TAKAHASHI Hiroki has been fighting disease as an eye specialist for 20 years. He is also a triathlon athlete and actively volunteers his time working as a doctor for runners with visual impairments.
Even if people with visual impairments want to be involved in sport, they have few opportunities, or lack the finance to do so. Takahashi is keenly aware of the need to foster understanding and support for the visually impaired via sports.
As a torchbearer, Takahashi will provide the opportunity for people to touch his clothing, so that his every step will impart hope and strength to people with visual impairments and to enable the light of hope to touch their minds. He also wants to continue to be involved in volunteer activities and others that help promote the Games movement with his athlete friends, patients and medical staff with the intention of encouraging people with vision impairment to get involved in sports.
You work as an eye specialist. What is its connection with sports?
I see patients who are active in tennis, skiing and marathon running and I have respect for those who are involved in sports even with imperfect vision. They sometimes give me refreshments when I compete in a triathlon. I feel like that spirit helps us all maintain a positive attitude towards life.
What kind of support do you provide for people with vision impairments?
Currently, once people lose their vision, the opportunity for outings and leisure decreases. I provide assistance and help them acquire public support and tell them about patient organisations and support facilities. But more than anything, I think it's important to be willing and ready to help them at any time.
Although you, yourself, play sports, you also participate in sporting events as a volunteer. What does sports mean to you?
I still remember the rescue of a para-triathlete in the swimming course at an event held near Yamashita Park. We were all waiting anxiously behind the start line and burst into applause when the rescue was successfully completed. It was a soul-moving moment. Sport gives us the joy of challenge in our lives.
What kind of change do you think the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will bring to people with or without impairments?
Although there are large marathon events catering to a few thousand to tens of thousands of people, the size of visually impaired marathons is still very small due to the small number of guide runners. I hope the Games will start a movement towards creating a society in which people both with and without impairment can help and respect each other, play sports and do things together.
Please share a few words about what you would like to tell people or why you are excited about running the torch relay for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
I would like to run with all my heart and soul to share the Olympic flame with people with visual impairments.