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Japan Paralympic team takes weather forecaster to Pyeongchang

Athletes from various countries train in the snow at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on March 5, 2018. (Mainichi)

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- Japan's Paralympic athletes have gone to the length of taking a professional weather forecaster with them to Pyeongchang, to help predict what the elements will be like during the 2018 Paralympics.

    Japanese athletes competing in the Nordic ski, cross-country and biathlon events hope that their performances at Pyeongchang will benefit as a result of receiving advice from the weather expert, who belongs to forecasting company Weathernews Inc.

    For events on snow that are affected by temperature and weather, it is crucial to select items such as skis, as well as usage of wax, depending on the weather situation in order to achieve optimum glide.

    By having a weather forecaster available to provide the team with short-term weather predictions, as well as information about air temperatures and snow temperatures, it is thought that they will be able to adapt effectively to the relevant conditions.

    The approach has already proved to be effective. At the World Cup in Pyeongchang in March 2017, a forecaster accompanying the team predicted that the weather would "worsen in an hour," enabling the team to be fully prepared. Subsequently, athletes managed to pick up several cross-country medals, including Yoshihiro Nitta, who clinched victory.

    "Making use of weather information is an effective approach, and I think it will yield good results (at the Paralympics)," said Hideki Arai, coach of the Japanese team.

    The temperature in the area surrounding the Alpensia Biathlon Centre, where the cross-country and biathlon events will be held during the Pyeongchang Paralympics, rose to just under 10 degrees Celsius on March 4. However the temperature dropped to sub-zero the next day, accompanied with strong winds and snow.

    According to Japan's organizing committee, the temperature usually rises during the Winter Paralympics. This winter, the amount of snow on the ground in Pyeongchang has been greater than in a usual year, prompting one committee member to state, "Snow would not melt during the Paralympics." However, just in case it does melt, there is plenty of artificial snow on standby.

    Choosing the right kind of wax for when there is a mixture of melted snow and artificial snow on the ground is difficult, but the Japanese team is well prepared and ready for any eventuality.

    The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Paralympics will officially kick off on March 9.

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