Paralympic Games
24 August - 5 September 2021

Japan wheelchair tennis player Yui Kamiji kept flame lighting a secret

'I spoke to my mum on the phone after the ceremony and she was surprised. I never told her about it' 28 Aug 2021
Yui Kamiji goes down ramp holding Paralympic flame at Opening Ceremony
Yui Kamiji prepares to light the Paralympic cauldron
ⒸAlex Pantling/Getty Images

What do Yui Kamiji and Naomi Osaka have in common? They are both from Japan, both are tennis players and both lit flames on behalf of the hosts at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Kamiji has had a long wait to finally see some action, beating Argentine’s Maria Florencia Moreno of Argentina 6-0, 6-1 in her opening match at the Ariake Tennis Park on Saturday (August 28).

Afterwards she talked about lighting the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony and revealed that she did not even tell her mother what she was about to do.

“It was an honour to be one of the final torch runners. I did wonder if I was the right person, but I was happy to have been selected, so I took the offer,” Kamiji said.

“I spoke to my mum on the phone after the ceremony and she was surprised. I never told her about it (laughs). I thought it would be a fun surprise, and I was right. She was happy.

“I saw that Naomi Osaka had been the final runner (to light the flame) for the Olympics, so that was an honour as well.”

Kamiji hopes that Tokyo 2020 will increase the public’s interest in wheelchair tennis. She revealed that the delay in competing had not helped her nerves.

“I wouldn’t say I felt pressure, but I did feel some nervousness. Originally, yesterday (Friday) was supposed to be my first match, but after the schedule changed, we saw other members of team Japan do well.

“I wanted to continue their momentum, playing in the first match of the day, so there was nervousness there.

“I hope that especially children with disabilities will be inspired to start playing sports and get out there in the world. I’ll do everything I can for more people to watch us play and see what we do.”