Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September 6, 2016―Torch relay celebrations were held today in the Brazilian metropolis of Rio de Janeiro. Paralympic swimmer Junichi Kawai, a winner of 21 medals, five of which are gold, and a Paralympic Hall of Fame inductee, served as a torch bearer. He was escorted by Ayano Egami, who herself won a silver medal in synchronized swimming at the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympic Games. Ms. Egami currently serves as a member of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Mr. Kawai and Ms. Egami offered the following comments.
Comment by Junichi Kawai
As a torch bearer, I felt the weight of the values represented by the Paralympic torch. However, at the same time I enjoyed carrying the torch amid the pure excitement and revelry exuded by the people of Rio! As a representative of athletes from Japan, I look forward to sharing this experience with other athletes and participants ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games four years from now. I think the level of excitement at the Rio Paralympics is a symbolic movement that I hope to rekindle in Tokyo in 2020. I plan to do my best to make the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics an event where Japanese athletes take an active role and flourish before a capacity crowd. This was also an excellent opportunity as it gave me new insight into operations, including preparations. I plan to share the information I gleaned with the organising committee.
It is my hope that the athletes from Japan will produce results that will serve as building blocks for the Tokyo 2020 games. But most importantly, I just want them to enjoy taking part in sports, and I want them to convey the power and value of sports to everyone in Brazil, to the spectators in the stadium, and to their supporters back in Japan.
Comment by Ayano Egami
Escorting Mr. Kawai gave me the chance to see firsthand just how incredible these Paralympians are. The torch bearers do not have to run a long distance but I did my best to provide support to Mr. Kawai during his run by describing what was going on along the route, explaining road conditions, and conveying the surrounding atmosphere. The atmosphere was fantastic. The moment Mr. Kawai passed on the Paralympic flame to the next torch bearer was particularly memorable.
This was a great experience for me because I realized that certain things can only be learned by having escorted a Paralympian torch bearer or by serving on the torch relay team of the organising committee for the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I look forward to seeing how the torch relay is carried out at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.