Japan Sport Stories

Tokyo and back again - the Paralympic evolution with Caz Walton OBE

September 17, 2020 Mike Salter and Noel Thatcher Episode 5
Japan Sport Stories
Tokyo and back again - the Paralympic evolution with Caz Walton OBE
Show Notes Transcript

Caz won the world's first ever Paralympic track event in Tokyo 1964. 10 gold medals later she is still working for Paralympics GB and an integral part of the Paralympics movement. Join us as she talks about her time at Tokyo, a missing bronze medal, and how far the Paralympics has come between the Tokyos. 

Episode 5 Tokyo and Back Again

Tue, 3/2 12:24PM • 52:35


tokyo, japan, paralympics, japanese, athletes, opening ceremony, sport, people, games, paralympic, compete, paralympic movement, fencing, bit, gb, thought, days, paralympic games, paralympic gold, goodman


Writing introduction for today's guest was almost impossible just so many achievements and accolades under her belt. She's a 10 time Paralympic gold medalist, including six in athletics, with one of them being the first ever Paralympic track gold medal to enable tennis and to and wheelchair fencing. A double silver medalist with medals in table tennis and swimming, a five time bronze medalist with medals in athletics, swimming and wheelchair fencing. I don't even have time to mention the countless worlds European and Commonwealth championships. She was the manager for GB wheelchair fencing for many years, including welcomed me into the Paralympic family as an official and a team manager for the Great Britain Paralympic team, making sure no and all the other athletes were behaving in Athens 2004. It is Kaz Walton ob. Kaz, thank you so much for giving you the time to talk to us today. Really, my pleasure. And it really is an honour for us cars to have you on the podcast. We were going to split podcast into two parts, as Mike suggested one just to go through your accolades and the other one to actually do the interview. But you've been part of the Paralympics GB since 1964, if I'm correct, and still work and today. So we normally start off just asking people and this might be quite difficult question to answer. But how is the whole lockdown? Tokyo postponement been in for you? And how has it been for you know, our friends and colleagues and Paralympics GB must have been an incredibly challenging time. It has been but i think i think we're, we're lucky in some matches. We have a pretty tight knit team. And we meet three or four times a week online. We also have a couple of quizzes, we have a couple of coffee breaks where we can drop in how I'm always doing more hours than I was when I was at work, I think, but no, I am. I am furloughed at the moment, which is somewhat frustrating because I'm, I'm used to being busy and I'd much rather wear out than rusts. So


that has been a frustration. But I've been I've cleared out all my Paralympic kit, ready to go to the Heritage Museum, the gardens looking brilliant. The freezers full of meals just in case that I'm now really, really ready to go back and do something. I was gonna say for me one of the upshot sort of the whole time in lockdown where this restrictions, the great the highest maybe was reconnecting with some of our Paralympic friends and actually spending a little bit of time, you know, looking back down memory lane and some of some of those challenges. Because, you know, we do get on with life that way. And sometimes you you don't have an opportunity to do that. So which is brings us nicely into into how this all got started. Your first Paralympic Games class was 1964, which was the first Paralympic Games in Asia and the first Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Can you just take us back to what qualification journey was like to get to 1964? Well, I was just extremely lucky because I wasn't selected for the team. And to be truthful, I wasn't really expecting to be because I hadn't been around on the international scene very long. And I've had a reasonable national championships. But I really was not at all surprised when my name wasn't on the team list. And then with three weeks to go, one of one of the team members, unfortunately for them, got taken ill and I was brought in as a last minute replacement I did say unprepared would have been an understatement. Because I hadn't I had been training, I'd still been training but not to the level I would have been at I know and I was going to Tokyo. There was no money in the sport in those times. So I was working. And I had to arrange to get time off, which luckily was granted. But I literally just had the period of the games, and then straight back to work again. So it was an interesting time. But I was just so thrilled. I've never been out of the UK before. So you can imagine


that trying to try to balance taking this seriously with being a bit starstruck. I can completely relate to that because I was 17 when I did my first international there was a kind of mixture of Wow, this is absolutely incredible. But let's have some fun and I really I don't know I for me I didn't took me a while to identify myself as a Paralympian or elite athlete. So at that time, were you have you been competing on a national level or international level at all? I've been competing at national level for two years and the year before I had my first international competition. There were nowhere near the number of competitions. In those days. There are now and sometimes you only had


One or two international competitions per year. So which was fortunate that way because I'd never got the time off work. Somebody might have noticed him deduction is that you were in a lot of different sports. So in 1964, you competed in the athletics, table tennis, and was it swimming? Your third one? Yeah, swimming. How difficult was it balancing kind of all three of those.


