Yusuke Watanabe targets Tokyo 2020

Japanese shooter aims for home Paralympics

a male Para shooter takes a shot with a rifle Yusuke Watanabe is targeting qualification for his home Paralympics at Tokyo 2020 © • EJ Monica Kim

Yusuke Watanabe wants to raise the profile of shooting Para sport in his home nation. To do so, he is trying to raise his own profile ahead of his home Paralympic Games at Tokyo 2020.

“Currently Japanese media tries to let people know the Paralympic Games along with the Olympic Games, so more and more people are learning about Para sports like wheelchair tennis, Para swimming and Para athletics, but unfortunately not shooting Para sport,” Watanabe said. “I believe that people will find our sport interesting if they have a chance to see an actual match, particularly finals.”

He competed at the 2018 World Championships in Cheongju, South Korea, last month, hoping to earn a qualification slot for the Games. If he does, Tokyo 2020 would fittingly be his Paralympics debut.

But he has to continue fighting for a slot.

His main events are the R3 (mixed 10m air rifle prone SH1) and the R6 (mixed 50m rifle prone SH1). But he only competed in the R6 at Cheongju 2018, where he did not make the finals.

“I decided to focus on the R6 this time, because of my unsatisfactory results in the R3,” he added. “But I’m aiming for quota places in both R6 and R3 ahead of the 2020 Paralympics, as I still have a chance.”

The 42-year-old has been in the sport for nearly a decade that included a small break.

“I switched to SH1 from SH2, as I began using a prosthetic arm in 2011. I needed time to adapt to the arm that has no sensation. I resumed competing internationally in 2013,” said Watanabe, whose right arm was amputated following a factory accident at age 28.

The 42-year-old usually trains twice a week while balancing a job. But after Cheongju 2018, he realised how much more he needs to focus if he wants his Paralympic dreams to come true.

“I’m running my company, so it is quite difficult for us to make a trip to many international competitions and to fully concentrate on training,” he said.

“But from now I realised that I need to spend more time on the sport. I’ll try my best to become accustomed to all of my techniques and mental part completely,” he continued.

“Two years seems like a quite short period of time, but I have faith that I’ll get better and better until 2020.”

He plans to take part in the 2018 World Cup in Chateauroux, France; and the 2018 Asian Para Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, all with hopes of earning a Paralympic slot.

But making his home Paralympics is not his only goal.

“Through shooting Para sport, I want to show that my life became happier after being impaired,” he said. “If I had my right arm, I would not take it [the sport] up and be able to perform on the international stage.

“That’s why I wish to reach the finals at the 2020 Paralympic Games. If many home fans support us, Team Japan can bring about good results.”