"...I wanted to do the same as the athletes who were skiing so fast using only one arm, for me it was fantastic."
Japan’s 19-year-old Nordic skier Yurika Abe is determined to push forward after two successive seasons saw her finish amongst the best in the world, despite being made homeless by the devastating 2011 tsunami.
Abe only started skiing four years ago, but in 2014-15 she finished in the top five in both women’s standing IPC Cross-Country and Biathlon World Cups.
Inspired by watching the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games the teenager began training in 2011: “I watched a TV programme of the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, and felt I wanted to do the same as the athletes who were skiing so fast using only one arm, for me it was fantastic.”
Soon after Abe began training she was made homeless by the massive tsunami, which destroyed her home town of Yamada. Despite being a terrible event for her country and herself, Abe used it as motivation to reach the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in order to inspire the people of Japan.
Taking part in her first ever Paralympic Games at Sochi 2014 she managed three top 10 finishes in cross-country and a 13th place in biathlon in the women’s standing competitions. It is clear she enjoys competing in both events.
“Regarding cross-country skiing, I think that effort makes excellent results,” she said. “Regarding biathlon, nobody can anticipate what will happen next from the start through to the goal. Under such circumstances, I can feel excitement in racing with many hurdles.”
By the time of the 2015 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships, Abe had improved her results to a top five finish in cross-country and two top five places in biathlon thanks to the help of a new coach.
“This was the season after the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games,” Abe said. “I achieved good performances beyond my anticipation. I met with a new coach in July, and the coaching fitted me well.”