Team Japan: On a 4-year journey home
Kimimasa Onodera lost in the first round of the men’s recurve open event on Tuesday 13 September. He could have spent the rest of the day relaxing and watching the remainder of the competition.
But Onodera had something else in mind.
He spent the remainder of the day coaching his teammate, Tomohiro Ueyama, who advanced to the quarterfinals.
“Since we practice together, I might have a different eye and be able to solve issues,” Onodera said. “It is a pleasure for me to be appointed as the coach.”
He enjoyed coaching – but would rather be competing, he admitted.
Onodera and Ueyama travelled to the Czech Republic for the final Paralympic qualifier where, they said, the pair developed a friendship. Tomohiro finished ninth at the tournament and secured an additional spot in the Games for Japan.
“It was a good environment,” Ueyama said. “To recreate that environment, I wanted Mr Onodera to coach me so that I could be more relaxed.”
Ueyama ultimately lost to Iran’s Gholamreza Rahimi in the quarterfinals. Rahimi went on to win the gold medal. Ueyama said that he was distracted during the match and did not focus enough. He said he knew and respected the other Iranian archer Ebrahim Ranjbarkivaj, who took bronze.
He wanted to face Ebrahim in a future round.
“I was a bit nervous,” Ueyama said. “I had the concentration on my opponent more than myself.”
The Japanese team in Rio consisted of Ueyama, Onodera and compound women’s open athlete Nako Hirasawa.
They hope to develop a larger base of para archers before Tokyo 2020, their home Games, so they can compete in more events.
“I am confident that I can win in four years time,” Ueyama said. “I’m looking forward to having a medal and not only as an individual but a mixed medal as well. I’m looking forward to finding recurve women’s archers that can be in the mixed team in Japan and I can help them with training.”
In the meantime, the archers will use their experience in Rio as a starting point for their training for a Paralympics on home turf.
“We have learned many things they are looking for in Tokyo 2020,” Onodera said. “We will solve problems and make changes to make our performance better. We have added motivation for Toyko now.”
The para archery competition at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games runs 10-17 September in the Sambodromo.