“I had many people who encouraged me to move forward and set new goals for myself, until five years ago a colleague of mine suggested me to take up Nordic skiing.”
After losing his sight due to a degenerative eye disease when he was a teenager, Japanese Nordic skier Kazuto Takamura found himself doubtful as to what he could do to make a living and contribute to society.
Once he graduated from high-school, Takamura decided to become an acupuncture professor. He has not stopped since then.
Whilst he prepares for the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships with guide Yuhei Fujita, to be held in Finsterau, Germany, from 10-19 February, the Japanese skier explained how that decision changed his life.
“There are still not many jobs available for visually impaired people in Japan,” explained Takamura.
“But you need to find a job to be financially stable. At the beginning, studying to become an acupuncture professor was a necessity. But then I found out I really liked it.
“Now I can say I love it and I love the connection I have with my patients and my students.”
It was when teaching at a school for visually impaired people that he found out that many of his students were as doubtful as he was when he had lost his sight as to what to do with their lives.
“Many of them do not see any motivation in life and do not challenge themselves. I thought that apart from teaching them acupuncture, I had to find other ways to inspire them to become the best version of themselves,” he said.
Takamura has always been a sports fan, having practice baseball, alpine skiing and football when he was a kid.
“When I lost my sight, I stopped playing sports because I did not have the financial capacity and I did not feel mentally prepared,” the 35-year-old said.
“But I had many people who encouraged me to move forward and set new goals for myself, until five years ago a colleague of mine suggested me to take up Nordic skiing.
“Then I thought that through Para sports I could be the inspiration my students needed to also give life a try.”
His first major victories came in 2016, when he won the men´s cross-country middle distance and sprint visually impaired races at the Asia Cup in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“That gave me a lot of confidence to continue training and trying to improve,” he said.
With the World Championships in Finsterau just around the corner, Takamura knows that it will be hard for him to reach the podium. There are many talented athletes competing, such as Canada´s multiple Paralympic champion Brian McKeever, guided by Graham Nishikawa and Sweden´s Zebastian Modin with guide Johannes Andersson.
But his goals go way beyond the Nordic skiing tracks.
“Firstly, I want to give my best. If I get good results, better. But I want to be an example for my students through my performance in Finsterau,” he said.
“And one day, I hope to achieve my biggest sporting goal which is to qualify for the Paralympic Winter Games and reach the podium.”
The Finsterau 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships will gather 135 of the world’s best biathletes and cross-country skiers from 25 countries in Finsterau between 10-19 February.
All races will be shown live alongside live results at Finsterau2017.com.