Japan aiming for first Asian Para Games wheelchair rugby gold

Japan will be strong favourites going into the competition in Incheon, as they face South Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia. 14 Oct 2014
Daisuke IKEZAKI, Japan keeps the ball protected

Daisuke IKEZAKI, Japan keeps the ball protected

ⒸLieven Coudenys
By Beau Greenway | for the IPC

"We understand that the Incheon Games is the highest competition in Asia, so we are strengthening ourselves in both mind and body."

Wheelchair rugby has been included in the Incheon 2014 Asian Para Games for the first time and top ranked side, Japan, are hoping to go all the way and win the gold medal.

The event will feature four teams with Japan set to battle it out with hosts South Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia in Incheon, South Korea, between 18-24 October.

Japan are currently ranked No.4 in the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation (IWRF) world rankings after finishing fourth at the World Championships in Odense, Denmark, making them the heavy favorites to win the event.

Star player Daisuke Ikezaki excelled in Denmark, but could not stop his side losing to the USA in the bronze medal game.

He knows now, that in order to be successful in Incheon, they need to take on board the lessons they learnt at the World Championships.

“We understand that our results reflected our level indeed. In order to get the medal, we need to further improve ourselves,” Ikezaki said.

“We understand that the Incheon Games is the highest competition in Asia, so we are strengthening ourselves in both mind and body. As a team, we executed a training camp, by which we came to have strong sprit, good technique and physical strength.”

A lot of hard work from the South Korean organising committee has gone into securing the sport in this major event.

“We thank the Korean parties on having this great event, and we also need to thank the Japanese Paralympic Committee and Japan Wheelchair Rugby Federation for their support,” Ikezaki said.

“We wish to express our great appreciations by getting the gold medal.”

Ikezaki and the Japanese team will be bitterly disappointed with anything less than top spot in Incheon, but know they will have to work hard to get it.

“Our goal is to get the gold medal, and we will do everything we can do to achieve that goal,” he said.

“In the big events, like Incheon, we wish to demonstrate our power and to accomplish our maximum performance.”

The benefits that an event like this can bring for the sport in Asia are invaluable as the sport has never had so much exposure.

It also marks the first occasion that Malaysia and Indonesia will play in a world class event, which is huge progress for the development of wheelchair rugby in those nations.

“We are very proud to be participating in this historically important event. We wish to express the attractiveness of wheelchair rugby to the rest of the world, by which athlete participation into this sport will be increased,” Ikezaki said.

The Asian Para Games bring together athletes from 41 countries to compete in 23 sports.