Tokyo’s Paralympic legacy inspiring Japan’s Ueyama in Dubai

Tomohiro Ueyama from Japan

Just over 150 days ago, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games finished, with the recurve mixed team event the final medal on the para archery programme in Yumenoshima Park.

One of the competitors in Japan was the host nation’s Tomohiro Ueyama.

Hailing from Higashiosaka in Osaka, wheelchair-user Ueyama made the quarterfinals in the mixed team event in Tokyo, equalling his individual result from Rio 2016 in Tokyo. He arrived this week in Dubai for the 2022 World Archery Para Championship ranked number 14 in the world.

Though he’s far from the comforts of that home field in Tokyo, the memories of the Games are still fresh in Ueyama’s mind.

“I had such a proud feeling that I could be finally at the Tokyo 2020 Games shooting line after a lot of hurdles owing to COVID-19,” said the archer, who started the sport in 2006.

“My results in Tokyo were disappointing and I will try to improve my ranking at the next Games, however, personally, the Games also helped me grow my social medal followers and now a lot of people know me and know I play archery.”

The positive effect of the Games was not something solely reserved for Ueyama, though.

“We have more people following para archery now,” said the 34-year-old, who started shooting internationally in 2013. “For Rio 2016, people in Japan didn’t follow the Japanese para archers’ results, but for Tokyo 2020 it was different.”

Tomohiro Ueyama at Tokyo 2020

“There was more interest and more people followed the matches and results through live streaming and television,” continued Ueyama. “This was important for the sport and we now have more than 230 archers in Japan and it’s growing.”

This growth has been backed up by infrastructure and development from the authorities in Japan, including investment at ‘Dream Island Park’, the English-language name for Yumenoshima Park, which has remained as a permanent facility for the sport.

“The Tokyo Metropolitan Government built Yumenoshima Park Archery Field for archery and now it’s being used for archery training and other sports,” said Ueyama. “There are also various barrier-free facilities in and outside stadiums and around the city. This is very good for wheelchair users.”

Looking back is one thing, but Ueyama is in Dubai to look forward – to competition and to win a medal. This journey starts with the qualification round on Thursday morning and the Japanese archer is prepared.

“It’s very nice to return to competition,” he said. “I have been shooting 300 arrows every day during training and hope I can win gold here in Dubai.”

Follow Tomohiro on Instagram: @tomohiro0720653

Follow Tomohiro on Twitter: @51tomoro

Quotes: Dubai 2022 Organising Committee / Priyanka Sharma