Paralympic Champion Markus Rehm is raring to go with less than a year to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
The 31-year-old went where no Para athlete has gone before after a remarkable 8.50m jump during Tokyo 2020's Paralympic One Year to Go Countdown event on Sunday 25 August.
The leap, which took place at Yoyogi Park in front of hundreds of members of the public, saw Rehm surpass his T64 long jump world record of 8.48m set at the 2018 World Para Athletics European Championships.
While the jump won't be officially recongised, as it happened outside of competition, it's an encouraging sign for Rehm who is targeting his third consecutive long jump Paralympic gold at Tokyo 2020.
“I'm going to train hard to do exactly the same next year at Tokyo 2020, so I think you should be there,” he said.
Also known as “The Blade Jumper”, Rehm could have won gold at the past three Olympics with his mammoth leaps, with his current T64 record not that far off the world record set of 8.95m set by American Mike Powell in 1991.
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games is shaping up to be bigger than that of London 2012 with the Japanese public already getting behind the event with a huge turn out during the One Year to Go events.
"It's great to see how interest in Para athletic sport is growing...it's such a pleasure to be one of the faces for the Games, and I do my best to be the right person for the role,” Rehm said.
“I tried hard to jump a long distance and to show the world out there that we Paralympians are equal with Olympic athletes, we are professional athletes and if people want to see great competitions, amazing performances, they have to see the Paralympic Games because it's going to be amazing."
Focusing on Tokyo 2020
Since the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games Rio 2016, Rehm has had his sights firmly set on making the German team for the Paralympic Games for Tokyo 2020.
“When we left Rio 2016, after a short holiday, we basically started preparing for the Tokyo 2020,” he said.
“There are a couple of main events in between, this year is the World Championships in Dubai so this is the next big goal but after that, we will have to short holiday and then we are focusing on the Tokyo 2020.”
As the Games draw closer, the more excited Rehm is to come back to the host city of Tokyo, which he has already visited five times.
“Well, the more often I'm here, the more excited I get,” he said.
“I could see today the first time the Olympic Stadium, and it looks amazing from outside. I can't wait to walk inside during the ceremony, like the opening ceremony and I can't wait to compete in there.”
The impact of the Paralympic Games
Para sport has a rich history spanning more than a century however it wasn't until after World War II that is became widely introduced. The Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948 was the first organised competition which gave wheelchair athletes, who were servicemen and women, the opportunity to take part in archery.
It was a milestone in the history of the Paralympic movement.
Just 12 years after the inaugural Stoke Mandeville Games, the first ever Paralympic Games took place in Rome with more than 400 athletes from 23 countries competing.
Since then, Para athletes from across the world gather in one city every four years to celebrate their achievements of reaching the pinnacle in their sport and at Tokyo 2020, 4,400 athletes are expected to compete across 22 different sports
However, the reach of the Paralympic Games now extends beyond on the Para sport community.
“I think it has a big impact to people, not just for handicapped people, but also for people who have no handicaps at all,” Rehm said.
“I think Paralympic athletes have inspiring stories, and they overcome difficult situations or prejudice, or setbacks in their life and I think there are many aspects we all can learn from Paralympic athletes.
“Also, for me, I like to listen to other stories to other people to what they overcome and it's still inspiring for myself, so I think that's a great message.”
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will take place between 25 August to 6 September next year.