team for the sport was established after the Sochi event, and after the Rio Games, Yamamoto increasingly became eager to compete in snowboarding. “I wanted to take snowboard seriously if I challenged [for the Pyeongchang Games],” he said.
In September last year, he took part in an international snowboarding competition for the first time.
At the Pyeongchang Games, he will compete as a guest athlete at the invitation of the International Paralympic Committee.
Yamamoto has won three Summer Paralympic medals overall, including a long jump silver at the Beijing Games and a 4x100-meter relay bronze at the Rio Games.
“Unlike track and field sports, snowboarding requires work to learn key points on each race terrain because the courses vary,” he said, citing the difficulty of the winter sport.