When Olympians and Paralympians showcase their incredible skill, what does it look like from their point of view? Many people probably wonder as they watch in awe as their favourite athletes compete for the biggest prizes. Tokyo 2020 introduces 'Let’s 55 Virtual Experience’, a project that provides an innovative experience of what it actually looks like to compete as a top-level athlete, covering all 55 sports on the Tokyo 2020 Games programme.
SERYU Monika came eighth in Para Canoe at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and is selected to compete at the Tokyo 2020 this summer. She explains how she came to take up the sport and the key points to look out for.
Paddling freely on water
"What fascinates me the most about this sport is that on water, I’m able to paddle the boat however I like. On land, wheelchair users like myself move with extra caution, paying attention to slight bumps and tilts, whereas on water I can go straight ahead with no worries."
"Para Canoe is a fast sport. It is stunning to see how a canoe picks up speed from a perfectly still position at the start, eventually accelerating to about 20km per hour. If you are close by, you can hear the sound of the paddle scooping through water, which is another key point to focus on.
"I had experienced canoeing when I was in junior high school, but I was injured in a physical education class in my first year of high school so I didn’t think I would ever canoe again. Then, the hosting of the Tokyo 2020 Games was decided, and there was a project to search for local athletes of Koto City, my local ward. That’s how I encountered Para Canoe. I was so excited to be able to canoe again.
"When I started practicing, I couldn’t move or use my body in ways that were supposed to be ideal. I had trouble paddling as my coach instructed, and it was also difficult to come up with alternative ways. So my coach decided not to push me to follow her instructions, but to listen carefully to my own views. We interact closely to explore the best way for me to paddle.
"As athletes, it is our role to prepare the best we can for the Tokyo 2020 Games. I hope I can be a source of energy for the audience."