Kota Hokinoue Intevew
Sozo : First of all , tell me what you find captivating about your sport.
Kota : Well,what I enjoy most is the intensity and the speed. The average speed is around 30km/h but occasionally,
for example during the Boston Marathon, the maximum speed can come up to 70km/h.
With this speed, the wheels will fly for a moment when hitting uneven ground!
I guss this is what is so captivating about it, especially for those who enjoy speed.
As it is a competitive sport, there is obviously strategy involved, making it somewhat similar to cycling sports.
Sozo : What prompted you to start this particular sport ?
Kota : Well, I was involved in an accident in year 2000, and was admitted to a hospital specialised in spinal cord injuries.
The hospital was close to my parents' house and I often had visits from many of my friends.
We were in fact caught drinking a couple of times and I was actually thrown out of the hospital before my own
house was renovated to receive me !
Another patient with me in the hospital room at the time introduced me to the sports.
His name is Hiroki Sasahara, who later won a silver medal in the Beijing Paralympics.
Shortly after being discharged from the hospital, he said to me; 'Do you do any sports?
There is an athletics competition in Yamaguchi prefecture if you would like to come?'
At the time I didn't know anything about Wheelchair Racing, but after seeing Mr Sasahara winning a tournament
after half a year of practice, I was convinced and I wanted to start as well.
The first period after the accident, I would often feel anxious about the future. However, only by pure luck,
meeting someone like Mr Sasahara and also introduced to the sport itself, I came to appreciate the importance
of having dreams and working towards them. I also really enjoy practice. Now, I am very thankful to be living
an even more fulfilling life than I was before the injury.
Previously, when I went to Switzerland for a competition, I visited a big hospital for spinal cord injuries.
Close to the hospital they have athletic fields and pools.
They also have athletes, with world-breaking records in Wheelcher Marathon,
working there to give support and advise. Rehabilitation aims to help people return to managing their daily
by themselves, however the ultimate goal is to help them find hobbies and other things to enjoy.
I think that they should also include sports as a part of rehabilitation in Japan, as it helped myself recover faster.
I am greatful to have been introduced to this sport, and I therefore occasionally visit the hospital to look for
Sozo Aren' there problems with lack of equipment?
Kota Nowadays, it is possible to borrow equipment from the Association for Physically Challenged, located in Kyushu.
Sozo So far , have you ever felt discouraged or thought about quitting?
Kota Well, I have had periods where I had to go through hardship and also times
where results have been slow, but I have never really thought about quitting.
This might sound conventional, but it's all about having goals. I am not the type of person to aim too high
from the beginning, but rather focus on small improvements.
I was also very lucky to have met Masazumi Soejima(Wheelchair racing athlete)
when I first started the sport. He is very inspiring, a true athlete, and doesn't look like a person with
disabilities at all. Seeing him inspired me to want to run.
He did join me during practice, but in the beginning he was much faster than me and I could not keep up.
I wanted to be able to be able to get closer to his level! My admiration for him motivated me to think that I one
day could compete with him, and win.
Practicing with this goal in mind, I became a JAAF(Japan Association of Athletics Federation)-certified athlete
and experienced that working hard leads to results.
After this, I became motivated to participate in the Paralympics. I was told it is difficult to become a Japanese
representative as there are many athletes competing. So, I studied how much I would have to sacrifice to be
qualified as a representative, how much I would have to practice to be able to get to the level needed,
and decided that I was willing to go through the toughest practice possible to achieve want I wanted.
After that , if I lost , at least I did my best.
Like this , I became a japanese competitor and entered the Beijing Paralympics!
I came in 5th. By achieving small goals one by one, I managed to persist even through hard times.
In addition to this , more and more people kept cheering me on, and rejoiced in my achievements.
During practice, thinking about these people who give me support, I can't cut corners.
They really encourage me to perform better.
Mentally speaking , it appears more beneficial to work for one's own interest rather than for others.However,
I think that without the support of other people, I would have already quit. Discouragement and frustrations
have also contributed as factors to work harder . From the very beginning, other athletes would tell me
that I would not become any good because my arms are short, therefore "my engine is different" and that
I should quit . The frustration by being told this made me work harder.
I wanted to prove them wrong.
Since I am a poor looser, I practiced a lot. This lead to results. Thinking back, these comments made stronger
and I am grateful for that. Therefore, I now praise the youngsters who are showing potential and say `wow,
I think your time to shine has come!' Therefore I don't press that button to make them fully motivated(he laughs).
Sozo What are your goals for the future?
Kota Firstly I am aiming for second place at the World Championships, as this will unofficially qualify me for the
Paralympics in Rio. There I want to win.
Sozo I would love to see that on TV, and would also have liked to see you during the recent Tokyo Marathon.
Kota Yes , I want to tell my friends to watch while I am being videoed. It would be great to have cameras
at the checkpoints and at the goal. It is fine even if we are just shown in the corner of the TV screen,
but with close ups on the athletes to promote the Tokyo Paralympics. Next year I well definitely
record it as well!
増田 真衣 Mai Masuda Gylseth