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Paralympic Undokai

With next year’s Paralympics fast approaching, middle school students recently had the opportunity to learn about some of the sports that will be played at the games when the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center visited campus. Part of the middle school’s Tokyo Culture Days Program, which is designed to connect students with the people, communities and cultures of Japan, the Paralympic Undokai, or sports day, saw eighth-graders get a hands-on taste of the sports. Over the course of two days, every student had the opportunity to experience sitting volleyball, wheelchair portball and the wheelchair team relay. Thanks to the efforts of the JapanCenter and generous support from the PTA, students had an opportunity to understand and empathize with differently-abled athletes and the Paralympic movement.

Former wheelchair basketball player and current project leader of Paralympic Support Center’s Promotional and Strategy Department, Yusuke Ibuki (Bukki) opened the ceremony, sharing his experience of completing in the United States, his passions and life work of inclusivity in para-sports.

Students were challenged to communicate effectively without the ability to see in an ice-breaker activity where students had to categorize themselves by the seasons in which they were born. Bukki explained how sighted people rely on their ability to see for 80% of the information taken in.

Bukki wowed students with expert wheelchair basketball skills. Aya Burpee commented, “My takeaway from this was that Paralympic sports involve as much athleticism as Olympic sports and you need certain skill sets that are different from regular Olympic sports.”

Teams faced off in a sitting volleyball tournament. Students discovered the difficulties of the sport without the use of their legs; serving from a sitting position and reaching for the ball

In the portball game, students had the rare opportunity to experience using
an authentic, athlete approved, sports wheelchair. In a fast-paced game, students scored points transporting the ball across the court to their respective goal person, whilst avoiding their opponents.
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