I'd never been used to having it any other way really, because because there was some little money about, if you didn't compete to a reasonable level in three or four sports, you just did not get selected, because they couldn't afford to send a team, with people that specialised in one particular sport. I mean, I'd given my eyeteeth to be able to concentrate on one sport and train to the optimum level, but it just wasn't going to happen. So I was used to it from that point of view. But I was a little surprised to find that when I got to Tokyo, I was actually doing Javelin and shotput as well, which is somewhat


somewhat difficult. So I've never done it before. I don't know how my name got put down for it, but it was a team manager. They do things like that every now and again, sneak sneak into the job, but when you can, you're thinking that you're just in the 60 metres in the slalom, go going back to the you know, being 17. And, and and suddenly finding yourself on a on a Paralympic team and, and heading to Tokyo. Can you remember? I mean, have you had any experience of Do you know much about Japan that you that what we've thought thought prior to leaving for Tokyo? Because it was very different world? And wasn't it? We didn't have that access to all information that about cultures and languages? And


No, we didn't. And I think most of my ideas that come from from books, and of course, there was a fair bit in the papers at that time and on television, because they were the Olympics. That summer, the Paralympics didn't take place until November, which is about as late as I can ever remember them happening. It just seemed really exotic to me. And it was I had no preconceptions, because I didn't have too much knowledge about it. But it just looked from everything I'd seen and listened to and read that it would be completely different and very exciting. But I wasn't expecting to see too much outside of the games themselves. expected to be locked into doing my sport, and, and really not to seeing too much of people's city and the outside world when I was over there, when you first got off that plane. Obviously, what made no founder I think the first time we went to Japan was we were suddenly bombarded with, you know, strange characters for language, lots of things that really weren't familiar in any way, shape or form. Did you have that same experience? Yeah, certainly did. I mean, you just can't even guess the meaning of written words when you've just got absolutely no, no knowledge.


People that that met us, we're just very kind and obviously been picked, because they could speak good English, which was just as well. So I've got one word of Japanese, I think they've been very welcoming. And made us feel at home. Things were very different in those days. I mean, we have no fingers from the plane, we got either carried down steps, or we were put in sort of catering trucks straight off the plane. And taking it so it was it was all just so I hate it nowadays, but it's just it was just so novel and, and exciting. And the people were just


so pleasant and helpful and courteous. I've just been watching a news reel prior to coming on, which I think is when the Japanese broadcasting Association NHK


taken in 1964 and I said to Mike, the thing that, you know, the pageantry was was amazing. It looked like a wonderful opening ceremony and crown prince and princess Mitch got both there and and that that patronage, you know that support for the games. You look


amazing. At 17 years old, that must have been incredible stepping into that that opening ceremony. It was I think we were we were very lucky because another thing Goodman who was revered in the forest, and in fact to some in some respects he still is he was so very well respected and I don't think that we would have got the patronage and support that we did.


Had it not been for him but so it's amazing, you know, to think that we have the Crown Prince and Princess of Japan at the opening ceremony, as you say, which was just stunning. And he has just retired. I


think it is 80s


from being Emperor of Japan, and I think it was what was what really there but he was so young and handsome.


I think I was better looking in those days as well, but we won't go there. But okay. And to have an opening ceremony of, of that scale and the teams assembled and being led out was just


just so exciting. It's Words fail me to describe it really. It's interesting because it was the Japanese into the name of Nakamoto youth Taka young doctor from Uttar Pradesh prefecture. But she studied with saluda Goodman at Stoke Mandeville as an intern and then went back to Japan and was instrumental in the in developing the Japanese Sports Association for people with disability. So there's a real parallel between to the Japan's Paralympic growth and the global Paralympic movement. So you're right there. Right at the beginning? Well, pretty much yeah, it's,


I'm so looking forward to to next year, because that will be the only city that's held the Paralympic Games twice. I think I'm probably as nearly as excited about it as, as the Japanese are.


