Indonesia 2018: Japan’s road to glory

Asian Para Games major step in the preparations for Tokyo 2020 03 Oct 2018
Japan's Sho Watanabe crosses the line to take the 2017 Tokyo marathon ahead of Switzerland's Marcel Hug.

Japan's Sho Watanabe crosses the line to take the 2017 Tokyo marathon ahead of Switzerland's Marcel Hug.

ⒸTokyo Marathon Foundation
By World Para Athletics

With one eye on the Tokyo Paralympic Games in two years’ time, Japan’s Para athletes will be determined to make their mark at the Asian Para Games which get underway in Jakarta, Indonesia this week (6 October).

Wheelchair racer Tomoki Sato makes his Asian Para Games debut (400m and 800m T52), but he’s already made a name for himself on the international stage and will be expected to excel once again.

The 29-year-old began competing internationally in 2015, winning 400m T42 gold and 1,500m T52 bronze at the World Championships that year.

Two silver medals followed at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games – including an Asian record in the 1,500m – and it was clear then that USA’s multiple world and Paralympic champion Ray Martin had a tough challenge on his hands.

Sure enough, London 2017 was Sato’s time to shine as he claimed two gold medals with new championship records in both distances.

He hasn’t slowed down this year either, smashing Martin’s 400m and 800m T52 world records in July. He currently tops the world rankings in the 400m, 800m and 1,500m T52.

Jakarta instead of Chicago

Sato’s teammates and track rivals Tomoya Ito and Hirokazu Ueyonabaru may not be favourites to win but the pair, who sit second and third in the Asian rankings, will no doubt be determined to provide Japan with a clean sweep on the podium.

Sho Watanabe and Tomoki Suzuki, who compete in the T54 class, are both well-respected marathon racers, but despite the Chicago marathon taking place this weekend (7 October), the pair have chosen to race on the track at the Asian Para Games.

Medal hopes will also rest with world bronze medallists Shinya Wada, who races in the men’s 1,500m and 5,000m T11; Toru Suzuki, who goes in the men’s high jump and long jump T64 and Hajimu Ashida in the men’s long jump T47.

Sae Shigamoto (Tsuji) also makes her Asian Para Games debut having won women’s 400m T47 bronze at Rio 2016 and again at London 2017.

The 23-year-old, who has set her sights on gold come Tokyo 2020, is the second fastest in the world this year behind South African Anrune Liebenberg, but she faces a tough test in Jakarta with China’s reigning Paralympic and world champion Li Lu also in the line-up.

Watch out too for Uran Sawada, the current women’s long jump T12 world number one who leapt 5.70m earlier this year – a mark that would have won silver at both Rio 2016 and London 2017.