Japanese doctor follows in his father’s historic Paralympic footsteps

Tokyo goes down in history as the only city to have twice hosted the Paralympic Summer Games. The 1964 Games can be traced back to a doctor who helped bring them to Japan. Her legacy now shapes her son’s efforts.

Nakamura Eijirou will live a childhood dream at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. The orthopedic surgeon from Oita Prefecture in southwestern Japan works at the Games, just like his father did almost 60 years ago.

“I know my father Yutaka has played an important role in the previous Tokyo Paralympic Games, so I am happy to be able to participate in the event, even as a volunteer. I hope I can help as much as possible,” said Nakamura.

Nakamura Eijirou

Parasports have been a part of the world of Nakamura, 59, for as long as he can remember. His father, Nakamura Yutaka, was also an orthopedic surgeon and is considered the father of the Tokyo Paralympic movement.

“Since I was a child, I followed my dad and went to sporting events for people with disabilities. There I watched and experienced wheelchair sports. It was natural for me to be interested. parasports when I was a kid, ”Nakamura said.

Eijirou (left) with his father, Yutaka (right)

A 1960 study trip his father took to England helped kick-start Japan’s Paralympic trip. He met Dr Ludwig Guttmann who used sports to treat patients with spinal cord injuries. Guttmann organized competitions for people with disabilities, a series of events that would later become the Paralympic Games.

Yutaka was surprised to see patients playing sports as part of their rehabilitation programs. At that time in Japan, bed rest was still the most common treatment for people with reduced mobility.

The visit inspired Yutaka to organize similar sporting events for people with disabilities after the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. It wasn’t officially called the “Paralympic Games,” but organizers started using the term there to the first time.

It was a major challenge to host the Games 60 years ago, when it was very rare to see people with disabilities playing sports in Japan. Nakamura says her father was determined to make it a success.

“People who competed in the Games with him told me later that my dad was so busy he didn’t have time to rest. He was carrying hard-boiled eggs and salt, and he would eat them. would share that with other people, ”said Nakamura, who was only two years old at the time.

Nakamura Yutaka at the Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Games

But he says it was a labor of love. His father’s goal with the first Games was to help improve the lives of people with disabilities.

“My dad felt like his job didn’t stop after surgery or when patients were discharged from the hospital. I think he wanted to continue caring for his patients when they came home and to work. , until they are back in the community, ”Nakamura said.

Nakamura Yutaka

Yutaka died in 1984 at the age of 57. His son would follow in his father’s footsteps and become an orthopedic surgeon treating patients in Japan and other parts of the world. This is where his own passion for parasports started to grow.

Nakamura has spent years researching how to help wheelchair athletes with shoulder and elbow injuries. He has also volunteered for decades at events, helping para-athletes make friends and build their confidence through sport.

Nakamura in wheelchair basketball competition in 2019
Watch the video 03:11

“At these Paralympic Games there will be more diversity among the athletes. And there will be a serious disability that a lot of people didn’t know much about before. I think the Games give a chance to make people realize that these people can do so many things, ”says Nakamura.

Nakamura says parasports and para-athletes have felt familiar and exciting since he was a child. He hopes the Tokyo Paralympic Games will help many others feel the same way.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games

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