Going back to those first games, guys, and again, you know, we could fill up an entire podcast, just listing your, your, your successes, but am I right in thinking you won, not only Britain's first track Paralympic gold medal, but actually, the first Paralympic track gold medal.


Yes, that's right. I didn't realise that until afterwards. But it was the first time that that they'd introduced track events, there were no track events in Rome. And it was only 60 metres because it was considered that it might be a bit too much for us to do longer distances at that time. And that was, it was an awful long time. Before they got out of that mindset, I think, probably 1976 in Toronto, you think of it now. And you think that is such an ignorant point of view, but I guess they were, they were exploring as well. In those days, it was all very embryonic. And


the last thing you wanted a Paralympic Games when it was just literally getting off the ground was to have competitors Keeling over at that stage. I mean, one thing we will look at with the modern games is the equipment they use a lot of it's super lightweight carbon fibre, so much technology goes into it. The wheelchairs you were racing in 64? Did they have the same level of technology at the time was it slightly less impressive.


We use the I mean, we just raised in what we lived in. So whichever chair we'd gone out there in we raced in, so I knew nothing different. None of us knew anything different remember, lining up at the front, and I was racing against a number of people, but when I'm remember in particular was, was an American girl, who was enormous. I swear she, she I mean, she just had a start on me leaning forward by what felt a considerable amount before we even started. But you know what it's like I was really cocky and confident in those days. And I knew I was fairly fast. And I was I was


fairly determined that she was not going to beat me anyway, which fortunately, she didn't. But I still had to look around to make sure where everybody was when I finished because you just get your head down and go.


If you're always Have you always been been competitive. I know. Recently I there was actually recently was an interview with Paul Dickinson you said the reason you no longer compete is because you hate to lose.


That's still the case. Cuz Are you are you even in the Paralympics GB quiz nights?


Yes, I do. Even if I know I'm going to lose but yes, I do. I do hate losing and and unless I could compete to the same level that I once did. I wouldn't want to compete nowadays, but but I am still competitive. I even compete against myself because I've felt found during lockdown, for instance, that I make a list, which is nearly always an impossible list of things I've got to get through in the day. And I tick them off as I've completed them and if I get through


The ball. I think I didn't make that hard enough. And if I don't get through them all, then I'm thinking, well, you failed.


So I think it's fair to say that I'm still fairly competitive. Yeah, and I think yeah 17 Paralympic gold medals. 10 sorry, 17 part of the medals 1010 of which were gold. That's, that's an interesting interpretation of the word failure.


Looking back to your Paralympic list, and if you ticked all the boxes, I don't know that I'll ever have ticked all the boxes, really, because


it's, it's just so addictive to me. I love it. I think I got the bug when I went to Tokyo and I don't think


I think I'll stop breathing before I lose it. But Tokyo is special to me because it it.


I'm not saying it will be the last time I ever go to a game. So never say never. But it does complete the circle to where I started. Maybe it's where I'll finish We'll see.


Going back to if I may dwell for a second on on celebrate Goodman. You met him in personal Stoke Mandeville? Can you tell us a little bit about him as a person? I mean, I know you've spoken highly of his ability to inspire what sort of what was it like? Because he's played a huge role in in your life, my life and the life of every Paralympian.


He was an absolute dictator.


In the nicest sense. In the nicest sense of what I think, you know, I had this theory that when you start any great movement off, you initially need a dictator,


to keep it going. Maybe after 10 or so years, you should take them out and shoot them. It's not a serious suggestion.


But I think you really do need that sort of mindset when you begin something as great as the Paralympic movement has begun. And he was such, I mean, he he was talking in Imperial now that he was only five foot two, he was tiny, really, but you never ever underestimate him or, or not take him seriously. Because he was so determined. If he said something was going to happen. It happened. And if I think I'm competitive, I can tell you it was more competitive than than I am. But it might be one of my favourite sports. Ultimately, my favourite sport, I guess was fencing.


