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Paralympian Yamamoto gets back on track after Winter wipeout

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Atsushi Yamamoto runs in the men’s 100 meters for paralympians at the Shizuoka International Meet on May 3.

The Yomiuri Shimbun Paralympian Atsushi Yamamoto has returned to the athletics track after competing at the Pyeongchang Winter Paralympics in March.

The 36-year old athlete, who won silver in the men’s long jump at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, has begun training for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, and plans to take advantage of his experience competing in a snowboarding event at the Winter Games.

Yamamoto competed in the banked slalom in Pyeongchang, but fell during his run and did not finish.

Taking to the track, he participated in the Oda Memorial Meet in April and the Shizuoka International Meet on May 3 in the 100 meters for athletes with limb deficiencies. They were his first competitive races since last autumn, but he looked in great condition.

“I was able to regain my sense for athletics. I look forward to trying a new running form and artificial leg,” he said.

Yamamoto has already resumed training for the long jump. “My performance at the Jakarta Asian Paralympics in October will be a springboard toward the 2020 Tokyo Games.”

At the Pyeongchang Games, Yamamoto was inspired by Japanese gold medalists such as snowboarder Gurimu Narita and cross-country skier Yoshihiro Nitta.

“The three of us shared a room at the athletes’ village. Witnessing their excellent results up close made me regret [my performance],” Yamamoto said. “I want to win [gold] at the Tokyo Games.”

In autumn last year, he quit his job and decided to become a professional athlete, which is rare among Paralympians. Since the beginning of this year, he has been engaged in such activities as giving lectures and visiting special-needs schools.

“I want to continue doing things that only I can do,” Yamamoto said. His sense of responsibility as a leading Paralympian appears to be what is fueling his endeavors.

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