The Japanese government is considering giving the People's Honor Award to Shingo Kunieda, one of the greatest wheelchair tennis players of all time, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Friday.

In January, Kunieda, a winner of 28 Grand Slam titles and three Paralympic gold medals in the men's singles, retired while at the top of the world rankings.

Shingo Kunieda plays in the wheelchair tennis men's singles final during the Tokyo Paralympics at Tokyo's Ariake Tennis Park on Sept. 4, 2021. Kunieda, who won 50 Grand Slam titles across singles and doubles, announced his retirement from the sport on Jan. 22, 2023. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has instructed relevant ministries to decide whether Kunieda, 38, who began using a wheelchair at 9 years old as the result of a spinal tumor, is deserving of the award, Matsuno, the top government spokesman, said.

The Kishida administration recognizes that Kunieda's achievements have inspired people to "dream" for themselves and provided "hope and courage to society," Matsuno said at a press conference.

Later in the day, Kishida told reporters that Kunieda achieved "great accomplishments in sports" that are "unprecedented," adding the government wishes to "honor" him through the award.

Matsuno said it remains uncertain when the administration will give the award to Kunieda, who won his third Paralympic gold in Tokyo in 2021 and completed his career Grand Slam by winning at Wimbledon last year. He also won 22 Grand Slam doubles titles.

Kunieda took up tennis in his final year of elementary school at the advice of his mother, turning professional in 2009.

Established in 1977, the People's Honor Award has been given to 26 individuals and one group for achievements in sports, entertainment and culture.

Two-time figure skating Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu became the latest recipient of the award in 2018.

Hanyu became the first man in more than six decades to win consecutive Olympic gold medals in figure skating at South Korea's Pyeongchang Winter Games in February of that year.

He was also the first Japanese male to grab a figure skating gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia.

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