How can you say that? I was gonna be my question, right, which was


crushed, what can I say? Well, no, you can still introduce it because each each has different merits. But But the reason fencing is in the Paralympic Games, was because lithic Goodman, when he was a student at Heidelberg, fenced and he was immensely proud. He had little duelling sword scars on his cheek, because in those days, you didn't wear masks, and you literally fenced the first blood. He loved fencing. So that's how it came to be introduced into the very first games in 1960. But he is a person he was, he was inspiring, he was determined he, he would stand up


to run a hungry lion if necessary to get what he thought was right. And he, he was also a visionary. I mean, what is thought, in those days


that the games would become what they have today, and yet in 1948, which is before even I was involved, he held the first ever competition just a few ex servicemen from different spinal units


coincide with the opening ceremony of the Games in London, the first games to be held the Olympic Games force games to be held off to the wall. I make no apology for


the words been used before but for revering me was amazing.


Incredible and has changed so not only Sony people's lives for the better, but change so many societies for the better and continues to do so. So what an incredible, incredible tribute to Ludwig Goodman. Thanks very much guys. Moving back to things Japanese, what was getting back the Japanese love to talk about food cat. So tell us a little bit about your first experiences in the Olympic village and specifically in the in the in the dining room, which is always the epicentre of any passion


Olympic Games as athletes, Olympians and Paralympics Olympians will say.


You're right. It is. And it's a meeting place, isn't it too?




I don't remember ever being offered Japanese food in the dining hall for 1964. I think they were so concentrating on making things.


Normal for us that I don't remember there being anything except Western food, which was a bit tough on the Japanese team, I think.


So I had no experience of that. Except on a,


I didn't get out of the village very much because the trans public transport was not accessible. None of us did.


And we were competing anyway, quite a lot of the time. But we went


just within pushing distance and found out a restaurant thought, Well, you know, we've come to Japan, we've got to try Japanese food. And I remember trying, tempura and loving it. But that is actually the only time I tried Japanese food in Japan. On my first visit to Paralympic Games. He'd been back to Japan recently, in the in the build up to what would have been Tokyo 2020, which will now be Tokyo 2021 as a classifier classification officer, how how is that being? How is it being going back to I understand, he went back to Keio University, which would have been a venue for the preparation for the Team GB, how was that journey, it was very much a whistlestop tour because we were only there for days. And my my prime role was was to


check access and accommodation, particularly for wheelchair users. I'm a bathroom expert. So um, so I felt as if I'd tried most bars and toilets throughout most of the hotels in in Well, it wasn't the whole of Japan actually. But um, but a number of places, and done reports on them. And it was it was an interesting experience. And and of course, looking at the university to see how much accommodation there would be on what alterations would have to be made for wheelchair users there. So it was it was a very focused trip.


Somewhat chilly, because it was in in January. And we were only there for days. So So really, our feet didn't touch the ground. But we did. We did try a lot and accessible taxi while we were out there, as they were only just introducing them into Tokyo. And that was an interesting experience because it the poor driver hadn't been trained, and he didn't know how to put the ramp together. So that took rather longer than we thought. But we got there in the end. I loved going back and I'd forgotten how clean Japan is and how courteous the people are. And then indeed, how friendly and safe they've gotten. I haven't forgotten.


But it was it had gone into my subconscious I guess. And it was.


I was as excited as the last time I went as I think it was the first time and I wasn't disappointed. Obviously your Paralympic life. It started in 1964 still going strong today. When you walked into the opening ceremony in in London in 2012. I was and I was at the opening ceremony in 2020 in 2012 as a punter for the first time in my life, watching the team enter the stadium.


