The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

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From being a member of the track and field student club, to aiming to become a medalist
To the dream stage of the Paralympics, thriving on tears of regret

Hajimu Ashida

Ashida, who cannot move his right arm freely due to a disability he has had his whole life; has not felt this is a handicap. He has always loved to play sports since he was a child, and was a member of the table tennis club in junior high school. Ashida performed brilliantly playing with his left hand, even though it is not his dominant arm. After retiring from the table tennis club, he realized that he could run faster than anyone else while training with the track and field club he had joined to keep up his strength. This inspired him to join the track and field club in high school—where he became a talented runner making it to the semifinals of the Osaka prefectural championship. Around that time, he became aware that there are championships for handicapped people. When Ashida made his first appearance during his third year of high school, he finished the 400 meters in 51.30 seconds—a new national record—coming out of nowhere to win the championship. He participated in the qualifying race for the London Paralympic Games, supported by the people around him, but was defeated as he failed to achieve the results he desired. The thought “I may have already reached the limit to compete on time,” crossed his mind and he gave up on becoming an athlete. After he entered Waseda University, he studied hard while enjoying track and field as a member of track and field student club.

He was the second runner in the 4 × 400-meter relay in the Japan Para Championships in 2013. They successfully won the championship with a time of 3 minutes 48 seconds.

But, in the summer of 2012, half a year later, when Ashida was watching the London Paralympics Games on TV, he felt an emotion simmering, “I want to run faster than anyone else participating on this stage.”

Driven by his passion, he started running again. Ashida resolved to take aim at the world while remaining in the student club where his close friends were. He put together all of his training plans on his own because the student club does not have a coach. He went to the track after lectures and on weekends with his friends who were available and followed the training program. He explained about the importance of keeping a daily training log, watching what he eats, and his weekly routine and said, “Under any circumstance, top players produce results.” Although it is said that it takes an athlete three days to catch up if he or she takes a day off, the degree to which he lost his form as a result of being absent for up to six months was far beyond what Ashida expected. He lost three seconds off his best time, and he sometimes got injured as his body would not follow the form he envisioned. He told himself, “I will become the new me,” and he dedicated himself to a rigorous training routine. As a result of his efforts, he regained his time and was invited to participate in the training camp of Japan’s national team.

Last year, Ashida made his debut in the IPC Athletics World Championships (organized by the International Paralympic Committee) in Lyon, France. But, he suffered a crushing defeat in his favorite race—the 400 meters—from feeling the pressure of competing in the race as a member of the national team. “It was my first time to feel tense like that. I felt pressure from shouldering the Japanese flag.” In the 4 × 100-meter relay, he ran the third leg, considered the most important leg of the race, and the team finished fourth by a slim margin of around 0.1 seconds to third-place Russia. They were just one step away from a medal, with over five seconds apart from the top-ranked U.S. team. He could not stop shedding tears of regret regarding this painful defeat.

Ashida will go for medals in five events—100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters, 4 × 100-meter relay and long jump—at the Asian Games scheduled for this October. He said, “This is just a checkpoint for being successful in the world. First, I want to get good results at the Asian Games so I can make it to the finals at the Paralympics Games in Rio de Janeiro. And then, I will definitely win a medal in Tokyo in 2020.” Thriving on the tears of that day, Ashida is now clearly focused on his goal six years from now to get revenge on the world stage for his painful defeat.

A commemorative photo taken with the official mascot at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France

As the personal best times of many of the runners of the track and field student club are so close to each other, they can battle each other as fellow teammates.

The baseball student club is a large club with over 300 members.


Hajimu Ashida
Third Year, School of Political Science and Economics

Originally from Osaka Prefecture, Hajimu Ashida graduated from Waseda Setsuryo High School. He spends his weekly two days off watching DVDs and reading comic books at home. His favorite movies and comics are Walt Disney films and TERRA FORMARS, respectively. He also wants to engage in work that is related to track and field in the future.