Three Japanese Paralympic medalists are aiming to sweep the podium in the men's para Alpine skiing sitting category at the Pyeongchang Games that kick off in less than 100 days.
Sochi gold medalists Takeshi Suzuki and Akira Kano are on course to defend their titles, while consecutive World Cup overall champion Taiki Morii is looking to claim a Paralympic gold medal for the first time.
Together they have earned 11 medals -- four gold, three silver and four bronze -- in the past three Paralympic Games but are gunning for a gold rush this time out.
(The Nippon Foundation Paralympics Support Center)
"The only title missing from my career is the Paralympic gold," said Morii, who will be competing at his fifth Paralympic Games. "It is a title I want at any cost, and it is something I need in my career. So I'm doing everything I can."
Para Alpine skiing, which has been held since the first games in 1976, will consist of five disciplines -- downhill, super-G, super combined, giant slalom and slalom -- at the March 9-18 Paralympics in South Korea.
Athletes in the seven-day event at Jeongseon Alpine Center are classified into three categories -- visually impaired, standing and sitting -- depending on the nature of their disabilities.
"People often ask me why I haven't won a gold medal yet, but if I knew the answer, I would've bagged a few by now," the 37-year-old Morii told Kyodo News recently.
A Tokyo native, he damaged his spinal cord in a motorcycle accident at 16. Doctors told him that he would never walk again.
However, watching Japan's first Winter Paralympic gold medalist Kuniko Obinata compete at the 1998 Nagano Games from his hospital bed gave Morii hope he might be able to really laugh again if he took part in the sport. He purchased his first sit-ski after he was discharged and started practicing the following season.
At the Sochi Paralympics in 2014, Morii was expected to bring home his long-awaited gold as the captain of the Japanese delegation. However, his best finish was a runner-up in super-G, while he settled for fourth and seventh in the slalom and giant slalom, respectively.
"After the Sochi Games, I thought Japan will be swept away and buried by foreign athletes and fail to be the fast team that we've always been," Morii said. "That's when I thought I need to improve my equipment."
He did so with a sit-ski he helped develop and trained harder -- focusing mainly on cardio. But he says practicing and competing with Suzuki and Kano allowed him to really break new ground.
"We (Suzuki, Kano and I) improve through a friendly competition. It's like we make a chemical reaction every time we practice together," Morii said. "If it was only me, or only Takeshi, I honestly think that there wouldn't be fast athletes in Japan."
Suzuki, however, thinks Morii deserves more credit.
"Japan became a strong team because Morii-san led the way," the 29-year-old said in a separate interview. "We're rivals but also a family, and we work together to become faster."
Flashing a boyish grin, he added, "It's about time (Morii) gets his gold medal. It's difficult for us (Kano and I) to go for the gold when he doesn't have one yet."
At the 2014 Games, Suzuki topped the podium on March 13, 17 years to the day after he got run over by a dump truck resulting in the amputation of both of his legs.
Much has changed in his life since Sochi, but the biggest change may have been getting married to his wife Kyoko last year.
"She cooks healthy, well-balanced food so it helps me through the season," Suzuki said. "I sometimes feel tense and anxious before competitions, so it means so much to have someone I can talk to."
"Who do I want to dedicate the medal to? I have no choice but to say 'my wife'," he joked.
Suzuki said he does not feel pressure to defend his slalom title.
"The Sochi Paralympics are over, so I don't pay much attention to winning back-to-back titles. But I still want a gold medal," said Suzuki, who also took bronze in the downhill.
Kano, who took two gold medals at Sochi and one at Vancouver, now has a goal that takes precedence over winning gold.
"I originally had two goals -- a Paralympic gold medal and to raise the value of para sports -- and I'm putting more emphasis on the latter," said Kano, who sustained spinal cord injuries in a traffic accident when he was in elementary school.
"If I defend my title at Pyeongchang, I think I can bring excitement to the sport and then the younger generation can follow," Kano said.