Former Para ice hockey goalkeeper Mitsuru Nagase is back at the Winter Paralympics, but this time he swapped the sticks for a pencil and a notebook.
The Japanese, who claimed a much-celebrated silver medal at Vancouver 2010, is one of the hundreds of journalists covering PyeongChang 2018.
“I am enjoying the competition. It is a different emotion because I participated in four Winter Paralympics between 1998 and 2010, but always as an athlete,” said Nagase, who writes a daily Para ice hockey column for The Hokkaido newspaper.
“This time I am watching and doing interviews. Sometimes I feel I want to play, but I am still enjoying my new role very much.
“As a player, I just wanted to focus on the game. Now, seeing it from outside the rink, what I really want is to help spread the Paralympic Movement across Japan, which is really good and exciting.”
He is also amazed at the packed-venues and how people from South Korea and around the world are getting more engaged, with PyeongChang 2018 even breaking the record for the most tickets sold at a Winter Paralympics edition. https://www.paralympic.org/news/pyeongchang-2018-record-ticket-sales
“Many people are watching Para sports. And you can hear them chanting. They are all so excited! While watching a Para ice hockey game, they are amused. And when South Korea scores a goal, the crowd roars. It is incredible,” he added.
Nagase made his Winter Paralympic debut on home soil at Nagano 1998 at 22 years old. He was again part of the Japanese roster at Salt Lake City 2002 and Turin 2006.
“One of my best memories is from the 1998 Games, my first time at a Winter Paralympics and nothing less than on home soil in Japan,” he recalled.
“We ended fifth at my first three Games. I was actually thinking about retirement after Turin 2006 because I was a bit disappointed we could not reach the podium and was going through a difficult time. But after a couple of months and with the support of many people, I decided to go for one more.
“Four years later, we beat Canada 3-1 in Vancouver to reach the gold medal match against the USA, and ended up winning silver. That was another great memory, just crazy.”
The Paralympic Movement has evolved drastically since the time he began competing. “In Para ice hockey, equipment is better than before, and players are stronger and more skilful. The Paralympics are getting a lot of promotion and are much bigger.”
In two years, the Games will return to Tokyo after 56 years, which Nagase believes will be a unique opportunity for the hosts.
“It will have a big impact on the city and the country. Society´s perception towards people with impairment started changing a lot after we got chosen. We can see many Para athletes on TV and TV commercials.
“People acquired an impairment and maybe they wanted to stay at home, feeling bad about it. But now they are inspired by these Para athletes and continue moving forward.”
Tickets for PyeongChang 2018 can be purchased here.
Every competition as well as the Closing Ceremony can be watched live right here on the International Paralympic Committee’s website. Paralympic.org Highlights of each day’s action will also be made available.