translated and edited by Brett Larner
2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics marathoner and 2012 London Paralympics bronze medalist Shinya Wada, 39, ran in the Jan. 29 Osaka Half Marathon that was held at the same time as the Osaka International Women's Marathon. With the Tokyo Olympics coming onto the horizon just three years distant his goal was to take his 1:14:29 half marathon best down to the 1:10 level.
At December's Fukuoka International Marathon Wada ran 2:32:11, breaking his own T11 category (fully blind) Japanese national record by 1:35. Wada also holds the T11 national records on the track for 800 m, 1500 m, 5000 m and 10000 m. At the London Paralympics he won bronze in the 5000 m. In Rio he finished in the top eight in the 1500 m, the 5000 m, and, in the T12 category (use of a guide runner optional), the marathon. Despite such success, Wada feels pressure. "Athletes from other countries keep producing better and better times," he said. "Next time in Tokyo they'll be even better, and there will be new athletes too."
A passionate rugby player in his youth, Wada was diagnosed with a progressive retinal degeneration disorder while at Ikuno High School and lost his sight entirely his third year at Kansai University. When he was 28 a friend introduced to him to the Kamogawa Partners visually impaired running team in Kyoto, a moment that marked his beginning of his career in athletics. Initially his goal was simply to overcome a lack of exercise, but his talent was soon revealed and by 2009 he had been designated a high-potential developmental athlete by the Japan Blind Marathon Association. He currently works in the Osaka Prefectural Blind and Social Welfare Association's braille library in Osaka's Tennoji ward, working on braille transcription and transliteration while spending his free time refining running that seems unaffected by his age.
This year marked Wada's third time running the Osaka Half, back after a two-year absence. Building toward April's 2017 World Para-Athletics Marathon World Cup in London, he set his target time at 1:10. Falling just short of that mark, he took nearly three minutes off his PB with an official time of 1:11:37. "When I lost my eyesight I never imagined that I'd be able to run," he said. "Being able to move like this helps me feel better. "I hope that my running can be the trigger to do something positive for anyone whose spirit has been broken by the loss of their sight."
Wada's future goals include the T11 marathon world record of 2:31:59 and making the Tokyo Paralympics team three years from now. "I have to believe in my potential and take on my dreams," he said. "I want today's me to be better than yesterday's me, and tomorrow's me better still. To definitively overcome my past. For that to happen I have to make a great leap forward over the next year or two."