How was that moment for you? coming all the way from 1964 and 300 athletes from 22 countries 5000 spectators, relatively small, you know, albeit very grand opening ceremony in Japan. You went into the stadium in 2012. What was going through your head? how far we've come really, I still can't talk about it without getting tears in my eyes. So if you go a bit blurry No, it's


it's for that reason, but it was just


the opening ceremony in Tokyo was something else. There's nothing at all in the world that beats coming up into a stadium


in your own country


and getting the sorts of raw, prolonged raw that we got in London and that was just


So proud. It was amazing. And I felt


I don't think it was really, but I felt as if it was the first time that we've totally been taken seriously as athletes, still calling myself an athlete, because wherever you go, it's it. You never you never stop losing that feeling, I think. But it was just something else. And


the longer the games went on, just not not just the opening ceremony, I thought, you know, people are really looking at the athletes, and thinking of them as being athletes, and not a disabled person doing a bit of sport. And I know that's not that wasn't the first time but it was a huge strength, shoot, huge shift. And I think the media coverage as well was better than we'd ever had before.


It was, I've never been asked for so many autographs, and I wasn't even an athlete. So yeah, it was it was phenomenal. But so was Tokyo in 64. For me, it's my first games, it will always always be special. I'm getting goosebumps. But I'm also getting a bit starstruck because because I think I, you know, I think you were described podington again, in this article said that, you know, all bath, a little slip up in the results in Tel Aviv in 1968, which you might share with us. Your achievements would be on a par with those of Dame Tanni grey Thompson and Dame Sarah story and arguably greater than any other British Olympian so it's a true honour to have you with us what what happened in 1968?




I should add, incidentally, that we have a British Paralympian who's got all 18 gold medals, mainly in swimming chap called Mike Kenny, so he's, he's well and truly got got the record, though. I think Sarah story is, is edging up on him. But now I in that in 68, I was doing pentathlon.


And I got the silver medal or bronze medal, you know, I hate to say this. But if you don't win gold, then the rest not worth counting.


That sounds arrogant, doesn't it? And it probably is, but


but I really remember the gold medals, but not quite so much the other medals. But apparently, the scores forgot to add in my swimming score. And it was left off the total. And had they done that.


I would have won the pentathlon. They in those days, they didn't announce the scores, there was no breakdown. There was no record


that we saw


of how we're done. So I hadn't got a clue as to what happened. I just accepted it. I think that just goes to highlight how how different Paralympics are now to tabacon. Sort of, you know, the 60s, if something like that would happen nowadays, there'd be international media uproar. You know, have you seen all these changes that have happened? Are they you think they've all been positive? Or do you think there's anything in the Paralympics that you're seeing come through that you're less happy with? Or do you think it's all just a wonderful explosion?


Now that there are there are always some negatives, and with increased publicity and


increased money in the games, you inevitably get increased politics. I never like politics in sport. And I never liked politics, actually. But


But I don't think it does give the benefits of sport I think things like, you know, there's there's much more emphasis on doping offences nowadays. I never even heard of it. In the majority of the time, I was competing, and that also is a big, negative. I think, too, there are many more pressures on athletes than they were. Mentally I think it's a lot harder than when I was competing. When I was competing. There wasn't much money, I had to save up for equipment. I had to take time off work,


both to train and to go to competitions. Nowadays, there's a huge pressure to perform on athletes and the fear of failure and losing them.


livelihood, it's, it's completely different. There are different pressures. But for me, the pressures I faced are easier than the pressures that athletes face today. So on the other hand, I think that there are a lot of positives.


I think we genuinely are changing the way the world thinks about disabled people. It's happening quicker in some countries and others, but it is, there is a shift. The media coverage is better. And it's just something else to be it, you know, when in London when I remember that the fencing team, I'm afraid, didn't do very well didn't cover themselves in glory. And we got absolutely slated the next day in the paper. And I remember being angry about that. And then I thought, what, you know what, that's actually a quality, because it's exactly what would happen to an able bodied athlete if they didn't put the performance in. And that's a good thing. That is a good thing. So there is still more positives and negatives, that's for sure. And just a big up wheelchair fencing for a second since London 2012. We've had two fantastic mentors, Dimitri kitchen, piers Glover, who have covered themselves in gold medalists and peers won a silver at Rio 2016. Dimitri was a double World Champion last year. So do you think that they were both very young in 2012? Do you think seeing the athletes receive that sort of treatment of you are serious athletes? Do you think that help them to achieve?


That very much depends on the athlete, doesn't it? I think it because different people react differently.


