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Paralympic athletes discuss significance of games ahead of Tokyo 2020

From left, Chairman of the Paralympians Association of Japan Junichi Kawai, and Paralympic athletes Hajimu Ashida, Yuki Morishita, Koyo Iwabuchi, Shizuka Hangai, and Japan's Paralympic team captain Kuniko Obinata take part in a talk session ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Feb. 21, 2018. (Mainichi)

Japanese Paralympic athletes discussed the Paralympic Games' significance and impact on society at an event in the capital on Feb. 21, as the countdown continues to Tokyo 2020.

    Four Paralympic athletes who are expected to compete in Tokyo in 2020 joined Kuniko Obinata, who will head Japan's delegation at the Pyeongchang Paralympics, in the discussion sponsored by The Mainichi Newspapers Co.

    Shizuka Hangai, 29, a competitor in judo for the blind and visually impaired commented that to understand people with difficulties, an understanding of the disabilities themselves was important.

    "The Paralympics, which supplement what you can't do with regulations and so on, are a shortcut to understanding disabilities," she said.

    Table tennis player Koyo Iwabuchi, 23, pointed out a difference in the level of enthusiasm between Japan and other countries in support for the disabled. "Overseas, offers of assistance come naturally," he said.

    Swimmer Yuki Morishita, 21, commented on the significance of the games. "You can both watch sports and support them, and whether or not you have disabilities, the two sides can come and work together on something," she said.

    Track and field athlete Hajimu Ashida indicated he was looking to put in a strong performance at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, adding, "I think the role of athletes is first to produce results, and then have people feel that Paralympians are cool."

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