Japan’s First Lady joins students in Para sports exhibition

The exhibition was held near the G7 Summit, where global leaders engaged with school children in Para sports. 31 May 2016
Woman in smart grey dress, blindfolded, surrounded by kids

School children lined up to watch Japan’s First Lady Mrs. Akie Abe playing blind football during a Para sports exhibition held Friday (27 May 2016) just next to the International Media Center for the G7 Summit in Mie, Japan.

ⒸThe Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center

School children lined up to watch Japan’s First Lady Mrs. Akie Abe put on a blind fold, remove her high heels and attempt to kick a football. It was one of the many exciting interactions during a Para sports exhibition held Friday (27 May) just next to the International Media Center for the G7 Summit in Mie, Japan.

Mrs. Abe was joined by Canada’s First Lady Mrs. Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau and the European Council’s First Lady Mrs. Malgorzata Tusk, who all did likewise in their attempts at football 5-a-side, one of the Paralympic sports to be featured at Tokyo 2020.

The exhibition was held during the last day of the G7 Summit, giving a prime opportunity for some of the world’s figures to interact with school children through Para sports, raise awareness of the Games and promote the Paralympic Movement as the nation prepares to host Tokyo 2020.

“Honestly, I didn't know anything about Para sports, but I have seen disabled runners,” said fourth-grader Josh Creamer. “I was excited about trying sports I play every day in a new way like soccer and basketball. The Para cycling bikes are amazing and I would like one of my own. I was amazed at how well the athletes played their sports. It must take lots of practice and dedication to be so good.”

About 70 students joined the three First Ladies in trying Para sports, engaging in conversations, shaking hands and even trading high-fives.

The participants also got to try wheelchair racing, Para cycling (handcycle and tandem bike), boccia and wheelchair basketball with the help of a few Paralympians.

“Before this event, I only knew that Paralympic Games were for people who have disabilities,” said six-grader Mina Nepali. “But by participating in the event, I am very excited about the Games that the Paralympic athletes we meet will play in the 2020 Paralympics.

“It meant a lot for me that Mrs. Abe participated in the event because I never met a First Lady so it became a very important memory.

“I loved all of the moments in the event but my favourite moment was the wheelchair basketball. I really enjoyed this because I could actually ride on a wheelchair and experience how it feels like to play basketball as a Paralympic athlete using a wheelchair.”

The exhibition was hosted by the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Centre, where Mrs. Abe serves as one of the trustee members. About 80 journalists and cameramen all combined were capturing the moment, as well as the students’ teachers and staff members.

"This was a huge step for the Paralympic Movement,” said Miki Matheson, a three-time Paralympic gold medallist in ice sledge speed racing from Nagano 1998.

“Despite their tight schedules, the First Ladies spared their time and even tried some Para sports. I have witnessed that sports have the power to unite people of all ages and different backgrounds instantaneously."