Para athlete interview –Ayako Suzuki
20 Questions & Answers
- What is your name?
- Ayako Suzuki.
- Where are you from?
- I am from Saitama Prefecture in Japan.
- What is your sport?
- I am a Para badminton player.
- Which competition has been your favourite so far?
- The Asian Para–Badminton Championships which took place in November 2016.
- What was your achievement at that competition?
- I won a silver medal in the women's singles.
- How did you feel when your sport became an official Paralympic sport?
- It made me even more determined to do my best.
- How long have you been competing?
- It has been 16 years.
- Was there any particular reason you took it up?
- My older sister played, so I decided to follow in her footsteps.
- What do you do before a competition?
- Nothing, I just go about things as normal.
- What do you think about when you are serving?
- I don't think about anything.
- What goes through your mind during a long rally?
- To try and win the point as quickly as possible.
- What's the appeal of Para badminton?
- It's a psychological battle.
- Do you have any other skills beside Para badminton?
- I used to take ballet lessons, when I was a kid.
- Do you eat anything special before an event?
- No, nothing in particular.
- What is your impression of Tokyo?
- It's a very dynamic city.
- What is your favourite word?
- Yes. “Make sure you have no regrets.”
- What is your least favourite word?
- People saying, ‘I can't!' before they've even tried.
- How would you describe yourself?
- How do you feel about a Paralympic Games in Japan?
- I hope everyone raises their expectations for the Games.
- What will you be doing in 2020?
- I hope to be competing in the Para badminton event.
I understand that you once retired from your sport, but decided to make a come back when you learned that Badminton had been included on the programme for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Do the Paralympic Games mean that much to you?
Well, the Paralympic Games only come around once every four years. So, I thought hard about how difficult it would be for me to be ready to compete at a Paralympics, and decided that the Tokyo 2020 Games would be a wonderful opportunity for me.
Before Badminton had been selected for inclusion in the Paralympic Games, were you ever envious of other sports that had already been included, or did you really hope that Badminton would one day be selected for inclusion?
It wasn't something that I had any control over, but I had hoped that it might be selected one day. However, I was never particularly envious of other Paralympic sports.
For those who are unfamiliar with Paralympic sports, what do you think is interesting about athletes and Badminton, and what would you recommend they look out for during the Paralympic Games?
I would like the Paralympic Games to show people that even though the competitors have an impairment they are capable of great achievements. With regard to Badminton, I think spectators and viewers will be very impressed with the speed that the shuttlecock flies across the net between the players.
Badminton requires a high level of endurance and stamina. What do you do to raise your endurance and stamina levels?
After returning to the sport after having once retired, the thing I noticed most was how much my fitness levels had dropped. At the moment, I am focusing on stamina–building exercises and sprints in my training routines. Specifically, I run four kilometres to build up my stamina, and then sprint the length of three badminton courts.
Badminton is actually a lot more demanding than it looks, ha, ha! Rallies can be quite anaerobic exercises, in which it is difficult to stop even for a split second to take in oxygen. The longer the rally goes on the more likely it becomes that shot accuracy will suffer. Also, because I only compete in singles events, I have to do everything on the court myself. So, it's really quite physically demanding.
I also do a lot of lower body training. I work with a specialist who has developed a training menu especially for me.
Do you have any particular rivals in your sport? How much does having a rival motivate you?
My main rival is the Chinese player Yang Qiuxia . She is the first player that I ever lost against in Para badminton.
We have interviewed Yang Qiuxia , and she told us that you were her main rival. Does having a rival serve as extra motivation?
Did she say that I was her main rival? Well, that's a great compliment! When I lost against her last year, I was particularly impressed with her lower body strength and the accuracy of her shots. That defeat made me realise my shortcomings, and motivated me to take up lower body training.
I'm sure there are times during your training that you aren't achieving the results that you want. What do you do to lift your spirits during such times?
As a mentioned before, having a rival is a great motivation. When training gets particularly tough, I just think how this will help me to overcome Yang Qiuxia , and that helps me through. At the moment, the only thing I have on display in my room is the silver medal I won after losing to Yang Qiuxia in the final. I've also won plenty of gold medals, but I'm worried that if I display them, it might affect my motivation to improve even more.
Also, when my shots are not going well during practice, for example if a lot of my shots are falling outside the side line, I try to forget about it and just aim right down the middle, and try even harder.
Do you ever get nervous, or feel the pressure of the occasion?
I do get nervous, particularly during tournaments. But, I don't feel pressure so much. Until my defeat to Yang Qiuxia , I had been on a winning streak, and people had begun saying that I was the player to beat. I thought this was a great compliment, and I really enjoyed being in that position.
There are now slightly less than three years until the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Do you feel that's still quite a long way off, or do you feel that the Games will soon be upon us?
Hmm, well in some ways it feels like it's still quite a long way off, but in other ways it feels like it'll soon be here. Now that there are less than three years to go, I think I have to really start focusing on my schedule to make sure I peak at the right time. But all the other athletes are in the same boat.
Right now my main feeling is that I want to perform well at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. So I'm counting down towards the year 2020 and trying to overcome all obstacles I come across along the way.
Do you have any expectations of the Organising Committee, which will handle Games operations at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games?
I really hope the organisers think carefully about the food on offer to the athletes. Many times when I've competed in overseas tournaments, the food hasn't always been to my liking, and sometimes that can be a cause of stress. For the athletes, stress that comes with food–related issues can be a major cause of concern. So I hope that there will be plenty of good food on offer for the athletes that will be coming to Tokyo from around the world to compete at the Games. From an overall Games perspective, I really hope that all the spectators have a fantastic experience and go home happy.