Top Athletes Assemble! Tokyo Becomes a Hub for International Parasports

Interest in parasports has soared thanks to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Now, with Tokyo bidding to host all kinds of international tournaments, check out the hottest of them, starting from November 2022!
Many of these pursuits, including judo for the visually impaired, allow spectators to enjoy the unique sort of speed and intensity distinct to parasports. Photo: ©JBJF

The Fervor of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Returns to the City

Japan did incredibly well at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, winning a total of 51 medals, 13 of which were gold. The rush of gold was a great leap up from the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, where Japan won a total of 24 medals, with zero of those being gold. With the success of the Games, more people than ever are now interested in the rules of parasports and how they are played.

Tokyo is now working to utilize the major sports facilities that were built for the Olympic and Paralympic Games for international tournaments, and is bidding enthusiastically to host them. With tournaments for parasports such as para badminton, wheelchair rugby, and judo to be held from November 2022, Tokyo will once again see the coming together of top athletes from all over the world.

The BWF Para Badminton World Championships 2022

The BWF Para Badminton World Championships 2022 will be held at the Yoyogi National Stadium First Gymnasium from November 1-6, 2022. While para badminton only became an official Paralympic event at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, the parasport itself has been around for a while, with this being the 13th instance of the World Championships.

Because the rules and equipment for para badminton are basically identical to those for able-bodied badminton, spectators can enjoy watching matches without prior knowledge of the sport. Depending on their impairment, athletes are divided into a total of six classes—two wheelchair classes and four standing classes. Each class has its own play-level highlights: the wheelchair classes with their swift, precise chair work, and the standing classes with their incredible speed and range of motion.

The World Championship will have singles, doubles, and mixed doubles events, though certain events may not be held for some classes. Expectations are high for the Japan para badminton team, what with the phenomenal results—three gold medals, one silver medal, and five bronze medals—they achieved at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Photo from HULIC DAIHATSU Para Badminton International 2019. The two courts on the left side are for the wheelchair classes, and the two courts on the right side are for the standing classes. Photo: ©JPBF

2022 Wheelchair Rugby SHIBUYA CUP

The Japan wheelchair rugby team, which won its second consecutive bronze medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, ranked No. 1 in the world for the very first time in June 2022. The 2022 Wheelchair Rugby SHIBUYA CUP is scheduled for November 19th and 20th, 2022 at Yoyogi National Stadium 2nd Gymnasium, and expectations are high for the team.

Up until now, international tournaments for wheelchair rugby had never been held regularly in Asia. This SHIBUYA CUP, therefore, was organized by the Japan Wheelchair Rugby Federation in order to continue the legacy of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. At this tournament, Japan will face off against Australia.

Of all the parasports involving wheelchairs, this particular parasport is the only one that allows contact between wheelchairs. Teams of four players face off against each other in sports wheelchairs that resemble armored vehicles—either the more compact and precisely maneuverable types used by the offensive players, or the type used by defensive players, which have bumpers to stop opponents' movements. The action-packed matches, with the clash of bodies and chairs, can be viewed live at the venue or through streaming.

The 2023 WWR Asia-Oceania Championship will also be held in Tokyo from June 29 to July 2, 2023. Four to six countries, including Japan, are scheduled to play in the tournament. It seems more than likely that the fervor around wheelchair rugby will continue to grow in the future.

Photo from the World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge 2019. Wheelchairs collide hard against each other as players fight to get the ball to the goal. Photo: © ABEKEN/JWRF

IBSA Judo Tokyo International Open Tournament (Judo for the Visually Impaired)

Perhaps the most unique aspect of judo for the visually impaired is how each match begins—with the two athletes gripping each other's arms. Because the athletes are constantly touching or otherwise grappling with one another, the matches tend to move very quickly. Indeed, exciting moves sometimes occur mere seconds after the start of each match.

The IBSA Judo Tokyo International Open Tournament will be held on December 11, 2022, at the Kodokan Dojo. It will be the first tournament in Japan approved by the International Blind Sport Federation. The world's top athletes are expected to compete in this tournament, which offers ranking points. Players need to accumulate ranking points in order to be entered within the top 10 of the world ranking—the criteria said to be needed for athletes to qualify for the Paralympic Games in 2024. The 2024 Games will even have more competition slots than were available at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. This all but guarantees that this tournament will be a battleground of the world's highest-level techniques.

Photo from the Tokyo International Judo Championships for the Blind and Visually Impaired 2019. The constant back-and-forth of techniques is incredible to watch. Photo: ©JBJF

The Battle for Paris 2024, Already Underway

Nowadays, athletes are going about their daily training and development with their eyes toward the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. The parasport tournaments introduced here are sure to feature battles just as intense and passionate as those at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

The BWF Para Badminton World Championships 2022

Japan Para Badminton Federation

2022 Wheelchair Rugby SHIBUYA CUP

Japan Wheelchair Rugby Federation

IBSA Judo Tokyo International Open Tournament

Japan Blind Judo Federation
Interview and writing by Imaizumi Aiko
Translation by Amitt