I think I think with both of them, they will react well to that. pretty confident I don't want to put any more pressure on them,


I'm pretty confident that they both have a very, very good chance of picking up a gold medal next year. The top of the rankings, both of them in their categories. And they're both very good fences and very competitive. For me on a personal level, it would be a tragedy, if they didn't go to Tokyo because it will give them a chance to achieve the potential that they undoubtedly have. I think everybody listening to this podcast and everybody involved in the organisation and supporting in Paralympics GB from admin staff through to coaches and sports science, physios, everybody's got a huge amount invested in it in Tokyo 20 2021.


It's a difficult time for all of us in that sense, because you still have no idea what's what's what's going to happen. But, you know, hopefully we get the opportunity to be or altogether in Tokyo, maybe you get a chance to go back to or the field, see where it all started. You must be you must, must be excited by that prospect. I was so disappointed when the games this year got cancelled. I completely understand and completely agree with, with how and why it got cancelled. But I was a bit lip quivering. It's an exciting country anyway, isn't it without the without the allure of the games and the repetition of history. Especially for me that, you know, it was the second only Paralympic Games and it was the first time that we used parts of the what had been the Olympic Village. And it was the first time that we used some of the Olympic venues. And that wasn't gonna, that didn't happen again, at any Paralympics for a very, very long time. They threw everything at it, and they were only just coming out of recession. And it it meant a lot to us on it. I think it meant a lot to them and and hopefully, the fact that they're the only city to have held the games twice.


Will will


sort of encourage people to come and see the games to help the games grow, to provide a legacy for their own people with disability and to help give their own personal and unique contribution to the Paralympic movement. Cause as with every sentence, that is a standalone testament to your eloquence and I can't think of a


single person who is a great ambassador for the Paralympic movement not just in this country but globally.


And it's been it really it's significant honour for me as an understanding of your some two time teammates. I think just just just to spend this time learning from you, it's been a huge learning experience. But we can't let you get away without a few frivolous little questions. And normally it's this point in the, in the podcast that we asked you for some recommendations. And you did mention earlier on that you did have one word of Japanese. So can you remember what that is?


Say America.


That's not the word you want to start this with.


So great.


So cazenovia. At this point, in the podcast, we always ask our guests for something that they've enjoyed eating in Japan, somewhere they'd recommend going in Japan, and something they've loved doing in Japan. But as your Japanese experience is somewhat less than some of our guests, we're going to flip this around. And we're going to give you our recommendations for places to go things to do and something to eat. So we'll start with no, no, can you recommend UK as one place to go in Japan? Okay, I mean, there are literally hundreds of places that I could recommend. But if you don't want to travel too far from Tokyo, I'm going to recommend that you travel to Nico and like choose en t because there's some very lovely Japanese temples. The lake itself is is absolutely beautiful. It has that wonderful Japanese aesthetic. It's quiet. It's a great place to reflect and good place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Metropolitan Tokyo. So I'm going to go for a nickel.


Because a great choice the first place I went to on a school trip when I went to Japan 22,000 for first time everyone out there, right? Yes. Okay, so what if you're going to recommend one Japanese dish that Kaz must try the next time she visits Tokyo? What would it be? Can I interject and say again, I don't eat fish, which makes it tricky. You're saying Don't worry, my one does not include fish.


So the one foods I would recommend you actually have to eat is economic Jackie cratejoy switches economic II. So it literally means as you like it fried, I guess or things you like fried. There's two very, very different styles. One is from Osaka. But the one I recommend is from West Japan in further west in urashima, which is a layer of noodles with a layer of bacon with a layer of sort of the pancake stuff. And then an egg on top covered in Special Economic resource. That is something you absolutely have to dry. I cannot recommend it enough to anybody out there and there's no fish. So you're not a fish lover. It's a great escape from fish.


And the last question is, let's let's shake this up a little bit. If if it's the final night of competition, or the opening ceremonies over and done with we're off to celebrate the amazing achievements of of Paralympics GB. They're off to the karaoke bar. Where you're going to sing cuz. Oh, well. I think that when I came back from Oh, no, that was instrumental. I was gonna say, when I came back from Tokyo and 64 my family have bought record called Tokyo,


which they were playing as I came through the front door, but that was instrumental so I can't sing that.


