Tuesday, 23 April 2024
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Para Volleyball

Discovering the Joy of Sports at 40

Discovering the Joy of Sports at 40

Explore the story of Japan’s sitting volleyball athlete Yoshihiro Iikura, a late bloomer in the world of Para sports, as he fulfils his dream of another Paralympic participation.

After losing his left leg in a workplace accident at the age of 25, Iikura discovered his passion for sports at the age of 40, initially engaging in amputee soccer before transitioning to sitting volleyball and achieving his dream of participating in the Tokyo Paralympics at the age of 46.

In this first part of the Q&A with GROWING, Iikura shared the words of encouragement from his mother that helped him overcome despair after the accident, and the transformative power of sports that nurtured a spirit of resilience.

“In the beginning, I was doing ironwork in Osaka. After the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, there was an increase in seismic reinforcement work at schools, and at that time, I was working on installing braces (a type of reinforcement made of iron materials) at a school when the one we were trying to lift came loose and fell on me. I had nowhere to escape, so I jumped backward, and my left leg got caught. It weighed about one and a half tons, so if I hadn’t jumped, I think I would have died. I didn’t lose consciousness at all. Even when they brought me to the hospital, I endured the pain and said, ‘Please, do something quickly.’ They showed me a photo of my leg, and because it hurt so much, I said, ‘Doctor, please cut it off.’ My eldest son was six months old at the time. I was just getting my job on track and planning to become independent in the near future, so I felt nothing but despair.”

It was your mother’s words that lifted you from despair.

“For three days after the accident, I cried constantly, only thinking about my child and wife. At that time, my mother rushed to the hospital from Kyushu. When I apologized for losing my left leg, I thought my mother would collapse in tears. But then she said, ‘What will you do if you’re so pessimistic? If you’re alive, you’ll manage somehow,’ and I felt like she slapped me on the back. I thought, ‘Yes, I can’t afford to be pessimistic.’ I had a 10-year career in ironwork since I was 15, so even though I lost my left leg, my confidence that I could somehow manage became greater than my anxiety. From then on, I worked desperately on rehabilitation.”

Iikura vigorously pursued rehabilitation and returned to work within a year.

“I was told that cutting above the knee would lead to a quicker…

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