By Shizuka Goto / Yomiuri Shimbun SportswriterJAKARTA — The Asian Para Games, an eight-day international sporting event for athletes with impairments, kicked off on Saturday with the opening ceremony at the Gelora Bung Karno Main Stadium in Jakarta.
Serving as Japan’s flag-bearer in the opening ceremony was Kaede Maegawa, a member of the national women’s track and field team. She said she walked with her head held high during the ceremony hoping that the audience “will realize that a person with a prosthetic leg can walk gracefully.”
In the Asian Para Games, she will first compete in a jump event on Tuesday, followed by the 100-meter event.
The 20-year-old, who hails from Mie Prefecture, lost her right leg in a traffic accident when she was in her third year of junior high school.
Although she had to use a cane in her daily life for nearly a year after the accident, she improved rapidly after she joined a track and field team for athletes with prosthetic legs.
In 2016, four years after the accident, Maegawa participated in the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics. She came fourth in the long jump for those with impairments such as leg amputations above the knee.
Maegawa thought, “I won’t be able to earn a medal in the Tokyo Paralympics.”
So she began receiving coaching from Kumiko Imura, the physically unimpaired national record holder in the long jump who opened a track and field training school in Mie Prefecture.
The 37-year-old coach praised Maegawa, saying, “She has what’s necessary for top athletes, including a sense of purpose and commitment to training.”