Athens Paralympics wheelchair basketball player Yasuko Sakane paid a visit to a group of elementary school students in Kyoto Prefecture this month, emphasizing the importance of inventiveness to the children as she gave a talk about the sport that changed her life.
Sakane, 52, has used a wheelchair since the age of 18 when she was affected by myelitis, a condition causing inflammation of the spinal cord.
However, her life underwent a significant transformation when she discovered wheelchair basketball.
Her dream of appearing at the Paralympics came true when she represented the Japan women's national team in Greece in 2004.
Speaking at Daigo Koyo Elementary School in Muko, Sakane said, "Both individuals in wheelchairs and those who aren't can enjoy the same sport through creativity."
Her talk was part of a sports project initiated by the prefectural government. She encouraged the pupils to view new endeavors as achievable through innovative thinking.
The resident of Kyoto's Ukyo Ward also motivated the children to "explore the inventive features of the city, such as wheelchair-accessible parking spaces, and brainstorm ways to contribute."
The event involved 74 sixth graders who engaged in friendly competition. Using specially designed competitive wheelchairs, the kids formed teams of four or five and participated in class matches.
A 47-year-old member of the Kyoto Ups wheelchair basketball club team who is also a resident of Kyoto's Fushimi Ward, joined the matches, contributing with his agile maneuvers. The children, experiencing competitive wheelchairs for the first time, enthusiastically attempted shots during the matches.
One participating child remarked, "It was my first time trying this, and I had a lot of fun. Jumping and shooting were challenging." Another said, "Even though it was tough, I felt joy when we passed the ball around and scored as a team."