So I would I use one of the one of those songs that I used to play to myself before competing, which was I have the tiger


incredible Cause every sentence has a surprise.


fairplay Tora, Tora San Kimiko de todos en is Japanese for tiger.


We've got you a Japanese nickname. So henceforth make has been known as Tadasana. We will ask them to print that I know your tracksuits before you get out there.


Absolutely. What one final question if I may be, and it's going to be a difficult one to sort of put into one or two sentences but Kaz What does it mean to you to be a Paralympian? Everything? It makes me


very proud. Once Paralympian, always a Paralympian, I think it's something that never leaves your blood or your heart.


It makes you tearful


Some sometimes which is, which is not so good, but just the chance to,


you know, to represent your your country and


how to track so on and go and compete at that sort of level. Is is indescribable. It's, I used to say it was better than sex. I'll let you know on that one. Really. It's pretty damn good. I would recommend it to anybody. If you're lucky enough to become a Paralympian savour every moment because it's like nothing else. Cuz thank you so much for giving up. So much of your time today and thank you so much. Personally, on behalf of Paralympics GB,


who I was lucky enough to do a bit of voluntary work with I think when you were in the office back in the early 90s. thank you on behalf of the Paralympic movement, for being such a wonderful


ambassador, advocate for sport and for the Paralympic movement.


I hope we get an opportunity


to hear you sing. I have the tiger in Tokyo.


You really don't


cause honey, Arigato gozaimashita


Thank you for listening to this episode of Japan sports stories wasn't as an amazing guest. We could have spoken to her for absolutely hours about her life time 64 games and the evolution the Paralympic movement. I just like to thank her one final time. Next on Japan sports stories. We're going to be talking about community sports in Japan and spreading the joy of fitness and movement to everyone, not just those who want to compete. We talked about everything in the weird world of Japanese sports day to help Parkland and similar programmes are tackling loneliness and isolation in Japan, super ageing and increasingly reclusive citizens. Here's a little sneak preview for you.


And I think I mean, I read a blog


of yours and parkrun Australia website and around some of the social challenges facing Japan at this at this point in time


around social isolation, and comedy, in particular, can you tell our listeners, those of our listeners who may not be aware of what comedy is and some of those challenges, can you speak a little to that please?


He Kiko Modi is part of depression, a person lock himself or herself in the room, and then not socialise, just stay in one room for more than six months. Most cases for years just to go out to go to the kitchen and get eat and then bring the food in and then just stay in their own world for absolutely years. I know a person, my friend's brother in law spin in his room for more than 20 years, 20 years. And that


that's because he failed to enter


to the university he wanted. How many? How many people does it affect in Japan? It says over 740,000 in 2019, and the government predicts could be over 1 million people could be affected in the near future. And some of them were not one the young people but could be like 60s and 70s, as well.


Could be after retirement because keeping the one job working for one company is a lifetime thing in Japan. And you also spoke about loneliness, particularly loneliness among the elderly population. So Japan has one of the oldest populations in the world, if not the oldest population in the world and think it's estimated that by 2050, a third of the Japanese population will be over 65. And one quote from from from the blog was that


15% of elderly men over the age of 65 live alone and have less than one conversation every two weeks and in severe situations, people have been known to commit crimes, just they can go to prison and have more social contact. I found that absolutely staggering. And, and so parkrun I mean,


I keep thinking oh, you know, we've all x


Experienced isolation of varying degrees, I'm gonna be very lucky to carry on working through lockdown and have contact with people on a day to day basis. But for an awful lot more people now that people have become isolated cut off from their communities, their regular support structures parkrun and you know, in this instance parkrun in Japan must have a massive role to play for helping bring people back into contact with one another providing a non judgmental, you know, support structure. And definitely young people can interact with older people and an older people interruptive as the younger people that makes them feel like active and young and get new knowledge and, and also for men businessman, like there's no business like cocky, either. So it just everyone is equal, like No, your boots or, or heat or shine or anything like that.


So that everyone is equal, and just treated as a person. So I think it's just very open. There's no underlying negotiation in the conversation or anything just yet conversation is just person to person in all generations.