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85% of Athletes Targeting Tokyo Paralympics Unable to Train at Usual Facilities

A study by a sports governing body has found that 85% of athletes in track and field targeting the Tokyo Paralympics are currently unable to train at their usual facilities as a consequence of the coronavirus crisis.

Amid the closure of training facilities and government calls for self-restraint after its declaration of a state of emergency, the Japan Para Athletics Federation conducted a survey of 37 designated Paralympic team contenders and 12 developmental athletes for the two weeks leading up to Apr. 25. With regard to training facilities, over 85% of the athletes reported being unable to use their normal training bases. More than half also said that they had been unable to secure alternative facilities and that this had significantly impacted their training volume and quality.

Although many of the athletes are training from home and using nearby roads and steps, many reported having to reduce their training time and frequency in order to avoid irritating their neighbors and to reduce contact with others. Asked whether they are experiencing psychological strain such as feelings of anxiety or impatience with the situation, over 85% of the athletes already named to the Tokyo Paralympic team responded no, while more than 50% of athletes yet to qualify for the team responded yes. Federation officials believe that the psychological impact is greater on athletes yet to secure places on the team due to the difficulty of setting goals while the future qualification calendar is uncertain.

The survey also found that six athletes who use prostheses have faced additional challenges due to issues such as being unable to go to the manufacturers' facilities for custom tuning, and delays and other problems with importing replacement parts. Japan Para Athletics Federation high performance committee chair Tatsuru Ibusuki commented, "This is a time when all athletes must endure, but I believe that a time is coming when we will need the strength of our para athletes who have already survived grave threats to their lives. Until then, I hope that they will keep doing whatever they can."

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translated by Brett Larner

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