Nitta leads growing Japanese Nordic skiing team

Japan’s Paralympic champion and top-ranked cross-country skier will head his team into the new season and to PyeongChang 2018. 06 Oct 2015
Man with an arm amputation doing nordic skiing

Yoshihiro Nitta, Japan, in the men's 20k standing at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

ⒸLuc Percival Photography
By Louise Wood | For the IPC

“Together these athletes will increase the level of the Japanese team. For this, I shall be a strong and tall wall for them."

Despite being more than 10 years older than many of his main competitors, Japan’s premier cross-country skier Yoshihiro Nitta will not let that stop him from targeting victory in 2015-16.

Nitta, his country’s top cross country skier in the men's standing events at the age of 35, finished 2014-15 ranked fifth in the world and is aiming to improve that significantly in the up-coming IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup season.

"This season, I have two targets. The first one is to obtain the gold medal in the classic class of the World Cup in Vuokatti [from 15-20 March],” he said. “The second one is to create a strong physical condition to target the PyeongChang Paralympic Games.

The Winter Paralympics are still a few years away but that has not stopped Nitta from setting his goals for 2018.

"I will continue my sports activities to PyeongChang. I will try to get the gold medal in this Paralympic Games. It is not easy of course considering my age, but I will do so by telling myself that I can do it."

Such determination has already helped him to win three Paralympic medals. He won gold in both the 10km classic and 1km classic sprint in cross-country in Vancouver 2010, adding these to the bronze medal he won in the 5km classic from Salt Lake City 2002.

To prepare for this season Nitta has been training abroad and has had extra help with diet and fitness: "This summer, I executed my training on snow in New Zealand. In addition, from April of this year, due to the Olympic and Paralympic teams being combined, the Japan Institute of Sport Sciences provided physiotherapists and a nutritionist to assist me during training. They gave me the appropriate advice and this is the big difference."

It is new knowledge like this together with his own experience that Nitta would like to share with Japan's younger athletes. Aged only three he lost the lower part of his left arm in an accident with a combine harvester. His family philosophy "that I could do everything by myself" meant that he started alpine skiing aged four and then cross- country skiing aged nine.

This means he is in a perfect position both to coach junior athletes, something he intends to do, and to set a good example for them. He can already see a lot of potential from the young Japanese team.

"Keigo Iwamoto and Yurika Abe are both teenagers who experienced the Sochi Paralympic Games. Masaru Hoshizawa aged 15 years old and Taiki Kawayoke aged 14 years old are still developing their technique, but they have a strong passion for skiing.

“Together these athletes will increase the level of the Japanese team. For this, I shall be a strong and tall wall for them."

The 2015-16 IPC Nordic Skiing season gets underway in Tyumen, Russia, from 2-9 December.