With the rise of Covid-19 and the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Games, athletes have had to drastically adjust their planning and training cycles amid national lockdowns. This is especially true for Paralympians who often negotiate multiple institutional environments and funding streams to manage their high performance careers.
On February 23, 2021 the UCLA Disability Studies program hosted a virtual conversation that brought together elite athletes, coaches, and activists from the US and Japan to discuss the current status of Paralympic sports. The event was moderated by Fred Ariel Hernandez, PhD (UCLA Disability Studies & NIH-JSPS postdoctoral fellow at Waseda University, Faculty of Sport Sciences). Discussants shared their thoughts and engaged with each other about changes to funding sources, practice facilities, and possible futures for international sport after the coronavirus.
Featured panelists included Akiko Adachi, 3-time Paralympian and member of Japan’s women’s national Goalball team, gold medalist in the London 2012 games; Kaitlyn Verfuerth, 3-time Paralympian in wheelchair tennis as member of Team USA, and multi-medal winner at ParaPan Games; Blake Leeper, Team USA track and field Paralympian, silver and bronze medalist in the London 2012 games; and Gen Shogaki, bronze medalist in Para-Badminton World Championships and multi-medalists in the Asian Para Games as part of Team Japan.
Check out a recording of this event with ASL translation and English captions (Japanese captioning currently in progress) as well as an extended interview with Blake Leeper below!