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Potential future Paralympians try to beat non-disabled world record in Tokyo event

Young Haruta Saito picks himself up after a fall and starts running again on a special running course in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, on Nov. 4, 2018. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, sprinters with artificial limbs, including youngsters who could represent the future of Japan's para-athletics, tried to beat the non-disabled athletic world record over 60 meters -- set at 6.34 seconds -- in an event in the capital's Shibuya Ward on Nov. 4.

Haruta Saito, 11, an amputee athlete in the fifth year of elementary school who lives in Tokyo's Koto Ward, tried to beat the record along with two other elementary school students who have artificial limbs.

Young Saito sprinted hard from the start of the race, which is his strong point, but he fell mid-race. While he shed bitter tears after ending the race with a time of 15.01 seconds, athletes and other participants advised him how to adjust his artificial limb as well as his running style and offered other advice. Saito then smiled and said, "I want to run faster using this experience. I want to be a gold medalist in the future."

Saito was born with congenital tibial hemimelia, a condition which caused a defect to his tibia, and his right leg was amputated below the knee when he was two and half years old. One month after the surgery, he began walking with an artificial limb for daily use and joined in sports days at a day care center and an elementary school. But Saito mostly trailed his classmates in races.

About 1 1/2 years ago, his mother Yukiko, 46, recommended Saito to start track and field and he practiced running with an artificial limb for sports at an indoor arena.

The Nov. 4 race was held for the second time as part of the annual autumn event "Shibuya Art Festival." Richard Browne, the U.S. gold medalist in the 100- and 200- meter sprints at the 2015 World Para Athletics Championships, won the race with a time of 7.24 seconds among nine athletes from inside and outside of Japan.

(Japanese original by Yuka Narita, City News Department)

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